A PICTURE WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS
The Art and Horsemanship of Amy Larson
Sometimes a story can become a work of art. Sometimes a work of art, painting, drawing, or even photograph can tell a story from start to finish, without using one letter of the alphabet. For Midwestern equine and animal artist Amy Larson, telling a story with her artwork has been a lifelong passion. Her paintings and drawings have immortalized family pets, backyard horses, champion equine athletes, working horses and donkeys, ponies, zebras, elephants, lions, tigers, turtles, wild mammals of every size and shape, and birds of every feather. “A love for the natural world is a gift I received at a very young age…and so it is still. My life has been a journey to know, understand and appreciate as individuals, the animals that share our world.”
“My mom was my biggest influence in everything that has mattered in my life. From her came many gifts. She was an artist who understood the importance of inspiring and encouraging talent and hope in others. Fiercely protective, she believed in me in such a way that there could be no doubt, I would believe in myself.”
Her images are stunning and impossible to forget. With a keen talent that invites light into every inch of the canvas, the dark corners of the photographs from which she sketches will soon become illuminated as she layers each color and detail on sketches that evolve into finished paintings.She begins by studying the elements of light and shadow in a subject, and then translates those elements intuitively with paint or pencil as she concentrates on each piece. Since an early age, Larson has crafted the contrast of stark and subtle together with infinitely carved detail. Over the years she has learned to blend hues of color together with her instinctive feel for contrast, creating works of art with a “voice” and style that are her trademark, an indicator of a true artist.“Color holds an infinite fascination for me, as it immediately communicates emotion to the viewer. It is impossible not to have a gut level response to color. Artwork should be less about what we see and more about how it makes us feel. Color instantly accomplishes this. In addition, a careful juxtaposition of warm and cool colors creates volume, depth and three dimensions. Color can be the breath of life for a two dimensional image.”
“From an artistic standpoint, it is important to me that a painting explains what is unique to that specific animal. Not what is unique to the species, but the fleeting moment that describes that animal as an individual.
”“Con”owned by Katie Werner.
The lasting beauty in Larson’s art is that each image is carried to the viewer’s heart with clarity and a reality beyond what many have ever experienced in a work of art. Her artwork, whether the sketches she made as a child for her mother or the commissioned pieces she works on today, are infinitely personal. “From an artistic standpoint, it is important to me that a painting explains what is unique to that specific animal. Not what is unique to the species, but the fleeting moment that describes that animal as an individual. I prefer strong contrast, dynamic light and shadow with sensitive gradations that create powerful images. Eye catching images that will stop a viewer passing by and bring them back to look, to understand a painting that speaks a message with the voice of an animal that cannot speak for itself.”
American Academy of Equine Art, Best in Show,
Graphite 2015 “Before the Helicopters”
With so much attention focused on her art, it’s important to recognize that Amy Larson has earned respect and admiration as one of the country’s most accomplished dressage trainers and coaches. Her first pony, Apache brought a few years of battle and lessons never forgotten. “He was calculating and impossible. I loved him beyond reason but you couldn’t catch him in the pasture and you couldn’t keep a saddle on him, or a halter….or a kid. He knew how to get rid of them all, and did so frequently. Many of my trail rides resulted in a long walk home.I would complain bitterly to my father who would simply reply “You have to be smarter than the horse to teach him anything.” This of course infuriated me and set me on a course to understand and train horses. I spent most of my life in this profession trying to prove something to my dad.” Such inspiration led to a career of training, teaching and connecting with students of all ages, many with their own “Apache” problems, and eventually exhibiting as a highly successful rider at the FEI and Grand Prix levels, earning a USDF Gold Medal for accomplishment at Grand Prix.
Larson’s training and coaching techniques employ thoughtful and personalized techniques and exercises, leading her, her students, and many talented horses to individual success and achievements. She spent a few years as a dressage judge, but found that her heart remained with training and teaching, her own brand of hands-on approach that allowed her to directly influence the success of her students and horses. Almost simultaneously her artwork was being recognized internationally, and she chose to forego renewing her judge’s card and the time consuming and rigorous trainer and instructor certification in order to quietly continue teaching, training, and painting. “My goals as a trainer have always been to take horses through the levels as far as they could go and for as long as they wanted to dance with me. There have been many FEI horses through the years and three that I started and finished to Grand Prix. I am lucky to have wonderful students who love the art of classical dressage and many who have been very successful in every level in competition.”
Larson’s work has earned her membership in some of the worlds most acclaimed artist organizations. She has the distinction of Signature Membership in The Society of Animal Artists and the American Academy of Equine Art, Artists for Conservation, Artists Against Extinction and is an Associate Member of American Women Artists. Larson is not enamored with the recognition that comes from success, however. Her drive to communicate through her artwork comes from a lifelong sense of stewardship of the animals in our world. It is her hope that her art will encourage others to re-establish their own connection to the natural world and become more aware of the perils facing so many animal species and ecosystems. “I am particularly interested in the conservation of threatened and endangered species so it is very rewarding to be a part of AFC and AAE. Artists contribute a significant percentage of their art sales to conservation efforts.”
American Women Artists, 2015 Award of Excellence “Zulu, Lurcher”
When asked what motivates her to paint a particular subject, she said, “Appreciation of my art work is my second motivation. My greatest hope is that my paintings will help to bring awareness of the subject matter itself. To appreciate them places a value on them and this is the only thing that will ultimately save the many species that cling to the edge of extinction. If people fall in love with my Turtle painting, they will notice turtles as they drive and perhaps go out of their way to escort them safely to the side of the road. That is a successful painting.”
With the very recent loss of her inspiration, life long coach and mentor, and best friend Alma Mewhorter, Amy recalls how her mother taught her to excel with her own talent and in her own way. “I recently found a vast collection of childhood drawings that my mother had collected over many years. The earliest drawing represents my efforts at age 3 and there are many others that are representative of the years to come. I was an extremely shy kid and drawing occupied a lot of my time. I did drawings of things I loved, of animals I treasured, of adventures I longed for. And drawings were, very early on, a way to express feelings and emotions that I was too shy to speak. It was only natural that I would feel a strong and immediate kinship with those creatures with no voice at all. I am happy to say that some things never change.”
Amy has three works of art displayed in the permanent collection of the AKC Museum of the Dog, one watercolor in the permanent collection of the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art museum, three paintings sold through Christie’s Auction in London, and commissioned works hanging in the DuPont family home, Robert Duvall’s home, and scores of homes across the country and internationally. Even with such success, when asked how she would like people to remember her, she replied simply “That I loved every living thing.”
To learn more about Amy Larson’s work, to purchase prints or order a personalized commission, please visit her website at
See Amy’s work in person at upcoming shows, “Animalia” at the Loveland Museum in Loveland, Colorado and the Hannah Gallery’s Society of Animal Artists Show in Fredericksburg, Texas, May 17th through June 26th, 2016.