Name Phyllis Waltman
Website and Places you can find me online
Where I am
Canon City, Colorado
Tell us a little about you, what is your background and where do you come from?
Having been born and raised on a farm/ranch in Western Colorado surrounded by animals the one that caught my attention most was the horse.
As soon as I could climb up on a horse by way of hillsides, fences, fenders, ditches I was riding. Drawing came about the same time.
Later, after majoring in art at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado, I eventually turned to fine art and naturally zeroed in on the horse as my subject. I worked in pencil for several years later moving to acrylic adding color to my palette.
Which came first, the photography, writing and art or the horses?
It’s been a while ago but I believe it was the horse quickly followed by drawing. My main pastime as a child was drawing and riding. About mid life, after being out of school for a number of years, I was working in an office and decided to see what I might really like to do. Only two choices came to mind, either work with horses or the art. We moved to Arizona and I spent a wonderful year working on an Arabian horse ranch but eventually turned to the art. I tried to do both however working part time on the ranch meant a minimum of 5 days a week and they really needed a 6 ½ day commitment.
What inspired you to create Sunny Boy and Little Sunny?
Sunny Boy and Little Sunny came from an outing to gather material for future paintings. Jim and I while traveling stopped in Cody, Wyoming, and found some brochures of things to do in the area. One of the brochures was a tour of the nearby Wild Mustang Reserve. I just could not pass up that opportunity so we set out with cameras in hand to see the wild horses.
How did you go about taking the images for your book and was it a difficult process?
We came across one group and spent a lot of time taking pictures. Eventually Ken, our guide, said he had spotted another group just up a little way and wanted to take us there. Very reluctantly we left the first group. Upon reaching the next herd three trucks came through the area spooking the first herd. We could see them coming over the ridge. Excited about seeing so many horses running we got set to take as many pictures as possible. Meanwhile the guide was excited too and was pointing out a new born foal in the herd. He had been out the day before and it had not been there. So as the first herd came into the second group they all took off. My focus was also on the baby, too, it was so cute all legs that had never had to run.
Ken the guide pointed out which horse he thought was the father and the story of the family unfolded right in front of us! I kept my camera running as fast as it would go.
It literally got hot and towards the end started cutting out on me. By giving the camera a moment to rest it would take a few more pictures then cut out again but with a little bit of prayer it would start up again. We followed the herds as best we could on foot until the guide would not let us go any further. Needless to say I could have gone all day! The baby was just so precious. It wasn’t until reviewing the images that I realized the full story.
Do you still keep tabs on your animal subjects?
This incident happened in September 2009. We returned in July 2010 to see if we could find the horses. They live on 110,000 acres of BLM land. We did find the father Sunny Boy at that time. In September 2010 we returned to Cody for an art festival and talked to Ken again. As we were on our way out of Cody he called to say he had spotted Little Sunny of course now a year older. We missed seeing him but plan to make another trip back this year.
You are also a horse artist, how long have you been painting?
I have been drawing and painting for about 25 years professionally. Since early childhood in reality.
Who were your main influences both literary and artistic?
I started in pencil and Robert ‘Shoofly’ Shufelt was someone whose work I really admired.
The Black Stallion by Walter Farley was my favorite as a child and more recently am inspired in so many ways by the story of Seabiscuit, Secretariat and Hidalgo. I am more of a movie person.
And most especially, Rosa Bonheur, a French painter in the 1800’s, who did incredible horse paintings. One time while visiting the Metropolitan Museum in New York I walked into a room and there on the wall was her huge 8’ x16’ painting The Horse Fair. It literally took me off my feet and I sat there just absorbing it all!
Do you (or did you) have a specific animal that is the muse behind your work?
For years my husband has said he wanted to write a book. It never interested me but when this incident happened and were fortunate to witness it I just felt like we needed to share it.
Is there a particular place that brings you inspiration?
Jim and I like to travel and when ever we are out I am on constant alert for what I call ‘horse scapes’. It always gets me fired up about painting. And any kind of horse event is full of potential paintings.
What effect do you think the Internet will have on art and literature?
I think the Internet is and will have a huge effect on how marketing is done. It has the potential to reach people all over the world.
Has it had an effect on yours?
For example, Jim has found the book available in New Zealand. The Internet is enabling us to reach people across the country and around the world.
What else are you passionate about?
Design which of course is a part of painting and as we developed the book found design a huge part of making it work.
My current home is in the high plains desert of Colorado and each spring I love to design and redesign my gardens – they become another type of ‘canvas’ for me!
Plus I am very passionate about learning to walk with and have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus and the Trinity. That is where my talent comes from and my passion for both is to be shared through my love of horses.
Working on anything new?
Right now I am working on a painting of one of the other stallions in Sunny Boy’s herd. When we went back last summer to check on Sunny Boy and Little Sunny we were watching a group. One of the stallions had a couple of mares and one baby. At one point the baby started running back and forth bouncing all around having lots of fun.
Finally to father it looked like to me got tired of it all and started letting the baby know it was time to settle down. He chased after the baby and with my camera caught a shot with his mane way up in the air. Have done another painting called Free Spirit of a stallion when he was approaching a rival stallion and his mane was up the same way. It seemed to have been done on purpose. It was not windy that day.
If you had to sum how you feet about horses in one simple sentence, what would it be?
They say love is action and that was what this whole incident of Sunny Boy and Little Sunny was all about, the love of the father risking the loss of his band of mares and protecting his one mare and baby from intruders. Which made me fall even more in love with horses.
More to Come
Thanks to Phyllis 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.