Thank you to Donna B Fine Art for sponsoring this post. If you love horses, art, and jewelry, check out Donna B Fine Art’s stunning collection of paintings, scarves, necklaces, and earrings. Her original paintings and jewelry are also on Etsy.
Contemporary equestrian artist Donna Bernstein turned her childhood passion for horses into her career. Hailing originally from New York, the painter, sculptor, jewelry (and scarf) designer brings the emotion and grace of horses to life in her “equine modern” work.
How would you summarize or characterize your style?
I call it Contemporary Equestrian or Equine Modern, simply to distinguish it from the traditional or western. Often when someone hears a “horse” painting they automatically think of the old west or a traditional racing scene. There is so much more to the style and movement of the horse, and this is the area of art that interests me. The abstract, the colorful, the pure architecture of the horse’s anatomy is a challenge and a joy to express.
(Check out more of Donna’s contemporary equestrian prints!)
When did you first realize that you were an artist and did you have formal training?
I started drawing as a child because for some reason I was born with a passionate connection to horses. We didn’t have any–I didn’t grow up around them–but I was obsessed, of course! The only way for me to “have” a horse was to create one… so drawing began so I could bring my vision to life.
My mother was an amateur artist and supported me in this, often lending a guiding hand. She sent me to a summer art class when I was a teen, and I worked with a local well known artist: I took a few classes in high school and college.
Most of my learning was on my own, and as a result of studying the original of the masters in museums. I love being able to look at their works very up close and see their actual brushstrokes, and how they painted a piece. Very inspiring.
So my imagination became my greatest tool. I would watch horses or read books, but then I had to create my own. Now the work became stylized, designed from my memories and my dreams. I now realize–painting as an adult–being the artist I didn’t know I was–that I am painting the way they make me feel.
There is a unique edge to my works; a unique way of seeing the horse that I bring to my art. I was never trying to copy a horse–except at first–to learn the anatomy. After that it is all about how they make me feel. I was drawing and painting the horses I never had.
At what point did creating horses become your focus? Do you have a fondness for a certain breed or type of horse?
They were always my focus – they were my reason for drawing. I never thought of myself as an “artist”. I did however, gradually learn that I did have an artistic sensibility and could pretty much render anything in graphite, charcoals, etc… so in high school, etc, I would drawing people, things, landscapes… but none of them held my interest as did the ancient and infinite form of the equine.
I think a more Thoroughbred style of horse emerged as a favorite conformation, but I loved them all, whether a shaggy mustang or refined Arabian.
Horses showed me I was an artist.
That was so much fun and actually came about quite organically! I think I came across a story about him, and I was heading to the East Coast for the Belmont that year (California Chrome was running). I had the brilliant idea of thinking, well I paint for horse causes and so does Metro, maybe we should paint together? And I reached out to the owner who loved the idea, welcomed me in, and the rest is a wonderful story.
Metro was so aware of what he was doing– in the way he held the brush and stood patiently to make his mark on the canvas. He knew he was working on something!
You paint, sculpt, and design jewelry too. How is the creative process similar or different across your varied types of work?
I have also designed a few scarves from my work – available at donnabcollection.com. I am originally from a small town north of Manhattan. As a native New Yorker I think that A type personality has its hold on me. Why do one thing if you can do ten? So in creating my art I see the design of it: the structural elements. I love fashion, design, interiors, style. So it is a natural extension to see my art in these mediums. Their abstract and stylistic nature lends itself.
What artists do you admire?
In more modern times, Picasso of course, Georgia OKeefe, Frankenthaler, Pollack (that’s my abstract nature coming out) as well as Deborah Butterfield today. All highly unique; I love artists and artwork that show us something new, and create a new vision, a truly new style, treatment or vision. It is not easy.
Is there one piece you have created that was difficult to part with?
I have to say not really. . . they all go where they belong. If I truly feel I cannot part with it, I keep it. And I do have a few pieces that are in my own collection.
What is the greatest challenge being a professional artist and what is the greatest joy?
I would say the challenge is that you are your own CEO–which I love–but it is a lot of work to keep up with in these times! Marketing, shows, accounting work, keeping a catalogue, reaching out to new markets and concepts for your work–and actually creating work, i.e., time in the studio!
But the greatest joy is in creating a piece well done, and having a collector love, want to purchase that piece, and hang it in their home and/or office. To know that something I have created is valued and inspiring to another person, and that I have successfully communicated through my art.
All my horses find their way home. They are meant to be shared.
How can readers connect with/follow you and learn more about your work and do some shopping (the holidays are approaching quickly!)?