This year’s 2019 Hampton Classic poster artist, Kelly Wilkinson Coffin, is a native Virginian who has worn many hats over the course of her life, including that of a Naval Aviator, commercial pilot and more. But her true love (besides husband and Olympic equestrian Tad Coffin) is art. This year’s poster, “Passing Traditions Along,” conveys a grandfather passing on his love of horses to his grandson. “As a rider, I am a grateful recipient of the oral tradition upon which our sport depends,” Coffin says.
What was the inspiration for this piece?
My inspiration for the painting is rooted in the concept of the oral tradition upon which our equestrian sport depends and is often shared by multiple generations. Additionally, I am quite inspired by my husband’s riding skills. He is, in fact, the model for this painting. A double-Olympic gold medalist by 21, he was the beneficiary of an extraordinary and classical education from some of the world’s finest teachers. In fact, he was trained on Long Island by a wonderful instructor named Raul de Leon.
Tell us a little about how you got started in art.
I owe my mother for my start as an artist, who had me taking lessons at the age of 6 when we lived in Japan. As a result, I always considered myself a student of art and had many teachers, most notably Paul Ingbretson in New Hampshire.
How would you describe your artistic style?
My style is rooted in a love of nature, which drew me to the Boston School tradition, a wonderful blend of the draughtsmanship of the Academic tradition with the color and light of the Impressionists.
Talk about your love of horses.
Like many, my love of horses goes back to early childhood and springs from…I know not where and has only grown my entire life. I was not born into a “horsey” family and it was a great effort to get near a horse, let alone take lessons. I devoured books about horses and drew and painted them nonstop. Finally, at the age of 9, I began lessons from a retired major on Quantico Station in Virginia and I was on my way. Thanks to many wonderful teachers and mentors, I was able to ride and hunt through college at UVA, and even my time as a Naval Aviator. In fact, on one of my Middle East deployments, thanks to the encouragement of my squadron mates, I had the chance to ride in a few small shows in Bahrain.
Today my husband and I live and work on our farm with four horses, ride every day and I still get to fox hunt a bit as well. Tad’s saddle workshop and R&D facility is housed with in the barn and my studio is in the back of the farmhouse. I find inspiration daily from life on the farm, as well as the countryside and community around us here in central Virginia.