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Series Introduction

Riding Lessons for Artists

What can horse riding lessons possibly have to do with being an artist?

By Judy Wood | Posted February 10, 2009 | Updated June 23, 2019

Preface: Just a word of explanation on where I am coming from with my "take" on art and riding. I'm pretty serious about both these things as they are very important in my life. I realize that not everyone comes to either art or riding with the same (dare I say) fanatical devotion that I do, but that's just the way I am. When something is important to me, I work at it and think about it. A lot. These articles reflect some of those thoughts. If they strike a chord with your experience, that's great. If your own approach to the subjects at hand is a less intense and more recreational one, I hope I'm not scaring you away. Take the bits that make sense and work for you, and leave the rest. —Judy Wood

This might seem to some like an odd juxtaposition of words. What can riding and riding lessons possibly have to do with being an artist?

A bit of background might be helpful here. I am an artist and a horse person. Always have been, always will be, but the riding part took a while to establish itself in my life. It is possible to be a "horse person" by nature without actually owning a horse or learning to ride. Similarly, you can have a natural inclination for art but not necessarily be an artist or have the tools and knowledge to put your art aspirations into effect. In this series of articles, I hope to use my ongoing learning in the riding ring to point out parallel and similar experiences in the world of the art practitioner.

I don't really remember not having been able to do art at some level, as I grew up with pencils and crayons in hand, usually creating drawings of horses. I did well at, and enjoyed, the art classes that were a regular part of the elementary school curriculum, then I went "underground" with my artwork during my high school years, as art classes were an "add-on" to the regular curriculum, and I was too shy and insecure about my abilities to dare expose myself to studio studies in those years. Surprisingly, I did muster the courage to major in fine arts at the university level, being one of only four fine arts majors on campus in those days. I learned less than I would have liked to about standard studio techniques and use of materials, but I did get a good grounding in art theory, art history and the philosophy of art. Much of this knowledge, topped up by ongoing "independent studies" and learning that continue decades later, still stands me in good stead in my current endeavors.

My university days encompassed the late sixties, a time when representational art of any sort was suspect and open to derision, and art featuring animals, especially horses, was totally beneath contempt. Sadly, I was brainwashed into following the prevailing "wisdom" of those days, and became convinced that I couldn't possibly combine my love of horses (which by this time I was careful never to mention as being way too uncool ) with my need and desire to create art.

Still somewhat thin-skinned and unsure of my own abilities and capabilities, I nonetheless carried on working at art in my post-university years, by which time I was also married and with a young family. As the years went by, I continued to try my hand at different styles and techniques, but I didn't feel that I had a "voice" that was uniquely mine or an art "signature" that would distinguish me from others. Nor was I connected (in either an art sense or an emotional sense) to any particular subject matter. The good part of those years was that I *did* work with a range of media, techniques and methods. I was a mile wide and only a few inches deep at that stage, but to this day I know a lot more than the average artist about how to work in a range of media.

This state of affairs carried me through to my mid-thirties, by which time the older of my two daughters had declared her desire for riding lessons, and I was spending a lot of time at the local boarding and training stable where she was learning to ride. Little did I realize that this was to be a pivotal time for me and for my future in art.

©2009 Judy Wood. All rights reserved.

Next: Forging a New Path in Art and Life

Equestrian and Artist Judy Wood

Judy WoodJudy Wood is a Canadian art photographer whose images and writings are shaped by her prairie based lifestyle as an artist, photographer, writer and horse person. ...

Judy Wood Artist Interview
A passion for art and photography.

Riding Lessons for Artists Introduction
What can riding and riding lessons possibly have to do with being an artist?

Forging a New Path in Art and Life
Forging a new path in life and art by asking, "Why not?"

It's (Almost) Never Too Late
Learning from Grandma Moses: It's never too late to be an artist.

The Basics are Basic
Even if you have a "gift", you still have to work hard to realize your potential.

How Do We Learn and From Whom?
Choosing instructors, being self-taught, and learning how-to by researching subjects on your own.

The Important Learning Value in Community
Sharing experiences and tribe togetherness.

Purpose: Where am I, and where am I going?
For some, art/riding are simple recreational pursuits, an accomplishment to work at, and a diversion from everyday life.

Mirror, Mirror: The Value in Reflection
One of the useful tools we can employ in both art and riding is the mirror.

Showtime: Making Your Exhibition a Positive Experience
Do your homework before you decide on a particular show or venue. It is important to know ahead of time how or if you will fit in with the show you are considering.

Photo: Judy Wood