From the desk of Lauren Palmer
Portrait artist Christen Benat’s love of horses stems from childhood during her rides each summer at camp and visiting her grandfather, a horse breeder in West Texas. She recalls the times spent in Abilene on horseback with her cousins: “There were no helmets or rules, but we sure had fun!” The birth of her grandfather’s first foal, Patches, brought additional joy and connection to horses, and—like art—riding continued to be a consistent theme throughout Christen’s life.
As a marketing executive living in New York City in the late 90s, Christen read about Equitours in Vogue Magazine and convinced her mother to visit the Bitter Root Ranch, located in Wyoming, for a “Wild West Adventure” along the Pony Express and Oregon Trails. The week-long, 25-mile-a-day ride was led by a Shoshone Indian named Quinton, who also guided them to and through the Whitney Western Art Museum in Cody, WY. He was able to tell them firsthand about the Native American subjects, the horses, and the ceremonies shown in the exhibits. The experience of seeing the artwork combined with Quinton’s heartfelt explanations had a great impact on Christen’s future as a portrait artist of horses. His historical knowledge brought even more life to the animal portraitures for which Christen is so well known.
Fast forward to life on The Circle B Ranch, present day
Life as an artist living on an Arabian horse farm provides Christen with plenty of subject matter. Currently she and her husband, Rich, have 10 Arabian Horses that they breed, lovingly train, and show at various locations throughout the country: Lexington, KY; Scottsdale, AZ; and Fort Worth, TX (to name a few). Arabian horses, often referred to as living masterpieces, have exquisite bloodlines which can be traced back farther than any other breed of horse—almost 3,000 years. Buyers from all over the world look to Christen and Rich for exceptional quality and well-cared-for animals—something that is evident in the portraits Christen paints of them. You can learn more about Arabian Partners on their website.
As when painting a portrait of a child, Christen works from photographs. However, it’s often considerably more difficult to decide on which photograph to use because she takes so many pictures of her beloved horses. Initially, when Christen moved to the ranch and began painting again, she preferred to paint people because she felt so isolated on the farm and craved interaction with humans. However, she eventually came to a realization: “Painting horses allows me to marry my life on the farm with my talent.” She embraced the expression of translating her view of these living masterpieces onto the canvas.
Like riding a horse, painting is very tactile and Christen enjoys the energy created and felt when spreading oil paints onto a canvas with her Rosemary paintbrushes. Her renderings are often impressionistic in nature which adds fluidity and personality to each animal. I see a similarity between Christen’s horse paintings and that of her favorite artist, Edgar Degas, who painted over 90 interpretations of horses during his life-long career. They both are executed with the technicality of an expert, but with the clever expression of personality of each individual horse. Christen’s horse portraits are full of life and love. I mean really, how else would you want your beloved horse painted?
Reach out to Christen today to schedule a time to visit about a portrait of your beloved horse or pet. To see your animal’s likeness come to life on a canvas will be a precious family keepsake for generations to come. Be sure to join my Facebook Group and follow me on Instagram for some behind-the-scenes of these beautiful horses!
To learn more about Lauren and The Art of Living Beautifully, please visit our ‘about’ page.