New Art: Wild Horses

Last week, I recently completed a piece that I began working on in June 2018. It was an ambitious project to be sure, the canvas was 60″ x 48″, or 5ft by 4ft, the majority of which I planned to fill with quills. My inspiration for the piece was a mural painted by Jackson Pollock in 1943, one of my favorite pieces.

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Mural by Jackson Pollock, 1943

As an abstract piece, there’s very little form or imagery, but whenever I view this piece, I have a sense that what I’m seeing is a representation of a herd of horses running out from the canvas. For me it’s a powerful piece and feeling and when I started out creating my piece, I wanted to create a visual representation of how I experienced Pollock’s work.

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Wild Horses by Sabrina Ehlert 2019

While I was working with an inspirational reference, my goal wasn’t to recreate the original work. I loved the bold brush strokes as well as the use of color in Pollock’s piece, and I wanted to translate that somehow with the paper, using the quills as brush strokes in a way.

I am immensely proud of how this piece turned out. It took many months, weeks, days, hours to complete but the end result is well worth the effort. Working on this piece was also cathartic in a way, working with the quills can be hypnotic at times especially when I’m in the flow.

Over the past four years that I’ve been creating and showing art beyond my own personal enjoyment, I’ve created many pieces featuring horse imagery. When I started thinking that I wanted to create art with an intent for it to be seen publicly, I struggled at first with inspiration. What did I have to say or show that wasn’t already being done a thousand times over? The use of paper was different, but what was the point of view that I wanted to share?

Going back through artwork I’d done over the years, old painting, sketchbooks, etc. I found some drawing that I’d done for my father back when I was very young (pre-adolescent). Back then, I lived, breathed, read, etc.. horses, and being artistically minded, I drew hundreds, if not thousands, of horses through the course of my childhood. Sometimes during the summer when I was out of school, I’d go into work with my dad before my summer camp program started, and to keep me occupied he’d give me large stacks of old dot matrix computer paper to draw on. He’d work and I would draw my horses, and sometimes he’d hang a few in his office.

When he passed away in 2006 my mom and uncle went through his things, and among a collection of papers he’d saved were some of the drawings I’d done at his office. My dad and I did not enjoy a close relationship, especially through my teenaged years. I wanted to be an artist and move to New York and paint and draw, and he wanted me to do something more practical like go to college and get a real job. He used to say that being a ‘starving artist’ wasn’t a valid career choice, and artists only really ‘make it’ after they’ve died.

Our relationship around the subject of art was fairly contentious and to this day its his voice I hear in my head when I am overly self critical or doubting.

But the horses… they represented a time before the subject of what was I going to do for a living became a real issue. They come from a time in my life when anything was possible, and I could do and be anything I wanted. It was that time, that girl, I wanted to pay homage to as an adult as well as find a way to drown out the nay-sayers who kept telling me that it wasn’t feasible to be an artist, or that I wasn’t good enough or talented enough.

My Wild Horses, in all their forms, now serve as a reminder to myself to stop listening so much to what other’s have to say, especially when it comes to my art. I was told as a child that being an artist wasn’t practical, that my work was good but not great, or great but not exceptional. Yet here I am, creating art every day, and I get to share my work with the world.

I’m an artist, and wild horses couldn’t keep me from following my ambitions.

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