Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Zan Economopoulos: Arabian Horses in Art

www.whymzee.com/ (c) Z. Economopoulos
ZanEconomopoulos: Arabian Horses in Art
Archived Article as seen in the September 2016 issue of Arabian Finish Line
No duplication without permission.

Zan Economopoulos knows Arabian horses. A horse-lover since childhood, Zan is an expert artist, “capturing the spirit of the horse as it is symbolized by the Arabian.”  Zan’s artwork is currently exhibited in the United States, as well as in personal collections around the world. As a portrait artist, Zan’s commissions include Dynasty, a Canadian Bronze Medalist Dressage horse, and much more. Zan writes, “There as so many aspects to what the horse means to us that it endlessly feeds my creativity.”

Experiencing the beauty of the Arabian horse at a young age propels Zan’s creativity. “The Arabian horse has inspired me since early childhood,” Zan writes, “when a gift of old Arabian Horse News magazines from the 50’s entered my life and imagination. Before social networking there was an incredible network among young, horse loving kids called the Junior Arabian Horse Club. Art contests were a vital part of that experience. At 14, I was a winner in my age group in an International Arabian Horse Association contest and my painting hung in the National Gallery in Washington D.C. for the summer. That early recognition sparked my belief that I could succeed.”

GM: Welcome, Zan! We are thrilled to connect with you and talk about horses and art! You truly know horses to be able to capture them so beautifully. When was your first encounter with a horse?
ZE: Horses are such an important part of my life. I can’t remember the first encounter. My grandfather was a great horseman, a Texas cowboy. I have a photograph of him wearing his full cowboy gear when he was postmaster in a dusty Texas town. He was proud to say he once owned an “own daughter” of Steeldust, a racing progenitor of the Quarter horse breed. I was the quintessential horse crazy girl and lucky enough to have him as my grandfather. When I was old enough to have a horse, about the age of 10, he found a half Arabian half Morgan mare for me. I’ll never forget the sight of my tall handsome grandfather sitting up in the saddle riding my soon-to-be-horse.

GM: As Bedouin myth has it, Arabians were created from the South Wind. They truly have a regal nature and versatile disposition. As an artist, you are known for your work with Arabians. Why Arabians?
ZE: My grandfather gave me a subscription to Western Horseman magazine when I was about 8 and I saw a photograph of Golden Fantasy, an Arabian mare owned by Mr. Lewis of Lewisfield Arabians. I wrote him a fan letter, and in turn he sent me a copy of Lady Wentworth’s The Authentic Arabian Horse. Then I was hooked on the Arabian. A stack of old, old Arabian Horse News magazines that someone gave me when I was a child are still in my possession. Those magazines, and that book, shaped my life. However, I also do many dogs, sheep, foxes and other breeds.

I have owned Arabian horses all of my life (except for now, unfortunately). My first purebred, an Arabian Stallion Ibn Saka, one of the first Arabian race horses in this country, helped put me through college with stud fees and sustained me in other ways too numerous to account. Our story together lasted over 20 years, but his influence on my life continues to this day. A little bit of him is in everything I paint.

GM: Being creative usually requires a place to spread out – paints, easels, lighting. Describe your studio...
ZE: I have a beautiful studio in my home with great light from skylights and northern light through the windows. It is a wonderful space, large enough to allow me to work on several things at the same time. My mother was an artist and I have her large easel where I do canvas work, and a worktable completely covered in paint where I sit to do the glasses. I always stand at the easel. My cat has learned not to lie behind me because I step back often to get a better perspective. The studio was built to be a mother-in-law suite above our garage so I have a bathroom for clean-up and a second room for the library and preparation work. I have a lot of art books.

GM: Do you have a favorite piece of art of your own creation?  
ZE: This was the most difficult question. I worked in galleries for a few years as a gallery assistant and I remember the gallery owner telling me that artists never chose as their best work one that she thinks actually is their best work. This is because the artist may specifically like something for a reason the viewer may not be aware of, such as finally getting the right color for a white horse, or learning a lesson about perspective.

For me it is also difficult because I have 3 different styles. The first success I had was with my Whymzee line, very stylized Arabians based on my love of fashion illustration. Whymzees are exaggerated versions of snobbish Arabians and were an instant hit with buyers. The legs are long and unfinished. They are mainly watercolors because that is the classic medium of fashion art and because it lends itself to the loose movements the Whymzee’s are known for.

