Cathy Sheeter – Horse Artist & Photographer Interview

Whiskers & StripesName:
Cathy Sheeter

Website & Places you can find my work online

Where I am
Aurora, Colorado

Tell us a little about you, what is your background & where do you come from?
I grew up in a rural part of Eastern Oregon in a community that is largely supported by ranching and agriculture. I was fortunate to have a family that is artistic and supported all of my artistic endeavors.

I also showed all sorts of animals in 4-H. I took art classes through high school (where I was introduced to scratchboard), but when I went off to college (Oregon State University) I majored in animal sciences and was not able to take any art classes since it was not my major. Throughout college I did graphite pet portraits for extra income. In 2004 I picked scratchboard back up and haven’t looked back since! I am essentially self taught.


You are both a photographer & an artist…if you had to pick just one, could you?
For me they are totally linked- I started into photography in order to gather reference materials for my artwork. My eye for composition, lighting and imagery that I developed with my art flow over into my photography.

I have won national awards for both mediums. I could be a photographer without being an artist (but wouldn’t be very happy), but since my artwork is based on photo references I guess I would have a hard time being an artist without photography!


Who are your main influences?
My animals… LOL! As far as artistic influences I find a lot of motivation from looking around online (both at other artists and photographers) and don’t have a specific person or persons that I could pin down as my primary influence. I do remember pouring over the images in the “Billy and Blaze” (written by: C. W. Anderson) series of books at our local library as a child and really being motivated to draw!

Do you (or did you) have an animal that is the muse behind your work?
Not specifically as I grew up with so many animals (horses, dogs, llamas, rabbits, pigeons, pigs, sheep, cattle). Now I just have two dogs, but am still a horse crazy girl and love all creatures large and small.

The Hypnotist

Your art is a unique medium, scratchboard, it is almost like you are creating a negative. The result is certainly striking & has such lovely texture. Can you tell us a little about your technique?
Scratchboard is a three layer medium. The boards I work on, made by Ampersand, have a 1/8” thick masonite panel as their support.

The panel is coated with a white clay layer, which is then sanded smooth. Afterwards the clay layer is coated with black India ink. So the panel starts out solid black. The artist then takes a sharp pointed tool (primarily a craft knife) and scratches through the black ink to reveal the white clay below.


Scratch by scratch, line by line, the image comes to life. After you scratch to black and white you can color it with inks or watercolors if you want. Only the white areas will take the color. Because it can be difficult to fix major mistakes once you start on a board I do my initial line drawing on regular paper (so that I can erase) and then transfer this drawing to the board with a wax free transfer paper.

One of the biggest challenges with scratchboard is figuring out how to make different textures since almost everything
is lines of dots. The line quality (fineness of lines) of scratchboard is unparalleled, making it perfect for fur!

The Challenger

Do you have any secret rituals you do to help you get in the zone for your work?
I often work in front of the TV, listening to movies or my favorite programs. I am a pretty focused person to begin with, so it really doesn’t take much to get me in the zone and I can work in all sorts of conditions.

When did you take your first photograph?
Before I can remember, I am sure!

Where were you most inspired, but without a camera to capture the moment?
Oh there have been lots of times I wished I had a camera, but did not. One memorable one was I was driving a road that I used to drive to go to my day job (dog groomer) a few years ago and there was a golden eagle not 15 feet from the side of the road. He had just killed a prarie dog and was eating it. I even pulled over and he didn’t fly away.

Screaming Harris Hawk

While maybe not traditional beauty (the cycle of life) I love raptors and capturing the good, the bad and the ugly in nature.

What effect do you see the Internet having on art & photography?
Well a huge one! Almost every aspect is influenced by modern technology including the Internet. Sales of work, entering art and photography shows (and then seeing all the work in the show without being there), educating the public, teaching others about your medium, giving gallery owners a sample of your work… the list goes on and on.

Has it had an effect on your work?
Of course! Now I can hand people a business card with my web address on it and they can see my work without having to go to a show or gallery. People can order photos straight off the Internet after events and I can communicate with thousands by posting on my blog or web site! I have sold original works off of my web site as well.

I am a moderator on a scratchboard forum on the large artist community wetcanvas.

The Greeting

Since scratchboard is not a largely popular medium it is great to be able to share, connect and learn from other artists working in this medium all over the world, and through this venue we have organized two of the very first ever exclusively scratchboard gallery shows.

Through wet canvas members also see my work (and other scratchboard artists) and want to try it- this helps bring new artists and educate people about the medium.

Which one is your personal favorite piece?
My next one… LOL! This is a tough call for me as I like a lot of different pieces for different reasons. Pieces that have won major awards in shows, pieces that I learned a lot doing, pieces that I was really happy with the outcome of. I suppose if I was forced to pick one piece it would be “Roping Horse”.

