15 Questions With Equine Artist Kasia BukowskaPosted on February 6, 2018
I love connecting with equestrian entrepreneurs who have achieved great things by following their dreams no matter what their circumstances. I started this blog with the intention of educating and inspiring others to make simple decisions and take actions to happier living. So today I introduce you to Kasia Bukowska: a young woman who is making a full time living as an equine artist, doing what she loves. Here’s the twist: she owes her success to her personal health struggles and triumphs.
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started as a painter?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and always went by Kashia Bukowski. After moving to Poland in 2013, I embraced my Polish roots and now go by my Polish name, Kasia Bukowska. I have always been interested in art ever since I can remember.
Another passion I latched onto very quickly was horses. I started taking lessons at nine years old and competed throughout high school. I had high aspirations for furthering my riding career when I was diagnosed with Lupus SLE and Fibromyalgia. 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. Expressing myself through art allowed me to overcome this obstacle in my life.
2. Did you study art formally?
In high school, I toyed with the idea of going to art school. However, being an equestrian, I needed to make sure I could afford what my life revolved around: horses. Always hearing about “starving artists” and not getting much support from family and friends, I tabled that idea and decided to focus my attention on another subject that could make me money: Biology. As a sophmore at Aradia High School, I decided I wanted to become an equine vet. I continued to take art classes, even as an elective in college. It was something I loved to do.
3. How do you describe your style?
My painting style can best be described as abstract, expressive and emotional.
I have a signature drip that originated after I was diagnosed with Lupus SLE and Fibromyalgia. Despite being bedridden for months, I was determined to ride again! So, my doctor recommended trying to move (regardless of the pain) and that’s when I began to paint horses.
My mom brought a canvas and paints to my bed, but it was a challenge just to hold the brush. I was determined not to give up and kept painting. Each piece always had drips coming down the canvas that symbolized the tears I cried, even those from the process of painting itself.
My art was rather dark and sad at that time, but I always added an element of hope through color or the glimmer in a horse’s eye to remind myself that there was a purpose to pushing myself. I kept telling myself that things would get better and I would ride again!
Even though I’m in remission now, I still have days that prompt me to slow down and take care of my body. Keeping this signature drip in my artwork reminds me of where I was and how much progress I’ve made. My paintings are also more lively and bright than they used to be, reflecting the positive mindset I now carry.
4. So you specialize in horse portraits — why horses?
The hardest thing to accept about my diagnosis was not that I couldn’t take care of myself, but that I couldn’t be with my horse and ride him (At this time I only had one). I didn’t even get to smell that wonderful horse smell at the barn for months on end!
When I finally got to see my horse, Slawny (pronounced Suave-ny), I didn’t have the strength to brush him. Taking him on a walk in hand was out of the question because if he pulled, my doctor warned me I could tear a tendon. This broke my heart. I just wanted to be around horses. So what better way to be around horses and feel their spirit than to paint what I feel though portraits of horses?
For me, painting horses was a way to stay connected and “be with” horses without ever leaving my bed.
5. How have your own horses influenced your work?
On days where I work with my horses from the ground or in the saddle (or bareback! I actually ride bareback more often than I do in a saddle) I paint brighter, bolder pieces. This is because after working with my horses, I’m inspired. Whether I’m inspired by their progress or frustrated because I feel like we go backwards in our training, I’m motivated to paint and release these feelings. I’m not the best with words and feel I can express myself better through color and shapes. So if I’m ecstatic or depressed, I translate these feelings onto canvas.
6. What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
The biggest obstacle was accepting that I needed help. When I couldn’t walk or do anything on my own, I depended on others. I felt like a burden to my family and boyfriend at the time and it broke my heart seeing them reorganize their lives just to help me get to the bathroom in the mornings… But going through that whole experienced changed my perspective and outlook on life. I’m a happier person and much more positive and motivated than before. I have more self-esteem, self-worth, and confidence. I feel I am capable of accomplishing whatever I put my mind to.
It took me thinking my life was over to become more proactive about accomplishing my dreams. And my biggest dream was to get a grey Shire filly. Not only did I accomplish that goal, but I also purchased another bay Shire and buckskin Akhal Teke, all completely green and imported from the UK.
7. And your proudest moment so far?
Anytime I get a message from an aspiring artist asking me for tips about drawing or painting, or asking how I got started selling my artwork, I feel so honored they’d ask ME! These are actually the moments I’m most proud of because this is when I truly feel successful. I’ve never had any schooling in art, yet I get message after message asking what to fix, or how to fix, a painting or drawing. On the same note, I’ve come across people who were so inspired by my work or my story, they painted a copy of my artwork. I’ve even had a fan paint one of MY horses for me!
8. You’ve donated to a number of rescue groups in the US and UK — do you want to tell us a little bit about the charitable side of your work?
