Sharon Crute, Dynamic Equine Artist
Tell us a little bit about you, what is your background and where do you come from?
Born and raised in Rhode Island, I started riding at a local stable that rented horses at about age twelve. Soon after, I inquired about a job and was hired as a trail guide working on weekends, school vacations and summers.
Close by was a racetrack, Lincoln Downs (now a casino and greyhound track) that had a kind of fascinating, dangerous appeal to this horse-crazy kid. I begged my father to take me to the races and he did so reluctantly, lying about my age to get me through the admission gates.
In the summer of my fifteenth year, I snuck onto the backside and got a job as a hot walker. It was 1969 and back then, women had to be off the racetrack grounds by sundown.
My boss legged me up on a horse inside an indoor ring behind the barns and it caused a scandal! You understand, there were only a handful of women working on the track and even fewer getting on horses or ponying. The girl jockeys wouldn’t take their case to the Supreme Court until 1973.
When did you first start painting horses?
Always interested in drawing as a young child, my father attempted to steer me away from the racetrack and towards a career in art. I was encouraged with classes and supplies, however I didn’t become serious about painting horses until graduating art school in 1978. I married a thoroughbred trainer in 1980 and it was off to the races!
Which came first, your love of horses or your love of art?
Definitely horses. I owned tons of horse books and anything else horsy. I was glued to the TV watching programs like My Friend Flicka and Fury. And of course racing films such as National Velvet. Does anyone remember the film “Kentucky”? My all-time favorite.
You paint horses in many different disciplines, which one is your personal favorite?
I’m passionate about horseracing. It gets in your blood and then you’re hooked and ruined forever!
The industry is confronted with changes and problems at this time, therefore I’ve been working in some other genres like jumping and foxhunting. As beautiful as those disciplines are, they’re just not as dynamic and powerful as horseracing is to me.
Who are your main influences?
I study various masters to try to figure out how to inject passion and movement into my paintings. The horses of Caravaggio, Rubens, Delacroix and Gericault can just bring me to tears with their romantic and compelling allegories. My parents took me to the Metropolitan Museum in New York for my tenth birthday where I saw Rosa Bonheur’s “The Horse Fair” for the first time. So magnificent in size and execution, I was awestruck. Remington is a great source for unsentimental yet wildly rendered horses. However, we as artists are working in the new millennia within a totally different framework and influence. We must paint who we are in the present.
Do you (or did you) have an animal that is the muse behind your work?
No particular individual. I’m partial to hot-blooded horses because of their spirit, intelligence and explosive nature. It’s that capacity for a volatile temperament that attracts me. You see, I spent over twenty-five years at racetracks throughout the country and I’ve labored in almost every position from hot walker to racing official. I’ve been bitten, stomped, rolled over, kicked, jumped on, squished and run off with more times than I care to admit. It’s not a matter of if, it’s when.
In my artistic world, thoroughbreds rule and they always remain my precious muse.
Do you have any secret rituals that you do to help you get in the zone for your art?
Not really. I’m extremely self-disciplined and try to keep set hours in the studio everyday much like a regular job. Usually, if I don’t feel like working just the smell of paint puts me in the zone. Showing up is half the battle.
Is there a particular place that brings you inspiration?
Racetracks, of course and sometimes just watching racing channels like HRTV and TVG can be inspiring, especially when creative camera angles are employed. The play of light with different color effects can also be engaging. I’m fortunate and blessed to be living in spectacularly beautiful horse country.
What effect do you think the Internet will have on art in general?
A huge effect. The Internet brings art to the people and people to the art, particularly those who would never visit the traditional venues of museums and galleries.
Has it had an effect on yours?
As artists, the Internet is an ever-expanding tool to market our work cheaply and to unlimited resources. I think most collectors still understandably want to see the work firsthand, but Internet accessibility to potential clients can be wonderfully useful in making the work visible and obtaining that sought-after initial contact. Social media is also a great means to go viral with a marketing campaign.
Which one is your personal favorite piece?
I painted an oil called “Steamin’” depicting my husband giving a horse a bath after a workout. The end of the knotted shank is in his jeans front pocket and the horse stands quietly with steam rising from his hot hide. The early morning light is reflected off those crappy wet rubber mats and shines through the wash bucket. My husband believes a horse stands better by himself without someone on his head.
Will you ever sell it?
No, but I’ve learned to never say never. Everything has its price!
What else are you passionate about?
I love to canoe on the many rivers here in central Florida. Nature is soul nourishing and I have a morbid fascination with alligators and trying to get as close to them as possible.
Music is important to me as well as hubby, two cats, various critters and birds I feed in the back yard and an occasional night out at the local billiard parlor!
Working on anything new?
Yes! I just signed a lease on a new studio/gallery in a downtown Ocala storefront. This is a gigantic and exciting endeavor for me as I’ve been working out of my home for years. And also a logical next step as my canvases are large and it’s difficult for myself as well as galleries to display properly.
I’ve taken on a partner – a very well known landscape artist in order to provide a more varied art option to clientele. Downtown Ocala is in the midst of revitalization and I’m excited as an artist to be a part of it. Historically, the arts have always played a major role in renewal of a neglected area.
More to Come
Thanks to Sharon 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.