Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Denise Brown, Artist, Author & Illustrator
Artist Denise Brown and 'Abenaki' Trail of Painted Ponies
Painting Ponies: An interview with artist Denise F. Brown
An Arichived Interview
Denise F. Brown is an equine artist and illustrator. An advocate for America’s wild horses (and all horses), Brown is a life-long horse-lover. She grew up in Rye, New Hampshire next to four horse farms where her love affair with horses began. At an early age, Denise could be found in the fields drawing horses or reading every horse book she could find…
GM: Denise, your artwork is lovely. Describe your studio...
DB: I have been a self-employed graphic artist and illustrator for 35 years, with a home office and studio. My world is wrapped around computers and the internet, with a variety of businesses as my clients. My passion is my artwork. My love is painting horses.
GM: When was your first encounter with a horse?
DB: I grew up next to four horse farms and fell in love with horses and drawing and painting them. You could always find me in the fields sketching them. My cats would follow me and we would spend the afternoon watching the horses and foals. The foals would rest their head on my lap while I sketched them. The family I babysat for had a big horse and also a pony named Gidget that I exercised because their kids were too little or not interested. My other neighbor’s donkey named Henry would follow me everywhere when I wore my pink sweater. I took riding lessons in high school but could not afford a horse of my own. Then I was off to college and after that started an advertising and graphics business. Working 80 hours a week, being self-employed, I never had the time to own a horse, so I would only go riding occasionally when the opportunity arose, but the love of horses was deep in my heart.
GM: You capture the true beauty of the Arabian horse in your art...
DB: A friend of mine raised Arabians in my hometown. That’s where I learned of the grace and unique beauty of the Arabian horse breed. They are like the Prom kings and queens of the horse breeds. The chiseled face and head, the long neck and slender structure of an Arabian is stunning and captivating to paint. They are what legends and movies are made of. The first sculpture ever found was made by mankind 35,000 years ago. It was a horse that had a long neck like that of an Arabian horse. Horses have inspired artists since the beginning of time and I will never tire of painting them.
GM: I know you admire all horse breeds. Do you have a favorite painting of your own creation? What is the story behind this beautiful artwork?
DB: I am an artist for The Trail of Painted Ponies. I was a runner up in one of their contests with my entry, “Abenaki, the Indian pony”. They often donate to help wild horses so I am proud to be one of their stable of artists. That’s when I wrote my first horse book, about “Abenaki”. I began researching the life of a wild horse and realized how important it was to write and illustrate my next book, “Wind, Wild Horse Rescue”, so people could easily understand their plight. The NHSPCA uses it to teach children about the mustang.
GM: Congratulations on your book release. Your illustrations are beautiful! The colt in your story, Wind, is chased by a government helicopter. What was it like to witness this horrifying event as horses were herded and captured off of their homeland?
DB: I’ve never had the opportunity yet to see a live round up. I watch every video and read everything I can about the wild horses roundups and the slaughterhouse pipeline. It’s on my bucket list to spend time with the other advocates on actual roundups. I’ve talked to people who have seen them and they come away quite traumatized and heartbroken as the wild horses lose their freedom. I wrote the book as a story in the eyes of a colt, so American citizens can easily understand and learn about the plight of the wild mustang today and how they can help to keep them free and not end up in the slaughterhouse pipeline. Trucks go up the highway in New Hampshire where I live to Maine and over the border to Canada to the slaughterhouse. It is not a happy sight to see a trailer with horses that you know are not on their way to be "adopted by a kind family". Their life is beyond suffering on route in crammed trailers with no water.
GM: Wind, the horse in your story, is successfully placed in a rescue and finds a home. Is that a common scenario for most captured wild horses?
DB: Actually only a small percentage are adopted. The price of hay and the economy has not made it easy for stables to afford extra mouths to feed. The ones who do get adopted often take months and years for them to settle down, but once they gain your trust, people describe them as “bomb proof”. They can become great horses. Many New Englanders and East Coast people have adopted them. A friend of mine in New Hampshire has two. There are several rescue organizations in every state.
GM: What are your views of the current BLM’s (Bureau of Land Management) attempt to save the wild Mustangs?
DB: I am optimistic that there are some good people in the BLM who truly want to protect the wild herds, but overall the BLM constantly blames the mustang for bad range conditions and over-grazing. They don’t like to factor in how cattle greatly outnumber the mustangs. Cattle have a different way of grazing than horses, as they have one set of teeth and rip the grass and roots out of the ground. Horses have upper and lower teeth and bite the grass off, leaving the roots, so there is actually less damage. Plus, cattle grind up and digest the grass and grass seeds through a couple of stomachs. Horses have one stomach so the grass seeds pass through them and are nature’s way of reseeding the land. Studies show that horses help the land this way. Cattle are sent out in the spring and eat all the grass, so by the time it becomes hot weather and drought, the grass can’t recover. The wild horses are left with drought conditions so they are blamed for the damage while searching for water. I don’t think the BLM really wants to “save” the mustangs, but instead prefers to limit their numbers. They know that they can’t continue to stockpile wild horses in pens as a solution. However, each time they decrease a herd under 150 in population, the herd is not viable as a healthy number and leads to inbreeding. This makes them genetically weaker.
GM: In your opinion, what can the BLM do to ensure the success of America's Mustangs?
DB: Scientific studies have been done and are on-going in birth control for mares. They have gelded the stallions in the wild, but there is a very dangerous risk of infection and bleeding. I hope they don’t continue that. If they geld the stallions, it upsets the balance of the herds, too, because the gelded males still compete with the stallions. A mustang’s life is not easy but they are better off living free and dying in the wild than being locked up forever in holding pens or sold to kill buyers.
GM: How did you become involved with protecting American’s wild horses?
DB: When I learned about the plight of the wild horse about ten years ago, I wanted to use my artwork to help them. I will always be dedicated to educating anyone who will listen about saving the wild ones. People around the world become upset when they hear how we manage our wild horses. They love Western movies and can’t believe a cattleman would not love the wild horse. Believing in conservation all my life, I feel that it is important to speak up and protect the land and the animals. Thank you for the opportunity to speak about wild horses. Senator and Congressman and submit their opinions and suggestions. They can attend a BLM [USA Bureau of Land Management] meeting if they are in that area or write to the media or visit a holding pen or a roundup and document it if possible.
You can see my artwork and books at www.raccoonstudios.com and read my ‘Wind Wild Horse’ Blog at www.windwildhorse.com to learn about the wild horse in the news today and spread the word to everyone who will listen. 80% of the American public wants the wild horses to be free and protected from the slaughterhouse pipeline. We can all be their voice to save the wild horses and burros.
An Arichived Interview