Lisa Marie Ford – Horse Author, Artist & Photographer Interview

Splashing in the creekName
Lisa Marie Ford

Website & places you can find my work online
Facebook: picsbylis (pics & artwork) and crittertales (books & poetry)
Twitter: @picsbylis

Where I am
Family Farm Country, USA (a.k.a. Conneautville, Crawford County, Pennsylvania)

Tell us a little about you, what is your background & where do you come from?
I am a Blue-Jeaned Photographer, a Professional Scribbler, Word worker, Doodler, and all around Dabbler, as well as a Farmer Poet, a Storyteller, and a traditional

Being a Sixth Generation American Family Dairy Farmer, I live and work on my family’s dairy farm amongst some of Nature’s silliest curiosities.

I love writing and reading details for the imagination, so much so I am known to be long-worded and write “novels” for e-mails (which my dad says you’ll know if you make it to the end of this interview). I love to stargaze and daydream. I am also known to trip over my own feet quite regularly, otherwise known as a klutz extraordinaire.

Pic By Lis, the Down on the Farm Studio, is my photography and design business; featuring Critter Express bookmarks, postcards, cards, posters, and calendars all 100% original in photography, poetry, and design as well as Made in the USA. I am also the author of The Critters That Call the Farm Home Book Series; poetry and photography books for kids of all ages. There are four, thus far: The Bunny Dance, A Spring Dance, The Deer, and Candy the Colt.

Candy the Colt

Your name’s Lisa – why Pics By Lis? Be honest, did you make a spelling error or something?
Or something: See only a “Daddy” would shorten a four letter name, that he helped give ya. Mine has always called me that…um…except for very rare occasions…misunderstandings…that required usage of my full name and the time-out chair….not that I was bad, you know, I was the little angel out of all the cousins….ahem…

Anyway, then my mom and my older cousin Darcy picked up on it, she acted more like my sister. Over the years family and friends just picked up on that stuff too. And by time I got to my tweens people would meet me and say “Lisa” maybe once and by the end of the conversation they were shortening it to “Lis.”

My other cousins also grew up on the farm, so we were very close. My Gram says it was like “raising” quadruplets with the four of us girls, not including the boys, plus all the second cousins who visited. We never played “House” we played “Office. We all had businesses and set up a store too, taking over Gram’s house. Hee, hee, hee. Often my business was a photography studio called…Pics By Lis.

Since we’re talking names, what precisely is Critter Express?
Critter Express is my line of products; postcards, cards, bookmarks, etc. This also came about in the good ole days.

I started making cards for everybody, complete with envelopes and custom drawn stamps, and imitation postmarks that I called Critter Express. I’m sure my grandparents or somebody has some of those originals somewhere. I still love it.

When did you take your first picture?
Too little to remember exact age and date, my dad held the camera for me, let me tell him what to point it at and press the shutter button. My aunt and uncle bought me my first camera, thankfully, so I had some self-defense. See I was a prime subject for my mom and dad, my grandma, my uncle, and Darcy who all avidly loved photography. My dad and uncle used to develop a lot of their own film when I was little.

Once Upon a Dream

What kind of camera do you use?
Nikon DSLR with Nikkor lenses: currently a 35mm with 1.8A and a 75-300mm telephoto zoom, as well as the kit lens. My next lenses will be probably the 60mm Micro/Macro Nikkor, maybe the 105mm for critters like dragonflies who are very antsy, and eventually a 600mm. I also still adore my Kodak Z7590, which was my first digital, excellent color quality, but sadly semi-retired from old age. When I shoot film, it’s with my family’s old Canon AE-1. I also collect old cameras. I have my great-grandmother’s brownie and a Kodak Model B pocket camera among them.

If you could pick any camera (regardless of price) what would it be?
A camera that is 100% Made in the USA: high quality, strong durability, excellent capabilities, and flexibility for off the hip natural shooting. The features of the best high-end DSLRs, customizable focus points, manual and automatic focus, and a sensor with excellent color quality better than any camera back, but unlike most many thousands of dollars backs it would retain the ability to travel well for shooting life wherever it happens, not just the confines of a studio. Of course with lenses to boot; excellent glass with a couple of macro lenses for getting up close and right on top of things to standing a few feet away and still capturing the detail. And one of those 600mm, or hey if we are dreaming, why not a 700 or 800 mm lens; you know, the type where you can zoom right in on that deer on the back forty way behind the barn, nearly a mile away, and count all of the ticks on its back. Naturally one would also need a computer capable of handling the processing of such images with plenty of storage.

Twilight Moon

A complete care coverage warranty would be great too; and probably a pack mule, who is quite steady and loveable, for toting all those lenses around. I also would not mind having one that belonged to Ansel Adams or John Ford.

