Dianne Russell’s vivid portraits of equestrians in action, her graphite and color pencil drawings of horses and riders and her colorful holiday and special occasion notecards share a common denominator. However different the hues and angles and scope, they all project a genuine affinity for the subject.
A Virginia native, Russell fell in love with horses and art at about the same age: 7. She studied art seriously and formally throughout her youth and adulthood and rode as often as she could. Watching her son, now 22-year-old Nick, progress up the ranks as a talented show jumper added another layer of appreciation for what horses and people can accomplish together. As such, it’s no accident that her work resonates with fellow equine enthusiasts. She knows her subjects and that shows in her art.
Russell studied at the San Francisco Art Institute, the San Francisco Academy of Art and has had her work exhibited at many galleries and exhibits in the artists’ haven of Monterey and well beyond. Her pencil drawings have landed on the cover of the Chronicle Of The Horse several times and she’s been a featured artist on the Thermal hunter/jumper circuit.
“Horses became my subject because I love them so much,” she explains. In particular, she loves jumper competition and has captured many of its most dramatic moments on canvas. It helps that Russell appreciates how hard the sport is, both as a rider herself and from watching her son. The content of her action-oriented fine art ranges from a close-up of a horse and rider turning in midflight over a big jump to a silhouetted scene of a horseman and horse making quiet eye contact in the barn aisle. Both are arresting snapshots of the horse-human relationship.
It was through her role as a horse show mom that Russell began to create art for the equestrian world. She started small, with birthday cards for a trainer or friend on the circuit. “People started commenting on them,” she recalls. The idea to focus on horses as her main subject followed and she set about learning everything she could about horses and how to depict them in oil and pencil. “Horses are a huge vehicle for me artistically, just because I love them so much.”
She enjoys painting subjects of her own design as well as commissions. The process for the latter begins with a conversation and photos. Based in Monterey, Russell loves to meet the equine subject in person and her husband Arthur is an ace photographer. When distance prevents an in-person meeting, Russell requests several photos from the owner and chats with them to get an idea of the horse’s personality and way of going. Equally important, she asks questions that elicit what the owner wants from the portrait. “It might be that what they really want is a portrait of their child on the horse,” she notes. She is open to clients with very specific requests along with those who
want her to interpret the scene through her
For more information on Dianne Russell’s art, visit www.horsepaintingsdrawings.com or call