Gina McKnight, Author, Freelance Writer, Equestrian, Blogger, and Poet! Welcome to my international blog about horses, writers, authors, books, cowboys, equestrians, photographers, artists, poets, poems, and more horses.
As seen on #HorseGirlTV, #LivingRuralTV, #AmericanHorsePublications, #trueCOWBOYmagazine, #HayNetUK, and #GirlGab.com...
over 25 years Debra Trent has been creating masterpieces. A self-taught artist,
she has captured our hearts with her artwork. Stunning portraits of horses,
dogs, nature, and more, can be seen in her gallery. Currently painting
for museum exhibitions, Debra has won many accolades, awards, and honors,
including National juried museum exhibitions and competitions. Her portfolio
includes a solo exhibition at the National Wildlife Federation, Vienna, Virginia.
returning from a large art exhibit in Charleston, South Carolina, I had the
opportunity to connect with Debra and talk about her horse history, art, and
"Made in the Shade" (c) Debra Trent
How long have you been drawing horses?
I started drawing horses when I was probably seven or eight years old. I loved
horses and drawing was a natural outlet for me. My mother really encouraged me
to draw, and my art teachers in school did as well. I think all children have
the capacity to draw. It is the encouragement of family and people we look up
to that nurtures those abilities.
In 1987 you visited Robert Bateman’s Smithsonian
Museum exhibition. How did that experience prompt your creativity and passion
my then fiancé and I visited the Robert Bateman exhibition in 1987 by sheer
happenstance, I was deeply moved by his work. There were these thoughtful,
beautiful, captivating, and in some cases intense images of animals that
stopped me in my tracks. I was transformed by the power of his paintings. Being
an animal lover, this experience sparked a desire in me to paint animals of all
kinds. Up until this point in my life, I had been drawing and painting only
horses. They were, after all, my first love. This new spark to paint other
animals was a natural addition to the equine paintings.
With many artists as your inspiration, which artist
has inspired you the most?
DT: I feel like I am answering your
questions the same way, but I can honestly say that my inspiration changes even
when it comes to artists. In the 1970’s it was Charles Russell and Frederic
Remington, in the 1980’s it was definitely Robert Bateman. Since then I have
been moved and influenced by several artists from Anders Zorn and John Singer
Sargeant, to Bob Kuhn, Howard Terpning, Greg Beecham, and Quang Ho, to name a few.
Being open to the mastery of various artists keeps me intrigued, and makes me
want to be a better artist.
Your art is beautiful! What medium(s) do you use?
DT: Thank you, first of all. Nothing
could mean more to an artist than to hear someone respond favorably to seeing
one’s work. After experimenting in many different mediums, I started painting
in oils about 13 years ago and it is my exclusive medium today. There is a
richness to oils that other mediums lack, not that I don’t appreciate the
beauty of what those mediums offer. I’m just loving the way oils blend and stay
workable. I also love the ability to pile on the paint and develop texture.
Walk us through your studio…
DT: My studio is in my finished
basement. It’s large enough to give me room to hang work and step back from it.
It has a large sliding glass door near my work space so I can see the woods
outdoors, and the door faces west. I have total privacy here, except for the
squirrels, chipmunks and occasional raccoon or turkey that wanders into the
yard. I also have color balanced lighting and plenty of storage room for books,
as well as tables and filing cabinets. My computer, large printer and desk are
here, and I use my old IMac computer on a tabouret by my work area for digital
reference photos. Things have improved so much for artists over the past few
years with the advent of large screen monitors, Photoshop (to design the
composition you want before you paint), high quality printers, etc. I paint on
a drafting board rather than an easel because I just can’t stand up for hours
on end. One more very important addition to my studio is my dogs. They have
pillows to rest on while I’m working, and they keep me company. They don’t
really comment on my paintings, but I’m sure they would be helpful if they could.
They certainly alert me when a critter is near the door! Once they scared off a
baby raccoon before I could grab my camera. Darn!
Do you have a favorite painting of your own
DT: I don’t really have a favorite
painting to comment on. That changes all the time!
What is your horse history?
DT: After years of wanting a horse with
every fiber of my being, I fulfilled that dream when I was sixteen. My first
horse was an Arab/mix. He had a beautiful broad head with teacup muzzle, a high
croup and tail carriage, and was full of spirit. In retrospect he wasn’t the
ideal “first horse”, but I certainly learned balance quickly. All he wanted to
do was run because that was his history, a fast horse with a lot of heart. My
next horse was an appaloosa. As a teenager in love with my horse, I spent all
my spare time riding, so much so that my mother was actually worried that her
teenage daughter wasn’t dating. Can you imagine??? It was a wonderful time in
Of all the horse breeds, which breed do you prefer?
Or maybe it’s the soul of the horse, no matter the breed, that drives your
DT: When I was a little girl I loved all
horses, regardless of breed. Today I can pretty much say the same thing. They
are soulful animals to me. When I was in my twenties I had the privilege to
work for a magazine called The Arabian
Horse Journal. I thought I died and went to heaven… this just didn’t seem
like work to me. It was exciting to be a part of that world and look at all
those beautiful horses. I’ve had a real soft spot for Arabians ever
Traveling, backpacking, and being outdoors sparks
your creativity. Where in the world is your favorite place?
Traveling is one of the most fun aspects of being an animal painter. The
importance of getting out into nature can’t be overstated. My husband and I
have been to a lot of beautiful National Parks, but we have also traveled to
Europe, Norway, and Canada. It isn’t so much a favorite “place” as it is the
beauty of big mountains that we seem to be drawn to. The Rockies, Alaska, even
Switzerland have all been memorable places for us.
GM: If I were to request a portrait of my prized horse or family
dog, what is the process?
process for doing a commissioned painting is to discuss what you are looking
for first. What is your budget? That determines the size of the painting. Do
you have a favorite photo of your horse/pet? If not, are you close by where I
could take photos? The photo is important because it has to be detailed enough
for me to work from. I have done commissions from poor reference photos, but it
is such a struggle. As they say, garbage in, garbage out. It’s pretty simple
after that, just a matter of taking a deposit, agreeing on a timeline for
completion, and then I work on the painting. You would see the completed
painting and give feedback, then if any changes need to be made they are, and
you get your painting. My objective is always to create something you will love
and cherish. After all, it is a painting to honor your beloved pet.
Do you have advice for novice artists who are
trying to find their niche in the art world?
My advice to any artist wanting to find their way is to love what you do and
keep working at it. Don’t follow trends or try to copy someone else. Develop
your own style by practicing your craft. Learn the skills of being an artist
first. Take workshops with artists whose work you admire. Don’t ever compromise
yourself or your art. It’s hard to put so much of yourself into a painting and
then “put it out there” for the world to see and critique. Remember that you
can’t please everyone, nor should you try. Rejection does not mean your work is
bad, but until you have enough miles on those paint brushes to be confident in
yourself you will benefit from a mentor if you can find one. Get a constructive
critique of your painting and learn from it. We are all trying to get better.
If you ever reach a point as an artist that you think you are perfect, you’re
seriously kidding yourself. Push yourself, but don’t let anyone take away your
joy of painting.