Horse & Style invites you to enjoy the first installment of “Curated by an Equestrian,” a new feature that will spotlight a talented equestrian artist. We’d like to welcome our first artist, Elizabeth Wiley from Dallas, Texas, whose easily identifiable abstract equestrian art has been showcased throughout the world.
Wiley grew up in Abilene, Texas, and always knew she wanted to be an artist. “My mom is artistic and creative, so I grew up helping her with her projects. She got me involved in art at a very early age and always encouraged me to take pottery, painting, and craft classes. There were never any limits. If we wanted to try something new, we just did it.”
In addition to inspiring her daughter’s creative side, Wiley’s mom also encouraged her love of horses. Wiley learned to ride dressage at a barn called Pegasus Stables not far from her family’s home. She remembers spending as much free time at the barn as possible – she even got the school bus to drop her off there after school. It wasn’t long before Wiley began to combine her two passions, horses and art.
After high school, she studied Fine Art at The University of Texas at Arlington and then studied under a local artist. In 2011, Wiley began selling her paintings on Etsy. Shortly thereafter, she was contacted by Crate & Barrel about using her paintings in their catalogues as props. Over the course of 15 years, Wiley’s work has continued to grow, but she believes she has found her niche in the equestrian market.
Wiley describes her work as, “contemporary equestrian fine art for every budget.” At first glance, some of her paintings appear to be watercolor, but most are actually acrylic. “Acrylic compliments my impatience as I tend to work on 4–5 paintings at the same time. My paintings have many layers, so I’ll work on one painting for a little while, then set it aside to dry as I work on the next. I keep rotating them until they’re finished. I’m always interested in learning to use a new material and technique. Sometimes I discover a better way to achieve the end results, but sometimes I’m reminded of why it’s better to keep to the old ways.”
Wiley is constantly challenging herself by trying new methods to accomplish the results she’s after, and she states that she learns something from each and every piece she completes. “My objective is to create paintings that will reflect and compliment the space they occupy,” says Wiley. “I have found it easier to create something for a specific space than to create something that doesn’t know where it’s going to live. This also helps the creative process start.”
She also lets the creative process flow by just painting the next thing that’s rolling around in her head. She doesn’t force it, but she’s constantly trying to enhance her art. “As I paint, I’m always thinking about how I could have made it different or better, so my work is always slowly evolving. I don’t ever want to get to a point where I don’t have any more ideas.”
Some of Wiley’s ideas and influences come from other artists whose work she admires, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in particular. “I was fortunate to see his work in person here in Dallas a few years back. It was amazing – the balance of abstraction and representation, the playfulness of the lines. I can see graphic elements in my art that are manifestations of my fascination with his work.”
Wiley also notes that she admires Willem de Kooning’s ability to use lines to create movement and emotion. She has also learned a valuable lesson from Helen Frankenthaler, which is: there are no rules. “When we go against the rules or ignore the rules, we are freed to have the breakthroughs that expand our world. Invention is not the result of understanding all the rules – it is what happens when you discover where they are misunderstood.”
Wiley has been known for painting English-disciplined horses such as dressage and hunters, but she recently launched a new series dedicated to the racehorse. “I’m always looking to capture all the different and wonderful situations in which we interact with horses. A friend of mine created a beautiful line of derby hats called SMartHats.com that were featured at our local racetrack, and she suggested that I share my horse paintings there. My work up to this point consisted mostly of dressage and jumping horses, not exactly the kind of image a horse racing enthusiast is looking to invest in. Seizing on this previously untapped genre of racehorses, I was inspired to create a series of paintings that captured the spirit of competition given off by these beautiful creatures.”
While the Racehorse Series was a slight step in another direction, Wiley says she’s getting ready to step completely out of her comfort zone of painting horses and begin a series of old churches. “Anytime we are traveling and come across an old church, I make sure we stop to take pictures. The inspiration to turn this interest into my next project came from my friends who, after seeing photos of the churches that inspired me, encouraged me to create something new from these historic buildings.”
Wiley is certain, however, that she’ll return to painting horses with renewed vigor after this current project is completed.
While we never know what the future will hold, Wiley expects she will always be holding a paintbrush. When asked what her professional life will look like 10 years from now, she said, “I’m sure I’ll still be painting, and maybe one day I’ll open a little gallery. I dream about a vacation home/studio/gallery in Connecticut that’s only open during the summer. Texas is wonderful, but our summers can be brutal.”
Until that day, Wiley can be found in Dallas, Texas, raising her two kids with her husband, and painting full-time. Her equestrian work is on display at her studio (hours by appointment only), which is located at: 9995 Monroe Drive, Suite 121, Dallas, TX 75220. Finally, find her on Instagram @lizwiley to learn more about Wiley and her life as an equestrian artist!