By Rachel Kruse
As an artist, people are always asking me about my process, and how exactly it is I do what I do. Normally, my knee jerk response is to say “magic,” which I do more often than not, and leave it at that. In truth, it’s not so simple as swiping a paintbrush or piece of charcoal in horizontal motions like a printer and having a perfect image appear as I go. It’s much more of an organic process involving layers and layers of color and shape, and an ever-improving feel for color and light developed over years of practice and observation.
Sometimes I’ll get nearly to the end of a painting and realize something I’ve put down on the canvas is slightly off, composition or structure-wise, and my obsessive compulsive tendencies will require me to completely paint over that part so I can start fresh and fix it!
In a way, the process itself is just as interesting as the finished piece, and I’ve included a couple comparison photos here to show paintings at their first layer of paint and in their completion. Initially, when I started making commissioned paintings, I hated sending pictures right when I started the work to my clients. I felt that it ruined the mystery of it. But I realized that people loved getting insight into what I did in studio and watching their artwork transform into something beautiful.
There’s a different story behind every painting, and I think with the way I work, there would literally be no way for me to perfectly recreate anything that I make. Certainly, there’s a method to the madness, but after the initial stroke of brush or charcoal, every action I take is a reaction to the previous move, and the combination of all those countless strokes of paintbrush or pencil or charcoal or pastel results in what will become the final product.
To me, riding horses is much the same as making art, and is perhaps why I’m so in love with both. Both are skills that keep me on my toes, with my ears and eyes open, and put me in a position where I’m constantly trying new things and educating myself day in and day out.
You never really stop learning in the equestrian sport, regardless of your age or experience level, and it’s the same way with art. I’ll go to museums and look at the masters and think, “How did they do that? Can I recreate the way they used that touch of light or the subtle red in that shadow?” Then I’ll be at a horse show watching a big hunter derby or grand prix, and when someone lays down a beautiful trip or goes clean I’ll think, “How did they do that? Will I ever get even close to being able to ride like that or make my riding seem that effortless?”
And I’ll go back to my studio, or swing my leg over a horse, and push myself to get just a little bit better, and to learn from my mistakes and continue to improve each day. In both my art and riding, it’s always been my motto to keep having fun and learning new things!
Rachel Kruse is a Kansas City-based artist specializing in custom pet portraiture. Rachel found her passion early on with horses and art. She graduated from Kansas City Art Institute in 2013 with a BFA in Paining, and since then, Rachel Kruse Equine Portraiture has led her to paint, draw, and photograph dozens of people, horses, dogs, as well as the occasional pig. She enjoys each project as a completely unique challenge to translate each subject’s own individual beauty. For more information, contact Rachel at Rachel Kruse Equine Portraiture, www.rachelkruseportraits.com, 972-342-1014, [email protected]