Award-winning equine artist Thomas Allen Pauly has portrayed some of the finest horses and jockeys in the country. Born and raised in Chicago, Pauly's work has encompassed Royal Ascot, the Hong Kong Cup, the Arc de Triomphe, the Dubai World Cup, the Velka Pardubicka Ceske Pojistovny Steeplechase in Prague and numerous Breeders' Cups, Preaknesses, Belmonts and Kentucky Derbies.
TBP: Tom, how did you become an equine artist, and were you an artist before you discovered horse racing?
TP: When I was in 5th grade at John Palmer school in Chicago, my classmate Paul Cronin brought a “Mad” magazine into class. The issue was passed around from desk to desk and it finally arrived at mine. I was paging through it and I came across a cartoon of President Richard Nixon that was illustrated by Mort Drucker, and for some odd reason I was compelled to copy it. I started buying more and more Mad Magazines to do more drawings from them. They taught me how to draw. I ended up with a huge collection. To this day I sign my name with 3 dots at the end of my name, just like Mort Drucker does.
My introduction to the world of horse racing began on June 17, 1978. I was at a party hosted by a guy who's dad owned tons of harness horses. That night he invited everyone to go watch his dad's horse Rusty Win race at Sportsman’s Park in Cicero, IL. He captured the feature race by five lengths and we all got to be in the winner's picture.
A week later, I received the photo and decided to draw my friend's horse. His dad bought the picture and I was hooked.
TBP: When you started painting horses was it just for your own enjoyment? At what point did it become a professional situation, was there a turning point where business started to accelerate?
The moment I sold my first horse picture, I decided that painting race horses would be my profession. For 11 years I painted only harness horses. But, it was a commission of the Who's Who in Racing from newly built Arlington Park that directed my brushes to the Thoroughbreds
TBP: What is your process and how does it start - Do you use film and photo images, and how important is it to experience the individual animal in person? How long does it typically take to paint a horse like American Pharoah, or a picture of a major race? Is there ever a true end/finish? Or could you always continue/tweak etc..?
TP: I enjoy using my own photographs as reference material for my art. I try to see and photograph every horse that I paint. I feel it is very important to view my subjects in person and take notes about their conformation, coloring and tack. I have photographed the last seventeen Kentucky Derbies and those photos, at least to me, are priceless. So many memories.
Once I choose the best image for my layout, I sketch it on the canvas, then I apply the underpainting followed by layers and layers of thin oil paints. It usually takes six to eight weeks. Once I sign the painting, it is completed. I never second guess my work.
TBP: What proportion of your work is private commissions for horses' owners or breeders etc. and how much of your work is available for sale as originals or/and fine art prints etc.?
TP: I enjoy doing commissions, I love the artist – patron relationship. I have never had a client influence the way that I would portray their champion. They hired me for my experience and pretty much permit me to paint what I want. In between commissions I will paint racing scenes, jockey portraits or racing silks, still life. I do have a few originals and fine art prints available on my website, www.horseartist.com
TBP: Please tell us about some of your favorite horses that you have painted, and which works are you particularly pleased/satisfied with?
TP: My favorite horse to portray is the great Triple Crown Champion Secretariat. I have portrayed him 9 times. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet and photograph him while he was at Claiborne Farm. I shot only 36 pictures which I cherish, but I do wish I had shot more. When they led Secretariat out of his barn he noticed that there was a group of photographers waiting for him. He looked at us and stood in the most perfect conformation pose. We were amazed at his professionalism. Last year, I was commissioned as the Official Artist of American Pharoah – Triple Crown champion by his owner Team Zayat. This was a great honor, WOW, a Triple Crown Winner... !
We published a limited edition print of him winning the Derby. The print was sold at Belmont Park on the day of his historic Triple Crown win. It sold out in hours.
Recently, I was selected as the Official Artist of the Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby Bourbon bottle. They are the Official Bourbon of the Derby and I am looking forward to seeing my painting image everywhere at this year's event. This will be my 18th Derby.
TBP: What have been some of your toughest/most challenging assignments/commissions?
TP: One of my toughest paintings was also one of my largest. The 5' x 12' triptych was commissioned by the National Art Museum of Sport for their Speed and Motion: Racing to the Finish Line exhibit. I only had a month to work on it. Although, it was a tough one, I completed it a couple hours before shipping it down to Indiana. It now proudly hangs in my art studio.
Six For Fun
TBP: What might you pick out as your most memorable day’s racing or racing experience?
There are two that stand out. Photographing my first Kentucky Derby in 1999, and photographing my first Triple Crown champion after witnessing six failed attempts, then meeting American Pharoah.
TBP: When you are not immersed in art, do you pursue any other vocations or hobbies?
TP: I do volunteer work for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF) They do wonderful work. The PDJF is committed to working with both industry and medical research groups to improve the safety of both the human and equine athlete as well as medical research projects dedicated to reducing catastrophic injuries.
TBP: What is your favorite type of music?
Jazz/Big Band. Love Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, they make my brush “Swing”
TBP: Favorite vacation destination?
Paris, France, and Newmarket, England. It is generally considered the birthplace and global centre of Thoroughbred horse racing.
TBP: Favorite type of food or restaurant?
TP: RL restaurant in Chicago. It's part of the Ralph Lauren Flagship store on Michigan Ave. The food is great and the entire restaurant is decorated with equine art, jockey silks, saddles and racing memorabilia . It reminds me of my art studio.
TBP: If you could pick any guests for an interesting dinner party who might you invite to your table?
TP: Equine Artist Richard Stone Reeves (my mentor), Jockey Willie Shoemaker, Del Mar Racetrack owner and singer Bing Crosby, Secretariat owner Penny Chenery, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, Arlington Park Racetrack owner Richard Duchossois and Queen Elizabeth... What a dinner party this would be.
Visit Thomas Allen Pauly's website at www.horseartist.com