A few years ago I decided that I could learn from copying old masters, a classic method of learning to paint. The portrait of Kador is in this style – it is not a master copy per se (known in art circles as a “master emulation”) but it is my attempt to emulate my favorite artist, Alfred Munnings. The painting of dogs and horse running is a master emulation of an Alfred de Dreux but I have changed the horse to be more Arabian and it is more a painting of joy rather than fear as the original was.

But the one I have chosen as my favorite is Pegasus Reborn. It is the best representation of my style, which is more contemporary. It was done quickly with confident strokes, excuse me for saying that about my own work. Pegasus Reborn was a true accomplishment for me, exemplifying my style and bringing something to the subject above and beyond the horse. It sold within 5 minutes of posting it on facebook.

"Pegasus Reborn" (c) Z. Economopoulos
GM: When I was reading through your website and looking at your gorgeous art, I ventured upon your artwork on glass; a great way to showcase a stallion or memorialize a favorite horse/pet! If I were to order a custom fired glass portrait, how long does it take and what type of pose/picture should I send?
ZE: The wineglasses and whiskey glasses have almost turned into a full time job! I’ve done literally hundreds now in the past five years. A clear photograph is the main consideration. The client must be reminded that we are talking about a very small image on the glass, so some things, such as a horse and rider, are difficult to get detail on. That doesn’t mean I haven’t done those though. At this time most of my commissions come through the Sportsman’s Gallery/ Paderewski Fine Art in Charleston SC and Beaver Creek CO. I do take commissions personally, but mainly for existing clients, clients that have ordered from me before. The gallery is great about handling the details of the order. They know what type of photograph works the best. They send them on to me for my final okay. For the gallery I rarely do horses, mainly dogs and birds. And hunting scenes! I’ve had orders for as many as 75 at a time, for hunting lodges. Wineglasses, whiskey glasses and decanters are standard orders but I’ve done coffee mugs, etc. I can turn around a smaller order (say 4 or less) in a week, 2 weeks for a set of 6, and often do for special gifts. However, I have so many orders waiting to be finished right now that the gallery gives a time-frame of one month to complete an order.


The images on the glasses are dishwasher safe but most people hand wash since I use very good glasses. I have clients who have used their glasses as their main stemware for years. Then again some clients just put them in a breakfront for display. With normal use, however, the glasses can be used, and I like it when people tell me they do.

GM: Where are you currently exhibiting? 
ZE: The Sportsman’s Gallery/Paderewski Fine Art Galleries in Charleston, South Carolina and Beaver Creek, Colorado, handle my work. In addition, I’ve exhibited at the Kentucky Horse Park Egyptian Event for the past 5 years and Region XII for 3 years. I also exhibit with a group of equine artists at the Georgia Dressage and Combined Training Championship at the Kentucky Horse Park in Conyers, Georgia, in October.

GM: As a famous artist, commissioning around the world and staying busy in your studio, what do you enjoy in your leisure and relaxation time?
ZE: Well I like to get out of the house occasionally. That sounds like a joke, but it’s been true lately. I have enough commission work to keep me upstairs in the studio everyday all day for about the next 6 months. I love to read. I’m big on history, especially ancient English history. I also have a workout studio in my home, which comes in handy. I don’t like to miss my work out, or a daily walk about the neighborhood to refresh my mind. I would like to travel more and I hope that is in my future.

GM: What is your advice for novice artists?
ZE: Develop your own style. Don’t have any agenda other that your own desire to paint, especially when you are starting out. And take lessons from as many established artists as you can. I’ve spent a great deal of money going to art classes around the country. Some have been better than others, but I don’t try to judge anymore. What you think is the worse experience often turns out to be the most influential on your work, down the line. The exception to that was the teacher Lesley Humphrey, who was the Kentucky Derby artist a few years back. The classes I took with her were invaluable to me. She was generous, fun during the class time, and a great teacher. Everything about studying with Lesley was a joy.

GM: What does horsemanship mean to you?
ZE: The art of riding is a subtle communication between man and horse, where man must both exert control and let go of overt control. Horsemanship is finding the path of training that allows your horse to be the best it can be, no matter what discipline.



Gina McKnight is an author and freelance writer from Ohio USA gmcknight.com.

www.whymzee.com/ (c) Z. Economopoulos

www.whymzee.com/ (c) Z. Economopoulos

www.whymzee.com/ (c) Z. Economopoulos

www.whymzee.com/ (c) Z. Economopoulos

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