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  • Writer's pictureKathy Winkler Studio

Why Do I Paint?

To be loved by a horse,

or by any animal,

should fill us with awe-

for we have not deserved it.

- Marion C. Garretty

That is why I paint animals. They inspire me to be a better person, because they know who we are.

The bonus side of being able to live my passion is that I get to tell stories about animals that allow me that privilege. I get to be with them and feel I am part of their lives as well. They also keep me grounded. And, when the opportunity presents itself, I am blessed with the rancher who lets me onto his ranch to take photos and sketch his cattle or bison, or when I am presented with the opportunity to paint an individual’s horse or other warm-blooded pet. I get to listen to their stories and tales of farm life with animals.

Actually, I am like a kid in a candy shop. I cannot get enough of animals. I just soak them in. It doesn’t matter what is standing before me - wild or domesticated, I study and study and study and never want that moment to disappear.

A few years ago, I flew to Houston to drive my mom to Little Rock, AR, where her brother lived, but was in the final stages of his life. While my mom was sitting by her brother’s side, I drove to the Little Rock Zoo with my cousin. When we arrived, we began walking over a largely flagstone environment. We were walking up a hill and I exclaimed rather loudly to him, “oh my gosh, there is the White Rhino’s enclosure.” I couldn’t imagine what the zoo had done with him. I looked at my cousin and said, “that’s my favorite animal in the whole world.” At the same time, a zoo keeper was driving very slowly past us on an ATV pulling a small trailer with a muck tub, tools, etc. He stopped ahead of us and walked back to us several steps and took out his huge key ring with lots and lots of keys dangling off of it. Well, without missing a beat, he said, “would you like to see Dudley?” I was thrilled. Of course I wanted to see Dudley – the zoo’s white rhino. The keeper said Dudley was inside his building because they were renovating his enclosure. He put the key in the door and started walking in, and said follow me, but walk softly. My cousin said, “you don’t want to walk in there.” Really? I would miss a chance to see a Rhino. Not in this life time. So, I walked in, and there behind the wooden stall, just up against the front wall was Dudley. I talked softly to him as I approached. I reached over the wooden stall watching while he lifted his head a little so I could see every inch of his ears and poll. I reached over and slowly touched his right ear. He didn’t move, so I continued to stroke his ear. I then went behind his ear at the base and massaged his skin. I closed my eyes and the skin was unimaginably soft and warm. I just kept reaching and talking to him all the while. Well, he raised his head up to see who was doing that to him. His little eyes turned to look at me. He looked like he was searching my face, but continued to let me stroke his forehead and face. That area wasn’t quite all that soft, but very thick. Then, I guess he wanted to get a better look, because I heard his feet shuffling, softly across the concrete floor, as he moved parallel to the right, lifting his head up even more. That was amazing!!!! I have never forgotten that incredible experience. The zoo keeper did tell me that Dudley was 19 years old, and had been born at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Pardon the expression, but I thought I had died and gone to heaven!!!! If the zoo keeper had said I could open the stall door and go sit by him, I would have done it. Meanwhile, I think my cousin was worried and looked like he might have a stroke when I came out of the Rhino house. Actually, Dudley wasn’t the first Rhino I had petted, but I will tell you another story about that venture on another day. Experiences like this cause you to dream.

Thank you so much for coming along with me on my wonderful journey of sharing thoughts with you about my paintings of animals who, I believe, want me to show themselves in a portrait to be shared with people who might appreciate their beauty and character.


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