“By a Nose” shows the will and determination of racehorses, and reflects that in life, contests are frequently won “by a nose.”
Horses have always been an important part of Linda Ballantine Brown’s life. While she was growing up in Toronto, she showed hackney horses with her grandfather. Later, when her family moved to Kissimmee, she lived on a working ranch. After college, she married a rancher and they worked together in the cattle business for 25 years.
Today at her Williston farm, Linda has 50 head of cattle and still rides as often as she can. Someday, she hopes to turn her Cuttin’ Out Farm into a full-time cutting horse operation.
It’s no wonder then that so much of the painter’s intriguing work centers on horses, cattle, and ranch life. She paints what she knows so well.
“I’m a cowgirl, first of all,” Linda says with pride, “and then I’m a painter.”
She’s also one of the founding members of the Cowboy Art Association of Florida, an organization comprised of talented men and women from around the state who are full-time cowboys and cowgirls as well as artists.
Many Ocalans were introduced to her art through the Horse Fever project several years ago. She painted two of the horses, “Sky Dancing” and “Morning Colors,” for the successful public art venture presented by the Marion Cultural Alliance and the Florida Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. Later, she created “Manely Motion” (sponsored by Ocala Style) for a six-horse traveling exhibit extension of the original project.
Linda was also one of the artists whose work was turned into an exterior mosaic for Ocala’s new library headquarters, and in 2006-07, she participated in Lakeland’s Kaleidoscope butterfly art project. She‘s also painted murals for Epcot sites and other Orlando venues. Another one of her very large works is a 22-foot-wide alligator she painted a few years ago for an ardent Gator fan’s box at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
“I love projects and challenges like that,” Linda explains. “I get to create.”
Sometimes, Linda readily admits, she can have as many as seven or eight painting projects going at the same time.
“Painting is often about solving problems,” she says. “If I have a problem that I can’t work out, it can become frustrating, so I leave that painting for a while and spend time on another piece. Then when I come back to the first one with fresh eyes, I’m usually able to work out whatever the problem was.”
The groundwork for Linda’s art career was laid when she was a little girl in Toronto. Her talented grandmother patiently taught her how to do china painting, which she says provided her with a wonderful discipline.
“Honest,” Linda’s painting of a vibrant reining horse, was inspired by a John O’Hara photograph of a real-life Quarter Horse champion.
“You have to have a light touch and your strokes need to be smooth,” she explains. “And you learn so much about color.”
Since those first lessons, Linda has been mostly self-taught.
“I started relatively late in life,” she says.
When she was in her twenties she transferred some of the china painting skills she had learned to tile painting. Shealso studied still life techniques and enjoyed free painting. Later, when Linda started experimenting with oils, she knew she had found her perfect medium.
Linda says having a studio just a pasture away from her home on her Levy County ranch is the perfect arrangement.
“I spend every second I can painting,” she says. “I really like to paint at night—there are no interruptions.”
Her workspace is much like her paintings—there’s a lot going on there. The large room is overflowing with canvases, art materials, and products for sale—from giclées of many of her original paintings to mugs and mouse pads using the images. Unless it’s storming or very cold, she likes to open the wide side doors to bring in the fresh air. Her open-air working style also encourages visits from the farm’s large dogs, while cows and their calves seem to watch her work from their nearby pasture.
Linda takes part in many horse-related events each year, and the travel helps provide additional creative inspiration. While the main body of her work focuses on Florida ranch life and rodeos, she’s often stirred by sights she encounters in her travels.
One of her newest paintings, “Honest,” features a vibrant reining horse with a dancing mane. That work was inspired by professional photographer John O’Hara’s image of a real-life champion quarter horse in California.
These days, with only two of her six children still living at home, Linda is able to spend more time on her art. Her work is shown in many galleries, including the prestigious Booth Museum of Western Art in Cartersville, Georgia. In January, the Florida Cattleman’s Association sponsored Linda and her fellow cowboy artists to exhibit at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Nevada.
“This,” Linda reflects, “is a wonderful time for me and for my art.”