by L.A. Pomeroy
Last November, Shannon Lawlor became the first Canadian artist ever at the Equus Film Festival in lower Manhattan to appear as title subject of one of its international selections (Shannon Lawlor: Paintings From Dreams). Less than six months later she’s done it again, becoming the first equestrian artist from outside the United States ever selected in the 41-year history of the Hampton Classic Horse Show to see their work as its official poster art.
Flexible Soul, Lawlor’s enigmatic acrylic portrayal of Rich Feller’s chestnut grand prix show jumping partner, Flexible, will be the 2016 Hampton Classic Horse Show official poster.
Considered the quintessential close to the East Coast summer equestrian season, the 41st edition of the Hampton Classic Horse Show in Bridgehampton on Long Island will run August 28 to September 4 and Lawlor will join a long tradition of such renowned equestrian artists as four-time poster artist Michael Paraskevas of Westhampton Beach, and New York artist Johnathan Hallgrey, whose oil pastel painting, The Three Hunters, was last year’s selection.
The roots of Shannon’s equine art trace back to a childhood never far from a pencil – or a horse: “I carried my sketchbook with me from the prairie of my youth to the finest Arabian breeding farms of Poland.” Last August, her insatiable search for inspiration led her to the grand prix show jumping world of the Longines Masters at Canada’s Thunderbird Show Park, where an unintentional moment captured on the last day of the two-week series led to Flexible Soul.
“It was a serendipity,” she says. “Enroute elsewhere with my camera in tow, I happened upon Flexible. I had several reference photos of him already when I realized that he was next to go in the ring and, as he stood there waiting, he was so stately, yet soulful. I raised my camera and in that completely unexpected moment got the best photograph out of my entire two weeks there.”
For Lawlor, her artistic process begins long before an initial brush or pencil stroke.
“Part of that process involves taking my own reference photos. After attending Longines I returned to my studio to go through the images I documented with my lens. The photos that became reference for Flexible Soul were all taken near the end of the event.
“My vision for Flexible Soul became an intense portrait reflecting the soul of a jumping horse. Flexible captured the essence of everything I was looking for: He was engaged in distant activity yet inviting the viewer to join in wondering what that might be.”
Flexible Soul is painted in acrylic on Baltic birch on a “relatively large” (24” x 36”) scale. She chose to airbrush the background to give it added depth: “There’s a certain ‘dry’ feeling to a veteran show horse. I intentionally wanted to go large. It felt like the right platform to do justice to every detail, especially those crazy beautiful eyes.
“I create to inspire,” the 2016 Hampton Classic Horse Show’s poster artist confesses. “It’s why I’m here.”
Commission inquiries welcome at www.shannonlawlor.com.