For this Tuesday’s article, I have had an exclusive interview with equine artist and photographer, Leland Neff on #equinearthour. Read on!
Middleburgh, New York, USA
The equine paintings and photography of equestrian art extraordinaire Leland Neff have adorned the walls of homes and the Leland Neff Fine Art Gallery, highlighting and creating memories of famous and beloved equines, horses in sports and Argentinean gauchos.
When asked if he had always wanted a career with horses and about his first art exhibits, “At age 5 my mother bought me a book “How to Draw Horses”, by 6 I had a show of over 200 equestrian drawings.” Leland said in an interview on #equinearthour this past Sunday (4/3/16).
However, before this famed artist started making equine paintings his career he is known for another famous artistic medium: Fashion photography.
Leland was a “jet-setting fashion photographer”, shooting high-end supermodels and “designer-clad aristocrats” that most people only dream of meeting. While he was living in Argentina and owning a health spa, Leland snapped photos of the gauchos of Argentina.
After years of traveling around the world, from Nepal, Tahiti, to Patagonia and covering 5 continents and having his photographs appearing in L’Uomo Vogue, Fortune Magazines, Vogue, GQ, Vanity, and Elle, he has mostly settled down in the natural beauty of his 140 acre farm in Blenheim, New York. Surrounded by the peaceful and serene country side, with horses, what isn’t there to love? Before buying his farm in 2004, he lived in the Hamptons for several years and caring for his horses in a rented stable as he worked on commissioned portraits. He is also fluent in French and Spanish and has traveled to Narvik, “the northernmost city in Norway and to Patagonia, the southernmost region of Argentina”. To see more of this fantastic achievements and the places he has traveled to, please go here.
Leland has also helped numerous OTTB/horse rescue charities. Below is a photo of his painting of Rachel Alexandra that he donated to Old Friends, a retirement home for thoroughbreds, for their fund raiser.
Leland states, “ Through out my childhood and adult life I traveled and never felt rooted. I didn’t have old friends that I’d grown up with. Being a military brat, and then a fashion photographer, left me without the feeling of home or hometown. All of the artists that I looked up to document their own environment, Andrew Wyeth, Monet…, childhood influences. Now I have the hope to reflect the home around me.”
Leland also has his “Leland Neff Fine Art Gallery”, where you can see his art in person by appointment. A definite not-to-miss!
TFS: What prompted your transition from being a top fashion photographer to owning a farm and painting horses ?
LN: I had my own 13 acre farm with 7 horses at 16, and first show of horse drawings at 6. Recurring themes.
TFS: How did your experience in the photography industry help you with your career with equine art?
TFS: The chance to see the world and horses and it’s people all over it.
TFS: Have you always painted horses?
LN: Yes. At age 5 my mother bought me a book “How to Draw Horses”, by 6 I had a show of over 200 equestrian drawings.
TFS: How long have you been around horses? Did you always want a career with them?
LN: My father, a naval aviator, bought me a horse at age 3 and I competed from age 3 to 7 on that horse Smokey in rodeos in Texas then all over New England. I won so many rodeos that I was on TV talk shows and had articles in the newspapers.
TFS: Have you ever created a poster for a horse show?
Yes, I have done several. I also have several for sale on my website store, www.lelandneff.com .
TFS: Any upcoming art shows/exhibits?
I have an opening on my farm this summer which kicks of the season of horse shows at HITS, the Hampton Classic, and Saratoga meet.
TFS: Where can people go to see your art?
LN: The best place is my website for drawings, paintings, and photographs. I do commissioned portraits and magazine stories so the work is sold before it is done.
TFS: Can you tell us more about your style?
LN: It is color, light and form. I studied color theory with Ms. Buckley, at Pratt Institute. She studied at Yale with Joseph Albers the renown color theorist.
TFS: Do your ever paint live? Or do you stick to using reference photos?
LN: Absolutely. I learned from life outdoors, in life drawing classes, doing landscapes all over Europe from life. My first show after college given to me by the Duponts, was from oils and watercolors from the islands of the Turks and Caicos.