One of my goals is to open up a horse rescue of my own. I have an idea that I specifically want to rescue drafts, train them, and find them good homes. Though I love sport horses, I have a soft spot for these big-boned equines! They are just jaw dropping gorgeous to me and are the sweetest gentle giants! They make wonderful trail horses or riding horses for people who want a calm horse they can trust and feel comfortable on. Horses have helped me overcome so much in my life and I want to give back to them in ways that I can. Right now, that means donating to rescues. But one day, that will be me running a horse rescue!
9. What inspires you to keep going with your work and what keeps you motivated?
My four gorgeous horses inspire me on the day to day and all the horses I see in my future inspire me to get my name out so I can sell more of my artwork! Whenever I hit a dry spell and don’t feel like painting, I get online and start looking at horses for sale or look for ideas for my dream barn. If working with my horses and looking for inspiration on Pinterest doesn’t motivate me to pick up a paintbrush (or just paint if it’s a day I decide to finger paint!), then looking at sale horses online always does the trick! Don’t get me wrong, I am ecstatic and am grateful for my little four-horse barn, but I’m always looking to better my life. And really, the only way to better my life is just by building my own personal equestrian resort!
10. What’s your favorite piece of work you have created and why?
I have one painting of Sławny I did about three years ago, which is still my favorite. It’s not even that colorful, which is my current style, but I feel it depicts him perfectly on his good days. His head is slightly lowered in a gesture that says “I want to be with you” and an expression in his eye that emanates acceptance, love, and serenity.
11. We met on Instagram. What do you like most about using this social media platform as a tool to promote your work?
In regards to business, seeing which posts do well helps me learn what people like so I can keep that in mind when painting. I paint to express myself, but since it has become my career and way of supporting my horses, I do what I can to ensure sales.
Another great thing about sharing my artwork on Instagram is that I’ve widened my audience. I now ship globally and plan to get a map of the world and start marking where I’ve shipped to! I’ve shipped to the US, Canada, the UK, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Australia, and Mexico!
12. What are some of your favorite accounts to follow?
Since I’m so into natural horsemanship and jumping, I love following accounts that post great pics and informative tips about training. On days where I feel lazy and don’t want to go out in freezing weather to ride but would actually rather stay home curled up in a blanket with my cats and a cup of hot chocolate, I just check these accounts and am motivated to get my breeches on STAT! I see their pictures and think, “WOW! I wish I could ride like that!” Then I think that they didn’t get to where they are because they “wished” it, but from hard work and commitment. That gets me out the door pretty quickly!
Here are a few of my current favorites:
13. What do you hope viewers take away from your paintings?
I want people to be moved when they see my artwork. Maybe it sparks a good memory, or even a bad one, but I want to evoke emotion. I hope that when people read about the meaning behind the drip, it will inspire them. People who already have one of my paintings hanging up in their home and are hearing about this for the first time, I hope it reminds you to be strong on days you want to give up.
14. 1 thing you do for yourself to unwind from it all?
The best thing I can do to unwind is just be with my horses. Not really work with them or ride them, but just sit out with them in the paddock. I love doing nothing with them. Listening to them chomp on grass, roll, and grunt while sunbathing is the most relaxing and soothing thing I do for myself.
15. What are your three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?
First and foremost, don’t believe everything everyone has to say about your goals. I’ve gotten a lot of discouragement from others, from people on social media bashing my art or from people who are close to me, but I didn’t let that stop me. It’s easier to remember the negative things people say or do to you. Knowing that helped me be able to focus on the positive things people said.
Another important thing is to keep going when it doesn’t work out or when you fail. In failing you learn a lot! I’ve saved up money from other jobs to invest in my art. It took me two years before I made even a $1 profit. I was constantly in the negative and when I did make any money from my art, I invested right back into advertising, supplies, or exhibitions. Sometimes my efforts were a complete flop and I’d need to save up again (from my tutoring job) in order to be able to continue trying with my art business. But what kept me going is seeing other young artists selling little 8”x8” pieces for hundreds of dollars… I thought, if they can do it, I can too! I just need to figure out how is all.
And the last piece of advice would be not focus on the precision of your work, but to turn off your brain and focus on what your heart has to say. When I paint what I want to paint, I go wild with color, movement, flow, and texture. I base my own paintings off of one to four pictures of my horses and glance over at the reference pictures every so often. I paint what I feel, not precisely what I see. When I focus on painting my subjects perfectly proportional with the shading in the exact places as in the picture, I feel my artwork losses some of its zest. I become stiff rather than just letting my emotions and experiences drip out onto my canvas. Sometimes it’s also tough to know when a painting is finished. When I come to a point and don’t know if a painting is finished or not, I set it aside in a place that I will not see it again until the next day.