Lynda Sappington – Horse Artist Interview

Lynda Sappington

Website & Places you can find my work online
Websites: &
Equine Art Guild: Lynda Sappington

Where I am
Near Dayton, Ohio

Tell us a little about you, what is your background & where do you come from?
I grew up on a small farm in Virginia and rode hunters as a teenager. I’ve always been a 3-D thinker. When others in class were making bowls in clay, I was making horses and cats. In college, I majored in music but tried to minor in art. The first class required for art was Drawing and Design, and I looked forward to learning to draw better. I’d always had trouble with proportions. In front of the whole class one day, my professor said, “You can’t draw!” That statement gave me a mental block about drawing, which still exists today.

My husband’s job brought us to Ohio in 1973. I did crafts to satisfy my need for art while our two kids were growing up. Then I discovered stained glass and found a real love for it. A gallery about 15 miles from home agreed to sell my work. They also gave classes. I took my son there for a clay class and the teacher, Sue Bordenkircher of Lewisburg OH, invited me to “stay and play.” Sue is a potter, dollmaker and sculptor, and the first 3-D thinker I’d ever had as an art teacher. She showed me how to make armatures and how to sculpt in water-based clay.

The horses were in my hands from years of grooming them, I suppose, but I didn’t have the confidence to do horses at first. My first pieces were cartoony baby dragons.


When did you first realize art was your calling?
I’ve been a creative person all my life. I drew horses and cats on everything as soon as I could hold a crayon – not that they were good, but I had fun drawing them. For every art class in school that had a clay unit, while others made pots or slabs with reliefs on them, I was making three-dimensional things – mostly horses and cats. I didn’t start sculpting seriously until I was 43, then I took a year off when I was 44 because my kids were keeping me too busy to do any art. At 45, I got serious and at age 46, in 1996, I had to turn pro because I wanted to bronze and it’s just too expensive to do as a hobby.

You create using a variety of mediums, which one is your favorite?
I prefer plastilene clay, an oil-based clay that doesn’t harden or dry out. I’ve had pieces in progress for literally years. They get set aside when commissions come in, so it’s a good thing plastilene is so forgiving. My favorite brand of plastilene is Classic Clay, which is fragrance free (great for my asthma, which some clay odors set off) and comfortable to work with. You can freeze it or melt it or soften it with your hands or a lightbulb – it’s a very nice clay.

Who are your main influences?
I don’t really think about that kind of thing. I just make the horse that’s in my head or in front of me in reference photos. I suppose I aspire most to be as good as Karen Kasper or Frederick Hart (a figurative sculptor), although that’s setting the bar really high! Still, I work better when I’m facing a challenge, so having their skills as inspiration is a good way to challenge myself.


Do you (or did you) have an animal that is the muse behind your work?
No one animal. I’ve had loads of pets through my life and lots of horses.

My daughter’s career as a dressage rider and trainer has influenced me a lot, leading me to sculpt a lot of dressage horses and eventually start riding dressage myself (last year).

You have always been a horse person too, which discipline do you identify with?
I love riding western but got bored of that kind of showing. I’m not a trail rider – I enjoy working toward goals and showing gives me good goals to work toward. I used to jump and love to watch show jumping, and I’ve done a bit of pleasure driving and love to watch competitive driving. But the discipline I’m most identified with both personally and in my work is dressage. Our daughter is an international level dressage rider and trainer (Jennifer Truett of Dancing Horse Farm) and I love the look of a well-trained dressage horse. The elegance of dressage appeals to me and suits my work, which is elegant in style, so I’ve done a lot of warmbloods, and now I own one myself. I’ve been riding dressage about a year and a half and have owned a half-Andalusian gelding for a year.

Do you have any secret rituals you do to help you get in the zone for your art?
LOL! No! That’s funny. The closest I’ll get to any kind of ritual is to play certain kinds of music when I’m in the zone. If I’m doing intensely creative work, I play Enya or Josh Groban or Il Divo – or all of them! – in my boombox. If I’m doing the initial laying on of clay (which is the most fun for me – I love to see the shape of the subject emerging from pipe, wires and clay!), I’ll play Sandi Patty and sing along with her.

For cleanup work, detailing the nearly-finished piece, casting a relief or doing finishing work on a casting, I’ll listen to talk radio because that’s grunt work and doesn’t require my mind and soul to be free.

