With the countless hours Karmel Timmons puts into her meticulous drawings of horses and wildlife, she always pays particular attention to the animal’s eyes at the start of each piece.
It’s the eyes that come first. Using her own photographs as reference and the computer to crop and compose an image, she begins with a simple line drawing on archival paper. Then, before proceeding with the time-consuming rendering of exquisite detail and the suggestion of detail through layers of shading in charcoal-wax-blend pencil, she almost completes the eyes. “I have to feel like it’s becoming an animal, like I know the animal, before I really start the drawing,” the 51-year-old artist says.
Those who know horses well, including horse owners and trainers who collect Timmons’ art, understand that it is the eye — along with the equine posture and stance — that conveys the animal’s spirit and mood. This kind of intimate knowledge of horses is the standard by which the Wyoming-based artist measures her work. She considers her drawing a success if experienced horsemen and women recognize the accuracy of her depictions, both in anatomical terms and the more intangible qualities embodied by a horse.
It’s a massive challenge to draw them right. But I never, ever get tired of looking at them. —Karmel Timmons
Timmons grew up with a love of drawing, but she never drew a horse until her early 30s. She moved frequently as the daughter of two parents in the U.S. Navy, and her only formal art education consisted of summer classes in illustration and design at Utah State University while still in high school. Then life intervened, and art remained in the background for a number of years. After moving to rural Colorado in the late 1990s, she one day watched a mare and her foal running together through a pasture. “I was almost moved to tears,” Timmons remembers. “They were so beautiful.” Shortly afterward, with horses of her own, she decided to try drawing them.
It was an intense and initially frustrating undertaking involving many photographs and trips outside to study the animals from life. But her persistence paid off, and Timmons’ horse drawings began attracting collectors and honors, including the People’s Choice Award four years in a row at the Coors Western Art Exhibit & Sale in Denver. This holiday season, her work will be included in a holiday invitational exhibition at The Brinton Museum in Big Horn, Wyoming, not far from where Timmons now lives. “Karmel is a wonderful draftswoman,” says Ken Schuster, the museum’s director and chief curator. “She has marvelous drawing skill.”
Along with Thoroughbreds and other horses — often outfitted with masterfully handcrafted vaquero-style gear — Timmons also portrays such creatures as bison, elk, moose, wolves, bears, and cows. Living three hours from Yellowstone as well as having access to a cabin in the mountains of southern Colorado, she considers experiencing wildlife “one of the best parts of the job.”
Still, she returns to the equine subject time and again. “It’s a massive challenge to draw them right,” Timmons says. “But I never, ever get tired of looking at them.”
Karmel Timmons’ work is on view November 18 – December 23 in The Brinton 101 holiday invitational exhibit at The Brinton Museum. The artist is represented by Wild Horse Gallery in Steamboat Springs, Colorado; and Dancing Wolf Gallery in Elbert, Colorado.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Legacy Lives On, In The Moment, Future Prospect, and Moving Forward courtesy Karmel Timmons