Equine Artist Mary Verrandeaux Uses Her Horse-Show Background and Love of Animals to Bring Her Animal-Inspired Portraits to Life
Capturing each unique personality is what equine artist Mary Verrandeaux of Ocala tries to achieve with her portraits of horses, other animals, and sometimes people. “With any portrait you really want to capture the personality, such as getting the eyes and ears right for animals; the same with people, getting the expression right,” she states.
Showing horses as a child in New York, Mary would always be sketching horses she saw on the road as well as animals that lived on her family’s farm. Her skills were further developed at the Ringling College of Art and Design, where she graduated as an illustrator in 1983.
Mary then went on to start her own successful advertising business, but she later sold her business and traded her sketchpad for an easel when she became a full-time fine art artist in 2006. She now spends her days attending horse shows to gather portrait commissions from owners, taking photos of their horses as they prepare for a show.
“I’m familiar with how horses should stand and how they should look from my horse-showing background and prefer photos with horses braided and trimmed up for the show,” Mary says. “Show horses are very calm and used to a lot of activity from being on the road, and most owners don’t realize that just interacting with the horse and doing natural things help the picture turn out right.”
After she has taken enough photos, sometimes upward of 200, she will use the different photo angles to re-create the horse or animal on canvas at her home studio. Paintings can take two weeks to a couple of months to finish, depending on the painting size and her workload.
One memorable painting for Mary was one featuring the entire animal family of one customer, which included two dogs, a cat, a donkey and a horse. “I had to work off seven or eight photographs and put every animal together in one painting. It came together perfectly, though. I have samples of my work and whenever anyone sees that painting, they are always amazed by what they see,” she recalls with a laugh.
Also an accomplishment in Mary’s art career was being invited to paint the poster for the 2010 Hampton Classic horse show, a “surprise and real honor” for her. She has also won awards for her paintings for renowned horse-show manager Bob Bell, painted covers for several horse and Florida-based magazines, and been the official artist for the 2010 Vermont Summer Festival horse shows.
Her career satisfaction, though, comes from the happy, tear-filled reactions her owners have when seeing their beloved animals on canvas. “It’s really rewarding to see the owners’ reactions and people always love the animal paintings,” she says. “All animals have a personality, and if I captured that personality, then I think I’ve done my job.”
story by BLAIR TOWNLEY