Who are your main influences?
Joshua Chamberlain (20th Maine) is the only one I can think of from Maine at the moment. :0) {Sorry just couldn’t resist}

With Photography, Writing, Artwork, and/or Life?
My family especially my dad, David V. Ford, would be my main influences. As well as our lifestyle and my own experiences as well as those passed down to me.
Photography: John Ford, Ansel Adams
Writing: J.R.R. Tolkien, Robin McKinley, Mark Twain, A.A. Milne, Conor Makem, Mickey Spain
Artwork: Jacqueline Collen-Tarrolly, Olaf Wieghorst, Charlie Russell, Robert Griffing…(I can’t paint like any of them, but they do inspire me :0)
Life: Daniel Boone, Audie Murphy, Teddy Roosevelt


You photograph more than just horses, what is your favorite subject?
Natural life of the woods and creeks and fields, from clovers to fungus to flowers.
Wildlife: both on the ground in the sky and under the water; from deer and kestrels to turkeys, even bats and turkey buzzards.

Macro life: those close up details of nature’s curiosities that are all around us, if we just take the time to peek at them; frogs and toads to ants and butterflies, to dewdrops and hex frost.

Farm life: Sheltie Collies and Muscovy Ducks, Quarter Horses and Pygmy Goats, Holstein and Jersey Cows and Calves.

Human life: children’s smiles and giggles, high school senior’s promise, the fond love between people in holding hands, dancing, or even a little peck on the cheek.

And the curious depths of life father than what we can touch and feel; the illusions and lights and shadows of weather and space and what lies beyond. All the everyday extraordinary things that happen on the farm in my neck of the woods.

Do you (or did you) have a specific animal that is the muse behind your work?
the Critters That Call the Farm Home. Mister Bagpipes, the Sheltie Collie, who has his own “fan” club ‘round the world. He liked to sing and he has many bells that he plays, starting with the first one we gave him to ding to go outside. Cecil, my Quarter Horse, that charming fella making the funny faces. He likes to wander ‘round the pasture, getting drunk on apples, then meanders back to the barn for a hangover/sobering cure of baking soda. I have to have a dog and a horse, preferably a cow or two and maybe a goat. My first cow Baby Kay, first horse Cocoa, first dogs Dandy and Megan. I also love wildlife, White-Tailed Deer, American Kestrels, Spring Peepers, Eastern Cottontail Rabbits, and the like.

The Sheltie Collie

Where were you the most inspired, but without a working camera?
Christmas 2004, 14 White-Tailed Deer – all bucks from buttons to umpteen points- running through field behind pasture with my horse and a Jersey-Holstien Heifer in the pasture. I had just received my first digital camera, which I grabbed instead of the trusty old Canon AE-1. Click, Click, Click…review…there’s the best and most beautiful picture I had ever taken… And then the defective camera ate it and most of the other photos on there. Eeek! It was there, I made sure, and I didn’t delete it! Sorry, I still haven’t recovered.

What effect do you think the Internet will have on art and photography?
The Internet has already had such good and bad effects, not just with visual arts, but with written works and music. A lot is good and amazing and wonderful; the ability to connect across a world where feet might never roam, meet the friends who would not know you exist otherwise.

And so much more has and will happen that is good; however as with all things someone has to ruin it for everybody else. Thus, came the creation of “Forwarded Messages” and other problems. I never forward them. I know there’s some poor soul out there, like me, whose original work somehow got sent ‘round and their name “conveniently” disappeared from credit. This ignorant concept that some have that “everything should be free” and “getting something for nothing” is just going to hurt people and hurt jobs, it already has.

Creative works take time and talent, some of them years in the creation, and many of them involve something that is not easy to master. That should be given respect, and the respect enough to give credit where credit is due.

The Internet has also made people more ignorant than ever before it seems. The truth means nothing on there, because now anybody can post whatever they like and someone will forget what Grandma said of, “Not to believe everything you see on there.”

Fairy Ring Raindrops

Has it had an effect on yours?
Yes I have “met” with some people I possibly never would have without it, from around the world. I have had some wonderful opportunities I might not have acquired without it. I also would not have been able to keep in touch so well with friends and family without E-mail. Yet, I have also been victim to “borrowing” and attempted stolen works. I have had quite a number of designs copied without permission and written works “influencing” (not quite plagiarized, however rather similar) others.

People have tried to take advantage of me through my business, however I’m a Ford, rather bullheaded, and so it’s not gonna work. It has rather forced me to put watermarks or names across the images I have on the web and hesitation to share new poetry or stories on my site, without first obtaining an official copyright. Sad thing is once a work is created it is already copyrighted, but for proof it’s best to officially copyright it. On the light side it allows those who can not look and touch to glimpse some of my work and peek at the farm life.

