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Meet Stephanie Jeanne

Meet Stephanie Jeanne Meet Stephanie Jeanne

The 2018 Kentucky Derby has us focused on the art of competitive equestrian Stephanie Jeanne.

When most artists refer to their portraiture, it goes without saying that they’re referring to portraits of people. But artist Stephanie Jeanne Hardy (who goes by Stephanie Jeanne professionally) is so committed to her animal paintings that when she talks about “portraits,” which she often paints on commission, she’s referring to portraits of animals. “Having the skill set to paint people is important,” she says, “but there are artists who do that much better than I do. I do animal portraits. I love animals and that’s why I’m good at painting them.”

Hardy’s commitment to depicting animals goes far beyond the nuts and bolts (or whiskers and fur). Her love for animals allows her to see their individuality in a way many others reserve for people. “[Clients] send me videos, tell me about the personalities of their animals, their special moments. That helps get a feel for what the animal is all about and how it’s connected with its owners. Capturing the spirit of whatever animal I’ve chosen to paint is so important. If you capture the expression of the eyes you’ve captured the whole animal. Even if the rest is a loose interpretation of the style, fur, feathers, whatever--as long as you get the eyes it’s going to capture the individual.”

Hardy’s commitment to capturing the personality of an animal means that the even when she’s not painting a specific pet, she is careful to depict each animal as the individual it is. That’s especially true for her horse paintings. Hardy is a competitive equestrian and has two horses of her own. “I train with them six days a week,” she explains. “I travel a lot to competitions and have for over twenty-five years. That’s my norm. I go to the barn a lot. When I’m not painting I’m riding.”

Her incredible skill at depicting horses so realistically is in part a side effect of her decades-long love of horses. She didn’t start painting them until about six years ago. “Horses are particularly difficult to paint or draw,” she explains. Their anatomy and composition is so unique. A lot of people struggle with their proportions. That’s something I feel pretty confident that I’ve got down. Being around them the majority of my life helps immensely. I know their bodies, musculature, how they move.” And her love for her own horses means that she also knows how unique each one is. “I have such a strong relationship with my animals [she also has two French Bulldogs] and I think of my own when I paint others. It’s important for me to connect with the painting in order for the eventual owner of the painting to connect with it too.”

Hardy is trained as a graphic designer and is mostly self-taught. Her mother’s work as a seamstress taught Hardy a lot about fabric and patterns and details, she says. While she is currently living in Nashville, Hardy and her fiancé are relocating, dogs and horses and all, to Denver this spring.

“I love what I do,” she says of painting. “I feel so fortunate to get to paint for a living. It’s not the easiest path, but it’s so fulfilling. Everyone I’ve met has a story of an experience with an animal that they hold dear to them. If I’m painting something as silly as a cow and people can look at it and be reminded of those experiences, then that’s a special connection that’s been made. Every animal is important to someone in some way.”

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