TFS: Are there any artists/people that inspire you with your art, or that you admire for something?
LN: Andrew Wyeth, George Inness, Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, Turner, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, Munnings.
TFS: Any wise words for other artists?
LN: Look at your last creation, analyze your likes and dislikes, do it again and again. But inspired and influenced by your own work.
TFS: What are the ways you find most useful for promoting your art?
Personal appearances and the original work is the best. I have a series of postcards and note-cards that are collected .
TFS: Can you tell us more about your “Leland Neff Fine Art Gallery and School”?
LN: The forerunners was my health spa and farm in Cordoba, Argentina, then The Art Barge in Amagansett, NY, the summer program for the Museum of Modern Art where I lived and taught. The school will utilize the natural beauty of my working farm and splendor of Schohsrie Valley with it’s rivers, waterfalls, meadows and forests.
TFS: What types of classes will you be having?
LN: Drawing, painting, photography, sculpture, yoga, etc, with visiting instructors.
TFS: Do you work with beginners or just advanced artists?
LN: Beginners through masters embracing one’s inner knowledge with encouragement for expression.
TFS: Do you have any assistants working with you?
LN: I have a series of experts that I lean to for guidance and enthusiasm.
TFS: Will you be having seasonal sessions, or will it be year-round?
LN: Seasonal seminars year round, group and private classes.
TFS: Are there any age groups?
LN: No. Creativity at all ages is embraced but yes separated some by age. For example children’s classes.
TFS: Is there a medium that you have not worked in but would like to?
LN: Encaustic wax.
TFS: Please tell us more about your portrait work.
LN: Portrait work is the intimacy between me and the subject where I find a true connection. This is also my primary income.
TFS: If there something that you would like to paint but haven’t?
LN: I have always done landscapes but my dream is to paint, paint and paint more and more. To have nature my true influence, letting go of pressures of income ….
TFS: Can you tell us more about the paintings you donated to help OTTBS?
LN: If my work can help feed, and provide living quarters, medical supplies for horses I give with an open heart. Although I give regularly to many equestrian charities, The New York Horse Rescue main focus.
TFS: Do you give any other workshops/classes?
LN: I am developing a series of online tutorials.
TFS: Do you ever use your horses as models?
LN: Yes. I am using the pony son now to do a sculpture of his 17 hand thoroughbred sire, Prince.
TFS: Can you tell use about your horses? Do you compete?
LN: I developed a breeding program based on the nick of Damascus/ Bold Ruler nick for jumping with the added blood of Northern Dancer, the no. 1 steeplechase sire.
TFS: Can you tell us about your rodeo days? Have you ever wanted to go back to that?
LN: I recently took a young girl to a barrel racing competition with my pony Concerto and a mare off the track. They had never barrel raced before and in their first go both took 5th in an experienced class of 35.
TFS: Where do you see your paintings in five years?
LN: More! Large environmental pieces and a sculpture garden.
TFS: Where do you see equine art going in five, ten years?
LN: Large life sized works.
Do you have any works in progress?
LN: Yes, a sculpture of my stallion Prince, a graphite drawing of one of my mares, and a rainbow landscape from my farm.
TFS: You have done a lot of racing paintings. What is your connection there?
LN: I have done decades of research on thoroughbreds, developed by breeding program of thoroughbreds, go to the sales, apprenticed for 5 years with a top bloodstock agent with yearlings, started and trained all my own thoroughbreds, and show my work at Saratoga.
TFS: How did you transition from riding in western events to thoroughbreds and the English disciplines?
LN: In high school my appaloosa thoroughbred was a super gifted jumper who won in many jumper classes.
TFS: Can you tell us more about your frames?
LN: I designed a line of frames based on antique American handmade wooden frames. The wood is cut down on my farm, milled out locally, and custom made for each piece of art.
To see more of Leland’s art, you can go to his website here.
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in my interview and let me share your art with my followers, Leland!