By Shya Beth
Horses have been Cayla White’s saving grace: From being a young child dealing with difficult events and emotions to a wife and mother leaning into her faith and making ends meet for her family, Cayla’s constant thread of hope and love throughout it all has been horses. Known throughout the ages for their power, confidence and freedom, these glorious equines lent those attributes to Cayla, allowing her to push through and survive, and now, thrive.
As a ’90s baby, Cayla may have formed an initial connection with horses and art through her nursery’s carousel wallpaper. “I grew up with three brothers in the hot deserts of Phoenix, Arizona, with cowboys and cacti,” Cayla explained. “Several difficult events during my upbringing left me feeling alone, without words to express how I felt and no one to share them with, even if they ever did come. Horses were both a sense of strength and comfort with love and conversation, no words required. Our conversations were through physical contact and connection; all the negativity within my own mind was understood and sympathized, replaced with peace and renewal.”
As an adult, Cayla has realized the true impact those times had, shaping so much of who she is today, which has had a profound impact on her artistic creations. At age 6, Cayla started oil painting with her “Pop Pop” in his garage, watching artist and legend Bob Ross on TV. That was as far as formal art lessons went for Cayla, though her grandfather continues to be her “go-to” for critiques and art advice. Trying many different painting mediums and learning on her own how to become a better artist, Cayla settled on oil painting as her go-to medium, and horses as her main artistic subject.
Painting Her Own Way
Being a self-taught artist allows Cayla to capture horses in her own personal view, with her own colors and techniques that otherwise might not be considered a “traditional” method. “The self-doubt in my own mind is slowly replaced as I study each subject’s unique anatomy, placement, composition, color and texture,” she explained. “Many intricate details alongside perfect minimalism amaze me and sweep me away somewhere beautiful. The end result is a literal piece of art, showcasing true beauty and power under control—anything less would not justify the horse itself.”
Cayla has gone a step further and created her own niche within the world of equine art, by creating what she calls The Mini Series—a collection of luxurious, gold framed, mini oil paintings that are only a few inches in diameter. Portraits, hunter-jumper and foxhunting scenes are just a sample of the mini works of art that Cayla has created.
Inspired by a friend who sent her a small watercolor, Cayla created her first mini foxhunting collection of hanging framed ornaments in 2021. “These eventually turned into commission requests, then a collaboration with another friend of mine and have evolved into what the series collection is today,” Cayla shared. “The equine community is such an amazing group of people! The Mini Series began as my official once-a-year offer, but has grown so much that I now offer it year-round alongside my full-sized works, though reservations are limited and often booked out months in advance. The works of art are truly unique and a much more affordable option for people who love the idea of a painting but might not have the space or budget for a larger work.”
Being a professional artist was not always the plan, and something that Cayla needed to lean into her faith in order to pursue. In 2007, when Cayla was a junior in high school, she met her future husband, Nick, and in October 2010 they were married. A believer in the seasons of life, Cayla knew horses and art would be out of the picture for a while as she and her husband purchased a home during the recession and shortly after had their first child. Happy in her role as a wife and mother, Cayla’s interactions with horses and art were few and far between for the next six years, though something she inherently longed for.
“In 2016, we packed up and headed to Charlotte, North Carolina, to create a new life for our family,” Cayla explained. “It was just the four of us stepping out in faith. My husband often traveled, and I was home with our two girls. I started painting again for some me time, nothing serious or consistent. However, in 2020, my husband unfortunately had lost all the work within his newly started company in the production and live event industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
By 2021, Calya and her family had used all of their savings and were faced with possibly losing everything they had worked so hard for. While her husband took their only vehicle to scout for jobs, Cayla was at home caring for and homeschooling their children and trying to make ends meet. Suddenly, the words from the Bible came to mind: Proverbs 31 spoke of the wise woman and the ways she runs her house, with verse 18 saying “she sees that her merchandise is profitable….” Citing that as her “lightbulb” moment, Cayla knew that she could create to provide for her family.
At that time, Cayla was $30 short for groceries. With newfound hope, she created an 8×10 pen and oil painting, posted it on her Instagram page for $30, and it sold. The next sold as well, as did many from her 30-paintings-in-30-days challenge that helped get her creative flow back and launch her art studio’s success.
Two years later, Cayla has created countless commissioned mini paintings—and some larger works as well—but her mini works continue to be one of her most popular items. In honor of the Bible verse that kept her faith going, she named her art studio Studio 31. Cayla has found her niche and has come full circle as wife, mother and full-time artist. “My studio is also diversifying outside of just oil paintings,” she said. “I’ve begun to collaborate alongside brands with licensing and have my first artwork design on clothing products releasing in 2024. A wallpaper design is also in the works that I’m greatly looking forward to. It’s so much fun showcasing my art in a different light while working alongside other passionate brands and collaborating on creativity to showcase our products. I’m looking forward to using my art and digital designs more in the future on further collaborations.”
For more information, visit studio31gallery.com