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creation story: Robin Caspari

Painter

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What she does: Caspari paints horses but does not consider herself to be an equine artist. Her large-scale, brightly colored, luminescent oil paintings depict horses in varying degrees of abstraction. “I use the horses as a vehicle of expression,” she explains. “It’s not about the horses; it’s about what’s going on in the painting. With horses, there is so much personification and connection with the human soul and emotion.”

Why she is an artist: “When you are an artist you don’t have a choice but to be an artist,” she says. “It is not a decision you have to make. You have something in you and you have to release it. … I’m a wreck if I’m not creating. I can’t survive mentally if I’m not painting.”

Why she paints horses: Caspari grew up in Goochland County surrounded by horses and says her first childhood memories revolve around the animals. She rode in shows as a teenager, and in college she continued her equestrian career as a horse trainer. “I have done pretty much every kind of riding you can think of,” she says, from Western and dressage to jumping and roping.

While she was an art student she “got in a really bad slump,” she says. “None of my paintings were good. I was trying this series of mountain goats, and they were awful.” Caspari approached a professor about her problem, and he agreed her paintings could use some work. “What are you passionate about?” he asked her. “You have got to paint what you are passionate about.”

Caspari decided she was passionate about horses and hasn’t painted anything else since. “I can’t think of anything more beautiful than a horse,” she says.

How she works: Caspari never works from a sketch — “I get bored trying to plan a painting,” she says — and instead begins a painting by working up a “nice, thick surface” on a blank board.

“Then I start to think a lot,” she says. “I start laying on color, and images start to come out.” Often, it takes a while for her paintings to evolve and she is not afraid to cover what she has done to begin again. “I try not to stay too committed to the work I’ve already done,” she says.

After she has developed the horse images, her painting becomes about line, color and shape. “That is where the language starts,” she says. “That’s where I get out of being an equine artists and start speaking in a visual language.”

Caspari paints on a wall-mounted easel that can be raised and lowered with a pulley system. She works with a mirror behind her to reflect the painting. “When I create a composition I always see it backwards first,” she says, as she applies paint to a work in progress and looks over her shoulder to see how it looks.

On the business of art: About four years ago Caspari began selling prints of her paintings. “I started doing the numbers in my head and started to realize I was not going to make a full living every year off of just [my] paintings,” she says. “For me it was a financial decision, and I wanted to get my artwork out to as many people as possible.”

A California printer produces gicleé prints of her original paintings, and she says they are experimenting with a hybrid gicleé serigraph print to capture the luminescence of the metallic paints she uses. “The new print should look and feel a whole lot like an original,” she says.

Where she gets her inspiration: From the horse, of course. Caspari still works with horses every day on her farm in Goochland County. “I’ve got to get on those horses every day to see them, touch them, feel their personalities,” she says. “That’s the other side of my work.”

— Jessica Ronky Haddad

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