“From the minute I touched clay, I just knew I should have been doing this my whole life. I just love it.”
Tammy Tappan has always been a “horse person” and a creative. Though she didn’t start her foray into fine art until 2016, the art of creating has been a life-long calling. In fact, she began studying illustration in college before starting her own sign company, which afforded her the opportunity to soothe her creative soul through logo, graphic and sign design.
Tammy ran that company for nearly 30 years, growing it to a team of approximately 50 before ultimately selling it to pursue her passions. That personal pursuit took her across the country, from North Carolina to Scottsdale, Arizona where she said she found her calling in a five-day sculpture course at the Scottsdale Artists’ School. The rest is history.
Today, Tammy is known for her majestic portrayals of equine subjects in bronze and paintings, and her uncanny ability to capture the powerful emotion of the horse in her pieces.
Read on for more of Tammy’s story.
What first sparked your interest in sculpture?
It was one of those things where you hit a certain time in your life, where you just know it’s time for a change. I had spent a lifetime of doing things for everybody else and wanted to pursue something that I was passionate about. It was a little scary because you get used to making a certain amount of income and living a certain lifestyle, but ultimately, I wanted to do something that I was passionate about.
I literally Googled equine sculpture, then went out to Scottsdale for a five-day class at the Scottsdale Artists’ School in 2016. And from the minute I touched clay, I just knew I should have been doing this my whole life. I just love it.
So, that’s really what started that. I’ve always been a horse person. There’s something about the horse––that’s really the inspiration.
What is the most rewarding thing about your work?
My studio and my gallery are in a public venue, so the most rewarding part is when somebody comes in and they have an actual emotional reaction to a piece of work. It’s just so cool because it starts a conversation about things that you would never even imagine.
For instance, this venue was the host of qualifying competitions for the 2020 Olympics. So we hosted all the USA Olympians who were qualifying for the Tokyo games. One of the biggest ones was the paralympic team––individuals with disabilities who ride horses on an international level. And I have met, and now have relationships with, almost every team member. They’d come sit in the studio and talk while I was painting and tell me about their challenges or what’s coming up.
I think it’s the relationships that are created because of the art. That’s my favorite part.
What is the most challenging?
Not getting bored. I’ve painted a lot of brown horses. I’ve painted a lot of gray horses. And now I kind of see myself transitioning. I’m starting to include the human figure in my work and trying to capture the relationship that happens between a human being and a horse, which is hard to describe, let alone try to put into a visual format.
I really believe that there is an emotional connection and an energy that happens with a horse and a human being. Taking that non-tangible thing that you know is there––that connection––and then try to convey it in some visual form is challenging. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Showing that connection is a long-term goal of mine.
Has your work evolved over the years?
I went to school to be an illustrator, so in my world, the only thing that’s good is when it looks like the real thing––a photograph or an object. So, that was always kind of my measuring point. When I would draw I would ask does it look realistic? Does it look accurate? Is it proportional?
But today, I’m much more contemporary abstract. I’m really not all that concerned with, is it photographic? Is it perfect? It’s figuring out how to capture the energy. So I start now by completely messing up the canvas and then going over and figuring out where the horse is.
What drew you to equestrian art?
I have had a horse or a pony since I was a kid. Everybody in my family asks why I don’t paint something else. But, I feel like why would I want to paint something else? I’m just naturally drawn to the horse both as a rider and just as a companion.
When you’re not painting, how do you spend your time?
Riding my horses and walking my dogs. And, more recently, getting ready to build a new studio. We bought an antique timber frame barn and we’re converting it into a house and a studio.
What drew you to the Celebration of Fine Art?
I have actually been to the Celebration of Fine Art as a patron a couple of times and I was really inspired by the quality of the art that is at the show. I’ve been to so many art galleries and museums, and I’ll walk in and walk back out. But that was not the case when I went there. I’m really excited to be a part of such an amazing group of artists.