Kasia Bukowska’s journey into the world of art started out a bit different than most. A “horse girl” from a young age, Kasia dreams where filled with horses and spent every waking moment with them.
However, when she was diagnosed with Lupus SLE and bedridden for 5 months three years ago, those dream where put on hold, and a new one came to light through the form of art therapy–painting. Even though Kasia couldn’t ride or even be around horses, she could still feel like she was there in the barn isle or in the field on a sunny day by creating images of horses through her paints. Now, three years later, Kasia is stronger then ever and working towards her dream of riding and training horses, with art now thrown into the mix. A full time equine artist and owner for four horses, Kasia has come a long way and determined to ride and possibly compete again. Her art has given her and outlet to express her emotions and bring her closer to her horses, while using her skills to create one of a kind painting that captures their power and grace with each stroke of her paint brush. She sells her paintings far and wide across Europe and America, and exhibits her works at equine events.
TFS: Where are you located and how long have you been an equine artist?
KB: I am currently located in the south of Poland and have been an equine artist for three years.
TFS: What inspires and motivates you?
KB: After I was diagnosed with Lupus SLE and Fibromyalgia, I lost the ability to ride. I wasn’t able to do normal things that people take for granted, like making breakfast or even walking. This is the point in my life where I actually started painting horses. It alleviated the emotional pain of not seeing horses for months on end. Though I wasn’t around them, I felt a connection to them while painting. Expressing myself through art allowed me to overcome this obstacle in my life.
Today, working with my horses is my best source of inspiration. When I have a great ride or see our training paying off, I’m inspired. When I have an off day with my horses, I’m also motivated to paint. It doesn’t matter if I’m feeling excited or disappointed, I always find a reason to paint after being with my four horses.
TFS: What mediums do you work in?
KB: I work mainly in acrylic, sometimes spray paint.
TFS: Are there any mediums that you would like to work in, but haven’t yet?
KB: My best friend is an amazing hyper-realistic artist who works in oils and seeing her work inspires me to try it. I’ve been thinking about getting the materials and just playing around with it, as I did with acrylics, but I haven’t gotten myself to do it yet!
TFS: Is your family involved in horses or art?
KB: My grandfather on my father’s side was an equestrian. I’ve seen some of his old black and white pictures with horses and it warms my heart. No one else in my family has any ties to horses or art.
TFS: What is your favorite thing about the art you do?
KB: Being in the middle of a painting is the most fun for me. I almost feel like I playing (yes, like a kid!) with the colors and it’s fun. Sometimes, I blast music (could be anything from classic rock to techno) and dance a little as I paint. I feel accomplished and satisfied when I finish a painting, but the part between starting and finishing artwork is my favorite!
TFS: What’s a typical day in your studio like?
KB: I have to have coffee before I paint! I even have a special mug I use only when I paint. I usually paint for a few hours at a time and take a breaks in between. When I sit or stand for too long my body starts aching. I would say I paint about 4 hours a day, 5 days a week.
TFS: How do you start a painting?
KB: I first have to find the right inspiration. That can be a picture, or pictures of my horse and/ or other pictures I find on Pinterest. Sometimes I have up to six pictures on my computer screen when I paint.
TFS: Any current works in progress?
KB: I am currently working on three paintings, two commissioned portraits and another 100x100cm inspired by my horse Sławny.
TFS: Do you sell prints?
KB: I have 38 original paintings available as prints. Interested buyers can scroll through and pick with one they would like to be printed on canvas.
TFS: How would someone go about commissioning you to create a painting? KB: People interested in commissioning me to paint a portrait of their horse (or other animal) can contact via social media, by email, or by phone.
TFS: How would you describe your art style?
KB: When I began painting horses during my first Lupus flare early in 2014, most of my work was rather dark. I developed my signature drip which symbolizes my depression in that dark period of accepting my illnesses and thinking I might never feel a three-beat canter again. Though most of my paintings still incorporate this drippy effect, they tend to be a bit brighter and more colorful. I paint based on my moods, which is why my artwork is very emotional. Though abstract, I still try to incorporate detail in the subjects I paint.
TFS: Have you ever taken lessons from another artist or gone to art school?
KB: I took art class in high school, but other than that, I am self-taught. Back in 2004-2008 I limited myself to pencil drawings, spray paint, and the occasional charcoal portrait. I wasn’t comfortable using any sort of paint (oil, acrylic, or watercolor) because I felt I didn’t have the control and finesse I had when using pencil or spray paint. I only started using acrylics once I was diagnosed with Lupus because that’s actually what my mom provided me with. I was stuck in bed and she brought me a small 20x30cm canvas, some brushes and acrylic paint. To be honest I was anything but thrilled, but I thought I’d give it another shot. And I fell in love! I was able to express myself in a new way much different than with pencil or spray paints.
TFS: Any future shows/exhibits?
KB: I will be exhibiting my artwork at Cavaliada in Poznañ this December.
TFS: If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
KB: I believe that if I weren’t an artist, I’d be a horse trainer. I love giving lessons and see myself having my own barn with school horses. I am interested in a combination of both classical riding and natural horsemanship and would implement these techniques in my training. Not only would I train people and hold summer camps, I would work with young horses and mount green horses when they are ready to start their work undersaddle. The equestrian jargon for this would be “breaking a horse.” I personally do not like using this term because of its negative connotation. Riding a horse should pleasurable and relaxing and to me, “breaking a horse” just sounds uncomfortable and scary.
TFS: What have been your biggest challenge so far in your art career?
KB: Like with every business, there are always obstacles that come up. The difference between successful people and the people who say they “have bad luck” is that the successful people don’t take no for an answer and are persistent even when the odds don’t seem to be in their favor. Entrepreneurs are creative and innovative. And that is exactly who I had to be.
I committed myself to getting my name out there. With exposure, especially on social media, comes great negativity. I didn’t think I would get quite that much hate, but I did. It took a lot out of me to wake up in the morning and read things like “this is not art, this is trash” or “my child paints better than you.” Let me tell you, it’s not a nice way to start your day. The hate did not stop there, at horse competitions and the horse races, I had people come up to me, and to my face asked me if I was drunk when I painted. Or, I have had people offer me pocket change because they said no one in their right mind would pay real money for my scribbles. One time I even had one hot shot come and take my canvas off the easel and and walk away. This was in the VIP section at the Służewiec Race Track in Warsaw. When I told him to stop he said “Thank you for the art” and took it to his friend’s table and said, “look at this painting this girl gave me.” I said he could buy it or give it back. The whole table laughed and one guy told his friend to “give the poor girl back her painting.” That really boosted my confidence…
Today I still get the occasional post insulting my work, but I remind myself of why I paint. I paint to express myself and reflect on my emotions. I don’t think when I paint, but only after I have finished the piece. Thinking can make me uncomfortable or make me upset. I believe great art moves people, whether that be positive or negative, you feel something from looking at a painting. So hearing and reading these negative responses to my paintings tells me I’m doing something right as an artist.
TFS: What has been your greatest success so far in your art career?
KB: I am ecstatic that my painting is my profession. I don’t do it as a hobby to make money on the side, but it is my main source of income. Painting for the past three years has literally built me my whole four-horse barn. Had you told me back in high school that I would be able to afford four horses, in my backyard, ALL with money made from painting, I would most definitely think you were crazy.
TFS: Any advice to other artists?
KB: Keep painting! Even when someone close to you, or someone you’ve never met on Facebook, tells you that you will never support yourself through art because your art is trash, do not give up. It may take some time, but it will happen as long as you believe in yourself, trust your instincts, and put in the work.
Thank you for letting me interview you, Kasia!