California Riding Magazine •September, 2013

Donna Bernstein
Contest winner captures horses'
spirit and energy.

"Twilight" - diptych, 36x96, acrylics, ink, archival spray. $7800. Currently in juried show, Contemporary Art Museum Eastern Idaho, through 11/4.

Nobody depicts horses quite like this year's Artists and Photographers Contest winner Donna Bernstein. Although equines are her muses, it's their spirit and energy she seeks to convey in her art, as well as their form. "I do not think of myself as specifically an 'equestrian artist'," she explains. "Instead, it's more their energy, their style, what they say to me, how they make me feel and what I need to express at that moment."

"Storm King" - 39x34, acrylic/ink, SOLD but available as giclee prints.

Although she finds that "horse people" love her work, Donna estimates that 50 to 60 percent of her collectors don't own horses or have any direct involvement with them. "Everybody appreciates horses and for that reason I think my work creates a bridge between horses and art. For me, horses are a mode of expression." 

"Sun Stallion" - 36x48, acrylic, inks. SOLD.

Donna's seemingly easy, loose style allows a single brush stroke to capture a certain nuance of energy or mood. She traces the roots of her process to a horse-obsessed childhood. "My neighbors had horses and I loved watching them. I would do so for hours, without taking my eyes off of them because I was afraid I would miss something." She drew or painted them later, establishing the practice of working from the memory of both how the horse looked and how they affected her emotions. 

"Urban Mustang - Red Stallion" - 72x60, acrylics. $9000.
Available at Alexander Salazar Fine Art.

She works in a variety of mediums. Her "illustrative" pieces can be described as "gestural and whimsical" and are typically drawn in illustration mediums like pencil, pen and ink and/or charcoal. Whatever the materials she chooses, large canvases are usually best suited to her inspiration. "Horses have a big energy," she explains. "I like the intimacy of letting one, sometimes two, horses fill the whole space. It allows you to feel closer to the horse and to everything I am expressing through him in the piece."

"The Patriot" - 60x48, acrylic, ink, gels. $8300. Currently in juried show, Contemporary Art Museum Eastern Idaho, through 11/4.

Donna is a native New Yorker who moved to McCall, ID several years ago. Her art went from hobby to full-time career when she was accepted into the Celebration of Fine Art in Scottsdale, AZ, a prestigious, juried event that runs for three months beginning in mid-January. She will be participating in the Scottsdale show for the fifth consecutive year in 2014 and credits it with helping her unique work find its now ever-growing audience. 

"Wind Catcher" - 48x36, acrylics, inks, graphite. $3800.

Meantime, Donna continues to find new outlets for her expression. She enjoys doing "live paintings" at major events, many of them horse shows or equine related affairs. She brings a prepped canvas with her, then finishes it as passers-by stop to see the process. She recently launched a line of pillows and other home decor items and she welcomes commissions, which comprise about 30 to 40 percent of her time. Like the rest of her portfolio, commissions are done in her style, as opposed to being realistic depictions of a specific horse's physical form. If she cannot come see the horse in person, she welcomes videos and photos which help her create the emotional impression she's out to capture. 

Donna's work is on display in galleries throughout the country, including the Alexander Salazar Fine Art Gallery in downtown San Diego. 

To see more of Donna's work or to contact her, visit and