While this week’s Hampton Classic poster (titled “Schooling”) by Jocelyn Sandor Urban represents a portrait of horses in one of the pre-competition warm-up areas, the image also evokes the artist’s recurring compositional elements and feelings about her subjects. We understand completely when she says, “I try and capture the soul of each animal I draw or paint. Each one is different; each has its own story.”
Urban’s composition connects equally with the viewer, especially when she features groups of animals. The arrangement of her animals gives form and structure to her subjects; the forward and backward motions of the horses are arresting. Such observations about the “soul” of her horses and her compositional technique may derive from substantial sources—her bond with horses from an early age and her training in structural drawings.
When did your connection with horses begin?
I had horses growing up in New Canaan, and we still have two horses now. We moved to a farm where we bred horses. We were there for 11-12 years.
You never competed in horse events, however.
No, but my son was a skier, and we traveled all over when he competed. He was in the Junior Nationals and competed with the Olympic team.
Is your son attracted to art at all?
He is a good artist, and he came with me to the Hampton Classic when he was growing up, selling his drawings. People would look for his work. He’s now an engineering and architecture major [in college].
Speaking of majors, where did you study art?
I have an undergraduate degree in print making from Skidmore College and a Masters from the University of Massachusetts.
What kind of subjects did you initially draw or paint? Was it always horses?
I did landscapes and structural drawings, like buildings, people’s barns and interiors. I didn’t do portraits of horses for six years after grad school. Then I found my niche in doing portraits of dogs and horses, because I didn’t see many artists doing these subjects.
How did your early work with landscapes and structural drawings impact on these portraits?
I didn’t just do a picture of a horse; I would bring landscape into the composition with horses. I always had a sense of perspective, and I like drawing from life, including plain air.
What about horses interests you?
Their different personalities. Dogs and children have different personalities, too. And there is so much you can do with horses’ shapes. Horses will always be special. After all, horses helped build cities, pulled carts. Try to have World War II without horses.
Where would you like to travel if you had the chance. Would it have to do with horses?
I’d like to go back to Italy, to Florence, for the art history. And I’d like to go out West to see the wild horses.
That would make a fantastic drawing or painting. So, what’s your final word about the value of horses?
Look at history. Horses are held up as symbols, put on a pedestal. They’re not like a pig or goat. They are smart, incredible animals.
Corrections from last week’s Honoring: The screenwriter for “The Hurt Locker” was Mark Boal. Scott and Christo appeared in an exhibit together at the Stable Gallery in NYC.