Interview with Equestrian Artist Jessi Sparkman
On my last trip to Montana I discovered an Equestrian Artist named Jessi Sparkman. Unfortunately, I did not have the pleasure of meeting Jessi in person. I found Jessi online via Twitter, the micro messaging social media platform.
I noticed a #MontanaMoment photo that Jessi had posted on Twitter. From there, I clicked on her other pictures and fell in love with her equestrian art work.
Writing Horseback: When did you become a professional artist? Proudest accomplishments? Difficult moments?
I became a professional artist about a year and a half ago, at age 25. Even if I tried, I couldn’t not be an artist! Ever since I could hold a pencil, I’ve been drawing the world around me. I have always felt a deep connection with animals, especially horses, and I see beauty in everything, which makes it easy and difficult to paint the world. Easy because there is so much to observe, absorb and re-create, but difficult because translating the beauty I see into a painting is hard.
My proudest accomplishments as an artist are standing back at something I’ve just created and feeling satisfied. When what I’m painting comes through my soul and it is complete and full. Also when I’m painting a friend’s horse or pet and they see their friend through my painting, or when I’ve been able to really capture the essence of the animal I’m painting, seeing the look on the human’s face when they really “get” what I’ve painted is very inspiring. Difficult moments…well I would say that a difficult moment for me would be when I run out of time to paint when I really want to. Life has a keen way of getting in the way of art sometimes. Being patient is difficult, too.
Writing Horseback: I understand that you grew up and currently live in Montana. What role does Montana play in your artwork?
Montana shoots an arrow straight into my soul. Montana speaks to me in a deep way that no other place has so far in my travels. This place just feels good. The land, the newness of the mountains, the oldness of the trees. The crisp air you feel in fall when you can sense winter is on its way. The way you absorb the sunshine in the spring. The immortality in the air in July when the summer storms roll across. Everything in this state beckons to be observed with an innocent eye. No where else have I been where the sky is so clean, and every animal here just knows deep down in their being that this is home.
Writing Horseback: Do your travels and the geography around you influence your artwork?
I have been very lucky to do as much traveling as I have. I have been to Thailand, Europe and most recently Argentina. I would say that Scotland comes close to the same “Montana” feeling I get from here. Most places I’ve been to feel old, aged, but not worn out. I try to get a sense of what emotion a place evokes in me, remember it and paint it. For example, I’m currently painting an elephant in blue. It’s reminiscent of my time in Thailand where I felt a oneness with nature. It wasn’t like the home feeling I get in Montana, like I’m a part of this land, but it was as if I were a green piece of velvet being laid down to sew into a large piece of blue velvet. We’re both velvet, but different colors. Oneness, but with a different manifestation. Trying to capture emotion and embody it in an animal in a painting is very challenging, but it speaks more to someone than simply a painting of an elephant.
Writing Horseback: Do you own any horses? What type of equestrian riding style?
I have a couple horses. I own a 12 year old Quarter Horse that I’ve had for 8 years (Bonny), and a 6 year old Quarter/Percheron/Thoroughbred Paint horse that I’ve raised (Peaches). They are just about as opposite in horse personalities as you can find and I love them both for that. They both are a huge inspiration to me in life and in art. Horses don’t have to try to be beautiful, they just are. This makes it easy for me to observe and paint what I see in horses. They encompass every feeling of freedom, and every feeling of each season in Montana.
Having a horse is a lifestyle, not a hobby, and you are in it for the long haul. Being able to make a change in you as a human to speak to a horse in its language is amazing. It sounds obvious, but horses can’t talk, nor can they speak human, so we have to change how we talk and behave to use their language to communicate with them, just as they do with each other. My friends can all attest that once I get going on the horse topic, they’re in it for hours listening to me.
I grew up riding in the mountains of Bozeman, Montana, the Bridgers, Spanish Peaks, you name it, I’ve ridden there at some point in my life. Within the past 6 years I’ve been learning about Dressage and I’m thrilled about it. Dressage and Tango are the same thing to me. Different applications, but very similar concepts. Forward thinking, and moving without hesitation. Precision and flawlessness, or the seeking thereof. Being deliberate with your movements and your communication. Being a leader with your horse, or a follower with a Tango partner. The same goes with painting, and life, really. I think I can find any analogy with horses that can relate to life.
Writing Horseback: What is it about girls and horses? Tell us a little about your coloring book project.
Well, the coloring book began as another thing to do in the art world to get my name out there. I started with a reptile coloring book for a reptile show in Bozeman that a friend hosted. From there, any spare time I had when I wasn’t riding, painting or dancing, I was working on the coloring book. It was a way to keep doing something creative.
The age old question, girls and horses. I know that for me, when I’m around horses, they are so close to the earth, I feel grounded with them. Things make sense with horses, they are linear thinkers. I also know the feeling I get when I’m riding and together with the horse it becomes effortless. Whether we are hand-galloping across a field, or stepping into the canter from a walk, that togetherness with human and animal is addicting. There is no little girl out there who doesn’t like to brush a mane and tail and make white spots glow on a horse either. Truly, the horse gets the best out of the human.
Writing Horseback: Any additional questions I didn’t ask that you would like to answer?
Well, one question you could ask, is what is my favorite shape. I usually ask people this when I first meet them, or within 10 minutes of conversing with them. It’s always interesting to me to hear peoples’ responses. Mine just happens to be a crescent. Like the moon. Because you only get to see one side of it, when there is a whole other mysterious side you only get to wonder about. I asked my grandma (she’s now 91) her favorite shape, and she answered, “My figure from when I was 19.” I think that’s just about as outside the box as you can get!
Where to Buy:
Equestrian art work courtesy of Jessi Sparkman.