Roping Horse

Would you ever sell it?
Yes, it won the purchase award at the Greeley Stampede Invitaional Western Art Show in 2009 and will be used for their promotional materials in 2010.

Animals, art & photography aside, else curls your toes?
Training animals and teaching. I love horses too and hope to own some again as I have more time to work with one. I am a pretty laid back person overall, but I guess competing also gets me going – I tend to be a person that once I set my mind on something will work hard to become very good at it.

Working on anything new?
Always! I have a large scratchboard (24”x36”) of a mountain lion and a graphite piece (20”x24”) of a roping horse on the table right now, and I’ll throw various small works in along the side.

Blue & Gold

I have a lot of competitions and shows coming up in 2010 so I have to keep at it- but its not work- I love it!

More to Come

Thanks to Cathy for answering the interview and sharing her work. Be sure to check out her art & photography site periodically for updates about her latest works.

Also stay tuned for more interviews with horse artists and photographers.
Are you a horse artist or do you know an equine artist you’d like to see featured? Add your name and website in the comments below or drop me a note to get involved.

16 Comments on “Cathy Sheeter – Horse Artist & Photographer Interview

  1. catherine clinchard horiuchi

    reading with great pleasure this morning this wonderfull interview i wish to thank you both paige for the many talents you bring forth and a delightfull site colored with your amazing persona and the artist cathy I discover with amazement..i am living in mount fuji Japan a small city called fujiyoshida which is in sister city agreement with colorado springs…so far exchanges are most focused it seems on student exchange due to the fact the only foreigner that lives-working at the international division of the city hall is often an English teacher from the JET program,..and one could only dream of extending exchange on various levels including the ways of the horseand the arts …cathy your technic is superbe hard to realize it is hand carved …really..i often think there are so many closed doors and un-known areas yet you so generously explain and that could become a feature of a work shop too.. one day…any way i am too long now..thank miles. wonders to you ..thanks

  2. AnnRan

    Your scratchboard work is absolutely stunning, Cathy. You have an amazing mastery of the surface – top notch! Awesome photos too. Congrats on your success with “Roping Horse” – I saw it in the Artists’ Magazine also. I love the way you cropped the image.

  3. Paul Harman

    Cathy, Just amazing beautiful work, thank you for sharing your talents and the medium you work in. Obviously your art has become your focus, and why wouldn’t it when you can create life the way you do. It is wonderful to see a talented artist like yourself so successful and doing what you love to do.

  4. Danielle Perry


    I am a fine artist based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and I would like to invite you to view my collection of paintings.

    My art reflects my love nature and animals especially horses and parrots. My paintings are also very inspired by life in or around the ocean, travel and nature.

    I hope you will enjoy my portfolio and I look forward to your feedback.

    My collection of paintings can viewed at my website or at my FB group at Caribbean Fine Art by Danielle.

    Artfully yours,


    Cathy, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing your photos and scratchboard. Yes, you are a hard worker! Beautiful work!

    C. W. Anderson was also my first art influence! I couldn’t believe anyone could capture the light on a horse better than he could – and in b/W! Another early influence indirectly was Orrin Mixer who did a lot of Quarter Horse portraits and was published in horse mags.

  6. Aloïse

    Brilliant work Cathy. Your patience must be almost endless to work out the fine details that make your scratchboards rate among the very best I’ve seen!

    Warm regards from Holland,

  7. Cathy Sheeter

    Thanks again for all the new comments. I am glad I stopped back by to look. Please check out my website (link above) as horses have been my focus this year and I have many new horse works in scratchboard and some in pencil as well.

  8. Vikki Brink

    Your website link seems to be broken. I can’t contact you other that here. Do you do personal requests?
    I have a non-profit that I am looking for a logo.
    The name is “Footprints 4 Life” It is a childrens riding program and horse rescue.
    I would like a logo with a small child leading a large horse on the beach with the childs footprints and the horses footprints in the sand by the water. POV is from behind as they walk away. Can you do something like this?
    Thanks for your time

  9. Gary Minshall

    That’s some beautiful art Kid. I would say more but it’s already been said.
    Best of luck, Gary Minshall

  10. susan lovelace

    How can i purchase any of your prints… just saw a freisian you was posted on Facebook.. just love it…lwt me know OK?? Thanks..

  11. Sheaneen Healy Byrne

    wow you are amazing
    i have been drawing since i was 2 now im 14 and i sell my art i was just wondering if you could give me tips on how to draw the texture in the horses coat and main please reply threw e-mail thank you

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