Lesley Humphrey, Bright & Bold: A Q&A With A Kentucky Derby Artist


The painting above is called “Challenge” by Lesley Humphrey. A fitting title. To me, it looks like racehorses galloping through the pouring rain. A split second as you look through the storm, the moment of clarity that gives you the strength to finish the challenge. I like Lesley’s painting style, especially the racehorses that she paints. The way the background gives way to the horses, making you think that if you blink, the horses might continue to gallop off the canvas. I also like how the horse is faded out into the background, like in challenge. The use of the bright colors make you look forward towards the finish line, where you can feel the tension from the other horses as they race to win.

Art was always a part of my life, my father being a commercial artist and painter and my youth filled with artistic exploration and inspiration. After 10 years of studying and working in the legal profession, I began my journey with art professionally in 1989. Since then, my training has been directed largely by instinct.- Lesley Humphrey

*My computer has not been working for the last day and a half, so I apologize  for publishing this article late! Two technicians were working on it for 12 hours yesterday and it’s still very slow.

Lesley Humphrey


Location: Texas, USA

Lesley grew up in Lancashire, England, were she would ride and show horses. Lesley explored the world of art and horses there, though it was not until she moved to Texas (USA) when she for her love for racehorses. One of her many fond memories of riding was when she got the opportunity to ride a champion Thoroughbred while she was an office manager at a stud farm in Texas.

“I thought I was going to die,” Humphrey says in an interview with Copious Notes in 2011. “So I do know what it’s like to go down a track at full gallop on a massive, 17-hand Thoroughbred.”


Painting The Poster For The 137th Kentucky Derby


In 2011, one of Lesley’s biggest achievements was being the poster artist for the 2011 Kentucky Derby. ” I could never have made it without my fab friends in Kentucky TB Industry. They are huge part of the story. Such an honor. Owner of winner and CEO of Churchill Downs bought the associated paintings. Donated the 3rd. I believe that this came my way because ‘what goes around, comes around’. We help charities. You should too. I got a great Philip Treacy hat for it! Got rained on, it sank down on my ears.. Humbling.. hahaha!” in an interview on #equinearthour this past Sunday (7/31/16).

Lesley says that her work is largely influenced by The Glasgow School OF Art (Scotland), primarily the Glasgow Four, a renowned group of four artists that created a informal creative alliance forming the world famous, ‘Glasgow Style’. Lesley says she is also influenced by the Russian Itinerants (an art movement in Russia during the  late 1800s)  and American Expressionists of the San Francisco Bay area.

Lesley is a member of the following art groups:

Signature member, Artists of Texas
Former VP/Board Member, American Academy of Equine Art, Lexington, Kentucky
Associate Member, Society of Equestrian Artists, London
Member with Colours, Longacre Foxhunt Club, Flynn, Texas                                                            Part owner of DaVinci’s Gallery, Tomball, Texas.
2005 Person of the Year Award, Regional Arts Council, Texas.
1990 Honorary Ph D for developing parent-taught art curriculum for elementary schools.

To see the rest of Lesley’s achievements, go here.

Below is Lesley’s interview on #equinearthour on Twitter! Join us every Sunday, 4-5pm EST.

TFS: Thanks for joining us today, Lesley! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

LH: I’m British, always loved to paint and ride horses… and over time it blazed into a passion I cannot live without! At first, it was all about “wanting to paint like Munnings, like Sergeant, like Fechin…” Then, it was about the internal truth.

TFS: How long have you been around horses? Did you always want a career with them? 

LH: I rode all my life. I had owned ponies, event horses, Lusitanos, Arabs… Love them all!

TFS: What inspires you to get up in the morning and paint?

LH: I don’t get up and paint; I get up and write. All my paintings, these days, come from “the internal well” One has to get one’s ego out of the way, to find something worthy of spending hours with! I go to the studio, or to a life group to hone my craft, as a musician practices. So I can paint from inside!

TFS: What sizes do you paint? Do you make prints? 

LH: No, I do not make prints. I think they’re a great start, but when one encounters “Big Art” that resonates…..one has a ‘visceral’ response. This doesn’t happen for me with a lot of equine art. I love abstract/expression and I paint the size according to what is resonating with my theme or series.
TFS: I’ve read that you ride in many different styles. Do your experiences in the saddle influence your art? 
LH: Absolutely. Riding a horse is silent communication, like art in a way. I paint what I love and resonate with. I’m a very bold rider, and it translates into the sort of paintings I make. I paint me! I know what it’s like to ride a 17.2 hand Thoroughbred down the track, full speed….I know what it’s like to ride an event horse over a scary course, and to fall off on said course! By far, my favorite rides have been on fat, hairy British ponies. How I love Welsh cobs! I’ve never had one.

TFS: Any future shows/exhibits? 

LH: Yes! New Editions Gallery in Lexington Kentucky is giving me a solo show which opens March 17th 2017 in May. Thanks for asking about that. I am very excited about it. I think lots of my painting pals are coming too!

TFS: Where can people go to see your art? 

LH: You can go to my website or they can google my name for a variety of places, “Lesley Humphrey Art” 🙂 I also have a piece coming up for auction at the Keeneland Sporting Art Auction in November.

Do you have any tips for painting horses in action scenes?

LH: Look and sketch from life! You will notice what catches your eye, then paint that and blur the rest! Also, and perhaps most important, paint what you know. You can’t be authentic if you haven’t had the experience you’re painting. If you’ve only stood next to one, paint what it was like next to one. Find a “visual language” that suits your personality and character… Hone that, then bring in your experiences. We know what horses look like and we love to look at them, but we want your marks, your energy most of all.

TFS: Is there a medium that you have not worked in but would like to?

LH: Er.. No! I do it all! (Unless it’s metal. I would love to create something in silver or pewter I think). I use oil, watercolor, ink, charcoal and acrylic and all in the same manner – no difference in technique.I am a very rapid painter at first, completely expressive, then design/organize, and expressed again…

TFS: What are the ways you find most useful for promoting your paintings?

LH: Hone the craft, dig deep, be brave, find great shows, if you’re doing something worthwhile, you’ll be noticed. Your best customer is the one you already have, and best galleries want you already selling! Get them out!I’m lucky now, I don’t promote my paintings, my galleries do. I help by sharing their stories on my blog.

TFS: Would you tell us more about your online art lessons? 
LH: I have spent past 5 years putting all about my process online, for free.  I just started again, and may do more. Plan to do a video series online. We’re creating it. Stay tuned!

TFS: Do you ever use your own horses as models? 

LH: Yes! Always did. I don’t have any at the moment due to family issues requiring some travel. One day soon. Once, I did what Lucy Kemp-Welch did, and tied my event horse to a tree, with really thin string. It worked!

Thanks for letting me interview you, Lesley! Looking forward to reading the results of your painting in the KKeeneland Sporting Art Auction

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