By Shya Beth
September Vhay brings depth, movement and emotion to all of her drawings and paintings. With a love of horses and the technical aspects of art to guide her, it’s no wonder that each of her artworks is a delight and an eye-catching wonder.
For September, art in the family and growing up with horses in the western United States proved the perfect concoction for an artistic mind. Spending her childhood and teenage years on the family ranch on the outskirts of Carson City, Nevada, September was surrounded by horses and nature, bringing both of them together through art. However, another form of art enticed her besides painting: architecture.
September received her bachelor of architecture degree from the University of Oregon in 1993. During that time, she traveled twice to Europe — once on a study abroad program and once on a scholarship for architecture — studying the architecture and paintings of Charles Mackintosh in Glasgow, Scotland, and architecture at the Royal Academy of Copenhagen in Denmark. She worked solely in watercolor while studying in Denmark, and both of these experiences inspired her and helped her grow as an artist and as a person.
After college, September went on a trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. What started out as a fun trip for the ski season ended up changing September’s life forever. “I came to Jackson Hole and 25 years later found myself calling it home,” she said fondly.
September spent 10 years as an architect in Jackson, Wyoming, but painting and horses were still always in the corner of her mind and caught on her easel in her spare time. Although she grew up riding Western, September started to explore other riding disciplines and fell in love with dressage, cross-country and show jumping.
“It’s ironic that I fell in love with English riding in Wyoming,” September said. “I had the fortuitous opportunity to lease an incredible steeplechase Thoroughbred who taught me how to jump.”
September currently rides with a wonderful local trainer on a school horse and is hoping to purchase her own horse soon. “My boyfriend’s sister has a charming Arabian with whom I just rode my first endurance ride, and I can’t wait for the next one,” September said. “Endurance riding is picking up a lot of momentum in the West as it’s a great way to see different parts of the country on horseback. It’s a sport open to a broad range of experience, from a fun long ride to an all-out, intense, athletic, competitive endeavor.”
Finding Her Voice
September has a lot of favorite equine memories, from hanging out in stalls as a kid with a horse nibbling on her hair to the small dressage victories when clear aids translate to correct responses. “One of my recent favorites is being at an all-out gallop on an Arab next to my good friend on an open stretch of road in a beautiful red canyon in Wyoming,” she said.
A largely self-taught artist when it comes to painting, her work benefits from her understanding of structure, composition, and light — so crucial in architecture — and gives her paintings a sense of three-dimensional form.
Thinking about challenges in her career as an architect-turned-painter, September remembers the moment she decided to leave architecture behind. “I left a lucrative job as an architect to pursue the dream of becoming a painter, which took an incredible amount of courage and perseverance,” she said. “It wasn’t until I made the leap that I realized the importance of supportive friends, family and a community that embraces the arts. It really came down to the fact that I enjoyed architecture immensely, but felt that I had more to say as a painter.”
Before computer drafting was so prevalent in architecture, watercolor was the primary sketch medium taught. For this reason watercolor became September’s first medium of expression. She said, “Watercolor painting is spontaneous and unpredictable. There’s always an element of risk as alterations are difficult if not impossible to make, and these aspects make it a challenging yet exciting medium. It’s a balance of careful planning, jumping in and then knowing when to let go.”
Now devoted full-time to painting, September also includes oil painting in her skillset as a timeless medium that lends itself well to her style. Achieving the freshness of watercolor with the saturation of color only possible in oils, September can masterfully craft each painting into the work of art she expects it to be.
When asked about the future, September sees riding more and continuing to push forward in her chosen media as her main goals. “Currently I’m working towards an exhibit of my Red Horses at Altamira Fine Art in Jackson, Wyoming, which will be this February. Then, I’m looking forward to attending the Winter Equestrian Festival next year to photograph horses for clients and future paintings and drawings.”
Until then, she will be working steadily on her next masterpiece.
For more information, visit www.vhay.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 artofthehorse.net