By Shya Beth
Equine artist Clare Christie finds that sculpting brings forth an intuitive skill to capture and present the energetic form of the horse in clay. “I’m constantly training my eye to catch the subtleties of the horse,” Clare said. Being a trainer and riding herself for many years, she is attuned to the movement of the horse, and it’s no wonder that her work speaks to equestrians around the country.
Born in 1967 in Austin, Texas, Clare spent her childhood in Lampasas, Texas, growing up on her family’s ranch. Her early involvement with horses inspired her to pursue her artistic interest. “I come from a big family with three siblings and all of us rode horses,” Clare said. “The ranch was an active place, from harvesting hay to riding and feeding horses; we did it all.”
Clare’s mother is a longtime trainer of hunters and jumpers, and she and Clare share a teaching and training business just south of Austin out of Oakhaven Farm. For Clare, being around horses is as natural as walking or talking — and drawing.
“When I was young, I really liked to draw and it always felt like something that made me strive to do better,” Clare explained. “I would find myself daydreaming about something I wanted to build or paint. I wanted to be a professional artist, but I had no idea how hard it would be to get started. All I knew was I was determined to learn as much as I could and to keep going, no matter what.”
In 1990, Clare graduated as an art major from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. Between teaching riding lessons, helping her mom run their show barn and riding their horses, Clare didn’t have much time for art. Six years later, when Clare was 33, she started having extreme back pain which resulted in surgery and led to the difficult decision to stop riding. “I tried to get back into riding afterwards, but kept finding it was increasing my pain and it became apparent that I had to give it up.”
While she could no longer ride, Clare became devoted to creating a career of her sculptural work. “I find there are so many parallels between making art and training horses,” she said. “In both activities one must be completely immersed in the work and train the mind to focus on balance and harmony.” When sculpting, Clare hopes to find movement and let the piece flow as naturally as it can — enjoying the journey as much as the outcome.
“I like to see where the piece takes me, and sometimes I end up in a different place than I expected,” Clare said. “When I’m working with horses, I try to stay just as flexible and see what I need to work on as the lesson plays out, always being in tune with the feeling of the moment. If what I’m trying to teach is stressful, we might return to something more relaxing. With both training horses and making art, I tend to rely on my experience and study my subjects endlessly.”
In the last few years, Clare’s had the opportunity to create sculptures of some of the world’s best horse-and-rider combinations. “One of my favorites is of Big Star and Nick Skelton,” she said. That sculpture was completed right before the pair won the individual gold during the 2016 Olympics. “I have also done a piece where I tried capturing the explosive energy of Cedric with Laura Kraut, and then had fun creating a piece of the exciting mare Blue Movie with Rowan Willis. One of my latest pieces is of the elegant and powerful PSG Final and Cian O’Connor.”
Since Clare has been working on many sculptures in her realistic style, she finds that taking time to express more movement in her work by creating quicker, linear-type brush drawings and fun, colorful, loose brushwork paintings helps her keep fresh and inspired in her sculpting. “My realistic commissioned pieces are very time-consuming and detailed,” Clare said. “After creating these looser paintings, I’ve started to apply that style to a new series of sculptures called Shadowcasters.
What makes the Shadowcasters so different and magical is that while they are made from wire and epoxy clay (and eventually bronze), when the light shines on the sculpture at an angle, a separate line drawing made of its shadow appears. The shadow changes as the piece hangs and turns slightly, and because the sculptures have lots of negative space they feel airy and light, expressing a horse’s movement.
Between her realistic commissions, Shadowcasters and drawings, Clare still spends several days a week training and teaching alongside her mother. “These days you can find me teaching lessons at the barn one day and sculpting the next,” Clare said with a laugh. “My husband and I have a house in north Austin and I have a lovely studio in my backyard that has great light.”
Clare has exhibited her art at five-star events such as the World Cup Finals and World Equestrian Games, and she’s hopeful to return to horse shows with her artwork soon. “I’m looking forward to getting on the road again, maybe this summer. Right now I’m about to finish one piece and start another, and I have a painting that I keep going back to,” she said. “There’s always something new in my studio.”
For more information, visit www.horsesculptor.com
Art Of The Horse is the world’s first equine art platform, established in 2014 by Shya Beth. With weekly articles featuring up-and-coming as well as world-renowned artists, exhibitions and art news, Art Of The Horse is the premier source for all things equine art. Visit artofthehorsegallery.net