Feather - work in progress

Is there a particular place that brings you inspiration?
Not really. I get ideas while I’m cleaning stalls, while I’m riding, while I’m dozing. I do love the Kentucky Horse Park and wish I could paint some of the scenes I see there, and I love dressage shows in particular, but I don’t need a lot of inspiration to make a good sculpture. I just need good photos of an attractive horse doing something interesting.

What effect do you think the Internet will have on art in general & has it had an effect on yours?
I make a lot of sales from the Internet – I made one today. I also get commissions and trophy jobs through my website. My website has sold more work for me than any gallery has, so I love the Internet. As for art in general, I think we get exposed to a wider variety of art online than we might otherwise. I also think there’s a danger online, particularly for 2-D artists, because of all the either unscrupulous or ignorant people who take images they see and make cross-stitch patterns, posters, t-shirts, etc. with art they haven’t paid for.

I’ve heard of many such instances. Thankfully, that kind of thing doesn’t happen with sculpture, but there are people in two certain countries, China and Mexico that will copy American sculpture and cast it in cheap bronze and sell it for a much lower price than the artist can. There is a watchdog group for both 2-D artists and for bronze artists, but still, we can’t catch every instance of such theft. It would be nice if people were just honest, but an awful lot of people just can’t be bothered to be honorable, and that’s a shame.


Which one is your personal favorite piece?
Oh that’s hard. Usually the most recent, but overall, I’d say “Maestoso” and “Captivating” and “Presence” are my favorite pieces. I think they’re my best work, anyway. I’m particularly proud of “Elegance” which involves not only one of my best horse sculptures ever, but also a carriage and driver. The carriage turned out so well, I’m very happy with that piece.

Would you ever sell it?
Of course! I only make editions, so I sell as many of them as I can. I will keep the AP as long as possible, but I’ve also sold some of those (for a much higher price than normal retail). If someone wants me to make a one of a kind, they’ll have to pay me a lot more money, because I do make more money per piece by selling editions.

What else are you passionate about?

I love to write and have one novel published as well as my how-to books on sculpting, Sculpting 101: A Primer for the Self-taught Artist which is now in its second edition.

Both of my books are available via Whimsyhill or on I’m currently revising a second fantasy novel and working on two short stories and another Harry Potter fanfiction. (I’m also passionate about Harry Potter – I’m “Abraxan” on several fanfiction sites.)

Elegance - detail

Working on anything new?
I have a commission to do the largest full-body horse I’ve done, an Icelandic with a rider. It will be 1/4 lifesized, which means it will be over 20 inches tall with the rider, about 25 inches long, and will weigh 60-80 lbs. I have my Andalusian stallion piece, “Feather” ready to go to the foundry – just haven’t had time to take it to the shipper. “Horseplay” is still languishing between commissions, but I hope to finish it over the winter along with the Icelandic piece.

More to Come

Thanks to Lynda for answering the interview and sharing her work. Be sure to check out her art 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.

8 Comments on “Lynda Sappington – Horse Artist Interview

  1. Kimberly Santini

    Lynda is an incredible woman and artist, generous with her knowledge and capable of explaining complex processes as though they are the most basic thing. Check out the Dancing Horse Farm link, because there also is an annual juried exhibition that Lynda has spearheaded focused on equine work that happens in conjunction with their Spring Festival.

  2. Heather

    Very nice interview! I agree, people should just be more ethical and not steal images from Artists. it’s just rude!

    The image of Elegance is amazing! I love that one! i can’t believe the detail in the carriage! I’m jealous of your skill!

  3. Jennifer Truett

    As a dressage trainer and equine aficionado, I have to say that my mom’s sculpture is the closest I’ve ever seen to equine art that practically breathes with life. In her commissioned sculpture, she captures the true essence and spirit of the model horse which even traditional vocabulary struggles to find words to define, yet my mom has a gift that enables her to recreate that most treasured part of these noble creatures with the use of simple clay laid over bent wires. I never tire of seeing her newest pieces or being brought in as a second set of “eyes” to ensure the biomechanical accuracy of a work in progress. I have so enjoyed watching her talent shine brighter and brighter over the years and look forward to many more years of ever more impressive sculptures to come.

  4. Lynda Cookson

    Hi Lynda
    Wow! Love the horses Lynda. I paint horses – albeit in a rather rebellious fashion – and love the essence of their life spirit. After a year of moving house twice, and publishing a book, your site has given me the boost to get back to my horses … thank you :-)
    Have a wonderful 2010!
    Take care
    Lynda Cookson, Artist and Writer
    Author of “Tea ‘n Turps”

Comments are closed.