Which one is your personal favorite image?
Jeepers, I don’t know if I could pick just one, I am so indecisive about such things. Of course I love “The Sheltie Collie” featuring Bagpipes and “Through the Window Frame” and “The Guitar” are my artsy shots. I love the Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, and so to love “Once Upon a Dream” with the “Horse and Ram Head” shapes that they kinda form. I also love the moon and stars, and relish in making collages. “Splashing in the Creek” is pretty popular, but my charming horse Cecil in “Hay There” just makes everybody smile and laugh. Each have a special memory for me, but have meant something to others.

I wish I had a camera that could capture what our eyes can see and every blink would be the shutter closing. Cameras can get close, but never quite the same.

Through the Window Frame

Of course as we move, even just a breath, our perspective changes. The human eye can choose one snowflake in a storm and watch it fall to Earth, but still glimpse the rest and that tree over there and the horse in the pasture behind the tree and then quickly move focus again to the birds in the tree. But sometimes we are lucky and a dreary scene on a dismal day with a bit of a click the same scene in a photograph can look so beautiful and different than the reality.

Writing and photography: Different perspectives, any similarities?
Each photo is a story, or at least part of one, to me; a memory. I like to treat them as such by giving them titles; some are grand and have a special meaning to me and some are simple like a description. In turn, being of a vivid imagination, each story or poem to me should draw, paint, and portray a picture or world to the reader, as they do to me.

Do you have any secret rituals you do to help you get in the zone to write?
3 am. It seems that whenever there is a cow that needs help delivering her calf or when the lambs are born it’s 3 am. So, too, I find the best time for ideas and creativity is in the wee hours of the night/morning.

Luckily I am a night owl; which doesn’t always go over well in a family who must venture out earlier than most for milking.

Often I have awakened with an idea, and sat there writing a poem or be doing something or hear something and bam…gotta jot those ideas down. I am like my Gram and Dad, always try to have a pen and notepad handy. Sometimes those have been paper towels in the barn. I also have forgotten more things than I’ll ever write or remember. For whatever reason; such as can’t find a working pen, driving, or often someone starts talking right when that idea for a line pops into mind….whoosh it’s gone. Sometimes, if I am lucky I can get some semblance of it back, but sadly sometimes it is completely lost.

Thankfully I got a computer about 10 years ago with my graduation money and I can type quicker than I can write, so that does help. I love placing pencil to paper and journals of poetry, but the ease and speed of getting thought to computer just can’t be beat. I am unfortunately not the type of person who can record the poem, story, idea. As soon as I start talking I lose all train of thought.

Critters That Call the Farm Home

What steps are you involved in for your first book series, the Critters That Call the Farm Home?
Currently I am involved in most of them, as I am self-publishing. The poetry, photography, and design are 100% original. I have a press print them in certain quantities and then try to sell and market them from there. I might like to work with a publisher someday, as I would like more time for the creating parts, however thus far it has been a problem, as I am quite persnickety, better known as bullheaded, I guess.

See I am quite adamant that I want them printed/made entirely in the United States; for quality but also to help keep jobs here. So far I have not found a publisher that prints in full color without outsourcing it, so I have not even submitted them as yet.

I also do not want them printed with soy inks. Soy inks seem to fade much easier than other methods, stinks too, and I also happen to be deathly allergic to all thing soy.

When did you decide what you wanted to do with your life?
Oh, I think I’ve always known, I know I’ve been saying for nearly as long as I could talk. My grandpa sat us all on his knee when I was real little, one at a time, and asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. Two of my cousins said something like join a circus or be a ballerina and I don’t think they ever did those jobs.

However one did say she wanted to be an EMT, and she is. I was the one who said I wanted to be a farmer, and before I could finish he said I’d be the one to get a car when I was 16. Of course he helped us all get our first cars…actually come to think of it I was the only one that got an actual “car” they all got trucks or suvs…my Buick LeSabre was better, but that’s another story.

My mom, dad, grandma, and a few cousins have all written stories and poems and I get that from them. Of course my Grandpa was always making up some rhyme or other for picking on people, too, though he doesn’t consider himself creative he is. Several of my family are keen on photography and what I didn’t pick up along the way I learned, so I am rather self-taught.

I do remember as a pre-teen, my teacher gave us the option to either write 10 sentences using that week’s vocabulary words or write a short story and I thought that opened up the world for me.

I always dreaded the confines and limitations of schoolwork. So I created a series of adventure stories featuring an undercover detective from the sticks put in a city solving crimes. She thought it was great…that’ll be one of the book projects down the road to expand on those.

