The Equine Essence

Dunnellon-based artist Bridget Hanley captures the spirit of horses through acrylic pour art.


“Grazing Horse” by Bridget Hanley

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Posted October 16, 2022 | By Joanne Guidry/Special to the Gazette

Bold, bright and beautiful, artist Bridget Hanley’s horse paintings emerge from primeval acrylic pours.

“The great thing about acrylic pouring is that you do it with no particular image in mind,” said Hanley, a lifelong horsewoman and artist. “Once the pour dries, then the image will start to talk to you. It’s all in how you see things and that’s how the painting reveals itself.”

Acrylic pours consist of acrylic paint with additives to make it more fluid. The mixture is then poured from cups onto a smooth surface canvas like Luan board, which is a tropical hardwood. The paint then needs to dry for a week before it can be worked with to produce a painting.

“I generally mix three colors in my pours and, once it dries, I then use an acrylic marker to sketch an image. From that, I’ll use brushes, spatulas, art knives—whatever it takes to tease out the painting,” said Hanley, whose kinetic energy infuses her art. “I don’t see in lines, but rather work from color against color. The law of art is light against dark and dark against light. Keeping that in mind leads to something wonderful.”

Equine & Art

Growing up, horses and art were an integral part of Hanley’s life.

“I started riding as a child and began taking art glasses in grade school,” said Hanley. “Both were so important to me and led to who I became.”

Through high school, Hanley drew in pen and ink and painted in oil. Surprisingly, horses weren’t her main subjects then.

“My friends and I were very much into rock and roll,” said Hanley. “I would paint rock and roll album covers and posters. It was great fun.”

Bridget Hanley, artist

Hanley attended Salem University in Salem, West Virginia, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in equestrian studies. She even took nine months of horseshoeing classes and became a farrier.

“In addition to riding and showing, I began giving hunter lessons while in college,” said Hanley.

But art was also a big part of her curriculum and even became a way for her to earn extra spending money as a college student.

“While in college, I did move on from oil painting to trying other mediums like watercolor and acrylic,” Hanley explained. “I found that I really liked working in acrylic. I love the color palette and that it dries fast. It’s also a medium that you can layer other mediums into, and I like that versatility.”

When her fellow students discovered Hanley’s art talents, they hired her to produce pen and ink sketches. And she used her calligraphy skills to create dorm room signs. Hanley noted that “it was a great way to make some extra money.”

Another skill Hanley acquired in college that complemented her art was picture framing.

“For me, how a painting is framed is very important,” she said. “I see picture framing as an art medium in itself. It just naturally became part of my art.”

After graduation, Hanley and her now husband Jim, a farrier, moved to the Philadelphia area, where they established their businesses.

“Jim did his horseshoeing and I set up a show hunter farm. I bred, sold, trained and showed warmblood crosses,” Hanley shared. “I also set up my picture framing business.”

Hanley’s days were split between working with the horses in the mornings and running her picture framing business in the afternoons. Weekends were devoted to horse shows.

“We had a great life. But, after 35 years, we decided it was time for a change; time to get away from the Pennsylvania winters,” said Hanley. “We moved to Dunnellon in 2017. My husband retired from horseshoeing but I have continued on with my custom picture framing business. And while I do still give private riding lessons, without a major farm to deal with, I can also concentrate on my art.”

Finding Her Niche

After the move to Dunnellon, Hanley quickly became involved with the area art scene. In 2020, she became the president of Rainbow Springs Art in Dunnellon. And, about the same time, she began experimenting with acrylic pour.

“I found that medium to be very intriguing,” she said. “The more I did it, the more I liked it. And I found that painting horses in that medium really spoke to me. It allows you to be so creative as the horse comes to life.”

Having done a wide range of acrylic pour horse paintings, Hanley came upon her particular niche of “Skinny Horses” by fluke.

“Jim had built drawers for my artwork station desk and I had these leftovers of long, thin strips, five inches wide and 18 inches long, of smooth Luan board,” said Hanley. “As I looked at them, I saw horse profiles. So, I did acrylic pours on the strips and painted horse heads on them. Those became what I call my ‘Skinny Horse’ series.”

“Rainbow”

Each “Skinny Horse” is a unique equine character study. The color combinations, the tilt of the head, the flow of the mane and forelock, the ear set and particularly the eye, all reveal each horse’s personality.

“I took my first group of ‘Skinny Horse’ paintings to the Micanopy Art Festival two years ago and I sold out,” said Hanley. “I was both surprised and delighted. I’ve been doing them ever since.”

Hanley has expanded into “Skinny Horse Minis” that are 3-inch x 8-inch paintings. She also does “Skinny Horse” triptychs, where each of the three 8-inch x 20-inch panels can also be a stand-alone painting. Her latest line is “Skinny Critters,” which feature cats, dogs, birds and other animals.

“I am really in a good place with my artwork,” said Hanley, who also teaches art classes at Rainbow Springs Art in acrylic pour, watercolor, pen and ink and abstract. “I love being able to combine my love of horses with my art. It is very gratifying.”

For more information, go to bridgethanleystudio.com and rainbowspringsart.com