By Virginia Clemens
Zenyatta, Secretariat, Totillas — two of these three world-famous horses Jaime Corum has already painted, and one is on her bucket list to paint in the future.
“Of course, everyone knows Secretariat. I loved seeing him come to life on my canvas — and Zenyatta was one of the best, if not the best mare, to ever race — 20 straight wins. I watched the 2009 Breeders Cup Classic at Santa Anita on YouTube where she was dead last throughout most of the race — her typical start. She was just taking her time until her jockey swung her to the outside and she blew by everyone, winning easily. It was awesome!”
Jaime painted Zenyatta on a canvas that was 7 ¼ feet high by 12 feet wide. It was so large that a commercial horse trailer was used to ship it to Santa Anita to Zenyatta’s owners, who had requested it for a special celebration of their famous mare.
“Zenyatta is over 17 hands high. She towered over most of her competition. I love creating a horse in life scale because you can really pinpoint the details — the intricate muscle structure and the stitching on the bridle,” said Jaime. “She is such a special mare that I really felt close to her when I finished the painting.”
Jaime has painted several other well-known racehorses including American Pharoah and Rachel Alexandra. “I work from photographs of my subjects, but it’s definitely better to meet the horse, too, to get to know his or her personality. Of course, Secretariat was already gone when I painted him so after getting permission from his owner, I had only photos and videos of him to work from.”
Portraits for Friends
Jaime can’t remember a time when she didn’t want to have a horse. “I would draw them and draw them and draw them!” she said. In fact, she drew so many horses that when she was in high school, she realized that she was actually pretty good at drawing horses.
“I casually started doing portraits of horses for friends,” she said. “It was exciting to be recognized and feeling special because of my artwork. But it was horses that brought me to art.”
Jaime started riding at a riding school outside of Louisville, Kentucky, when she was 11, joined Pony Club and began competing. “I was really into eventing and leased horses to ride,” she said. When she started college at Bellarmine University, where she studied art and where she teaches art today, she quit riding. It wasn’t until 2000, after she’d received her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Kentucky, that she started riding again at her original riding school.
“I realized then that I couldn’t be a good equine artist if I wasn’t around horses and riding. I needed to know the conformation of a horse, how to recognize and illustrate their individual personalities, how the tack or braids should be for various disciplines,” she explained.
Drawn to Dressage
Although eventing had been her first love, Jaime was soon drawn to dressage. “I guess it’s my personality. Dressage is such an art form,” she said. “I love the communication and balance you have with your horse when doing dressage. It’s a journey to get better. When you have a good day and experience little breakthroughs with your horse, it’s so worth it.”
Not able to afford a horse by herself, Jaime co-owned a Thoroughbred named Chesapeake. Now 26, Sandy (his barn name) is retired. “When his co-owner moved away two years ago, I became his sole owner and took him with me to my parents’ farm in the mountains of Kentucky,” Jamie said, adding that when she moved back to Louisville a year ago, she brought him with her. “Now he just hangs out, eating grass and enjoying retirement.”
In college and grad school, academic art pushed Jaime in different directions, away from horses. “I did it on the side and, ultimately, came back to my first love: equine art. My art education did enrich my painting of horses and I could bring elements of it into my equine art. But I was really self-taught, and the only masters I emulated were masters of the past — George Stubbs, Alfred Munnings — 18th and 19th century artists.”
Known for classical equine portraiture with a modern twist or touch, Jaime said, “My style has a classical influence, but with something a little bit different. People are drawn to the way I capture the character of the horse. That comes from my experience and understanding of the horses’ personalities.”
Not a morning person, Jaime will paint in the evening and may work until quite late at night. “I’ll change into comfortable clothes and lay out all my brushes, sometimes alongside a cup of tea. I like the house to be quiet, but may put on music, and if something really turns me on, I’ll play it over and over again. Depending on my mood, I may even listen to a documentary, but nothing visual.”
Presently, Jaime’s artwork is featured in the Kentucky Fine Art Gallery in Louisville, Kentucky, New Editions Gallery in Lexington, Kentucky, and Tilting at Windmills Galleries in Manchester, Vermont, and Saratoga, New York. At Derby time in May, she has had showings of her artwork at The Brown Hotel in Louisville, and will show there this year, too.
“I’ve painted a lot of racehorses, but I would also like to do some famous show jumpers or dressage horses like Totillas — a few exciting big-name horses. However, painting my horse, Sandy, has a special feeling all its own.”
Painting or riding? Riding or painting? When is she the happiest?
“I think I have moments of equal happiness, but maybe more moments with horses,” answered Jaime. “I would hate to give up either, but horses have been the source of everything. A good ride and hand grazing afterward can hardly be beat. There can be fun moments while painting — getting it to a level where it is joy, but art is not fun, it’s work!”
Visit Jaime at jaimecorumequineart.com.
Photos courtesy of Jaime Corum