Hay There

Can you tell us 5 quirky things about you and your photography adventures?
1. I get Hiccups quite frequently, on average (when my asthma is not bad, that is) at least 1 every 15-30 minutes. You wouldn’t believe the reactions I get to this. While it makes for a great laugh for a custom portrait (if I am able to recover enough to hold the camera steady) it has a tendency to draw bull elk in out of curiosity…

2. …and frequently when I do this, no matter which critter it is, I get the tongue thing; they look just right, nice pose, and then whoop stick their tongue out at me. Of course this happens without me doing anything too; they just pose and stick out their tongue. Guess I have that effect on critters.

3. My first step with many animals, especially horses, is to introduce myself. I give greetings, tell them my name, and blow a breath towards their nostrils so they can immediately get my scent. An old trick handed down through the generations, but with good reason. Oddly enough though horses, like mine, seem to be more interested when I have just eaten something like hot peppers rather than when I have freshly brushed teeth. Very strange.

4. I imitate sounds and act like an idiot. I can be rather shy, (cough, cough) at certain times and I am overly lacking in confidence, however usually, with camera in hand I tend to be rather bold. Now of course, this is better if there aren’t any other humans in sight, however I have also done so at weddings to get kids to smile. One does have to be careful though, you mispronounce just the wrong call and you might make an owl mad, once he flies in and finds out you aren’t another owl. Of course sometimes this if fun to startle visiting relatives. :0)

5. Sometimes I get, possibly, a little too bold. I love to get as close as I can and most of my wildlife shots and all of my macro life shots are taken within an inch, inches, feet or at most a few yards. I have photographed little brown bats, on a macro level. I do not particularly like big, freaky spiders, but try to get close enough for macro shots….till they jump or stretch out a leg and touch you…then yeesh. I have been stalked a few times while stalking something to photograph. Always “reassuring” to hear an unexpected snap of a twig and/or a growl or snarl. I lose more assistants that way. Wait, I don’t mean they get ‘et…they just hightail it back to the car and do not venture to the woods anymore. I once grinned down a bear, like Davey Crockett, so I just show them my best grin. (Please note, this is not a B.S. Story!)

What else are you passionate about?
Faith, Life, Family and Family Farming to name just a few (since I’ve already talked your eyes out of focus). My dad says, “Family Farmers are something of a rarity and soon will be extinct like the dinosaurs, something only seen of in a museum.” Farmers feed the world and it is the family farmer who works the most and takes the best care. I am not fond of corporations, least of all corporate farms. Corporations have really hurt our economy; especially locally. Where I come from used to be known as the “Tool and Die Capital of the World” but because of outsourcing it is hard for workers to keep their jobs. Agriculture used to be the main thing around here as well and every year there are a few more farms sold. Our farm has been farmed at least since the Cussewago lived here, as they were a farming people.

I truly hope we can keep the farm in the family and get changes made all around to help family farmers and continue the traditions. There truly is no other way of life that compares.

The Guitar

Working on anything new?
The next book in the Critters That Call the Farm Home Series. As well as “The Story” an adventure novel that just keeps getting longer and longer. The plan was to finish it before I turned 20, ha, life has gotten in the way so to speak; or more specifically my health. With an entire world to create, complete with maps, culture, history, and characters it takes time and many pages. It is set in a country I created, but that might be kind of similar to say Scotland pre-gunpowder age. There is this farm girl who meets this boy and they grow up together; then a great tragedy and mystery happens and the adventure sweeps them both up and in the chaos they are separated and have to meet up again to save the kingdom and their families.

There’s sword fighting, intrigue, history, mystery, banter, humor, and plenty of adventure. There are also two horses who are supporting characters but play a pivotal part, especially in saving lives. I’ll keep you posted when it actually gets finished and is given a proper title.

Thanks for takin’ the time to read all my malarkey and a tip of the hat to ya for makin’ it this far. :0) As some guy I know, once said, “Happy Hiccupping!”

More to Come

Thanks to Lis for answering the interview and sharing her work. Be sure to check out her website 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.

4 Comments on “Lisa Marie Ford – Horse Author, Artist & Photographer Interview

  1. Lis

    Thanks Gary. Always happy to B.S. Here let me put my hat on so I can tip it for you in recognition. :0) I think you have a wonderful perspective as well. That second photo on your interview, of the man and dog, sure is somethin’!

  2. Lis

    Howdy Folks, Just wanted to let you folks know that I have updated the B.S. Blog and it is at a different link/url than the one I provided at the time of this interview. It’s now available at:
    Have a great summer!

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