2. The Benefit of Painting In A Series : The Snowman Collection

What lights the creative fire in one’s soul cannot possibly kindle another in exactly the same way – and this is as it should be.

As artists, as people, we are each unique in all the world.  No one has ever been quite like you.  Each of us was born into a different set of circumstances, a different culture, social patterns and conditioning…. We have had different challenges; Circumstances that have caused me to fear things you do not; for me to be impassioned about things that might be a passing glance to you.  It’s wonderful really.

Those who taught and inspired us molded us like prisms reflecting a new viewpoint.  I believe that it is our job as artists to somehow explore things that “have energy for us” and bring that energy/the life force into our art… as well as our ability to create something beautiful.  For me, it’s not enough to paint a faithful representation of an image, no matter how beautifully executed the work may be.

“I don’t decide to do a series; Whilst painting, I realize that I am in one…”  It goes something like this:

  • I am captivated by an image or idea that hits me, usually ‘out of the blue’.
  • I write and I paint about it.  This helps me to explore the ideas and understand why this subject holds ‘energy’ for me.
  • Sometimes, one painting is not enough, and I know that there is more to discover/uncover – so I paint the image again.
  • As I paint more on the theme, the process often reveals hidden depths psychologically, as well as allowing me to have a fantastic time exploring creative techniques, pushing boundaries, etc.
  • In a large series, such as the Snowman series, each painting stands alone as a particular creative expression, yet forms part of a greater whole, as if it becomes like a chapter in a book, or a stanza in a long poem.
  • The more interest, emotion and energy I have for the idea dictates how long the series will take… I never know.  For example, my “Iconic/painted on gold” has series began when my sister passed away 10 years ago, and I still occasionally feel drawn to ‘adding another chapter’ to that particular story/series.
  • It’s a perfect way to exhaust the ego/left brain, so you can paint!  In other words, its the perfect way to explore Key #3 painting, as the more you do, the more your mind ‘lets go’ of the process, often translating into more creative, innovative paintings as the series progresses.

A walk through the Snowman Series:

My first encounter with Snowman:

Rapid, gestural sketch done on my iPad.

John Deleyer, MFH. Longacre Hunt, McLain Ranch, Flynn Texas.

My suitcase was packed with watercolour art supplies.  I was at the airport and on my way to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for a painting/creative retreat when I purchased a book called “Snowman.  The $80.00 Champion” by Elizabeth Lettsfor the plane ride.  (http://www.elizabethletts.com/snowman/)  What an incredible story.  I was immediately captivated.

Everyone who loves horses dreams of owning a horse like Snowman; a horse so generous, so kind, so athletic, so wonderful!  The stuff of legends.

I was also intrigued by the unusual way life horse and rider together, creating a rare partnership.  I was inspired by Harry Deleyer, his exquisite fortitude and courage; the often soulful choices he made as the story unraveled.  He overcame so much.

As the story unfolded, my curiosity was piqued for a variety of reasons.  I had hunted with John Deleyer and his family at the Longacre Hunt, Magnolia, Texas, (I was a member, with colors, for 5 years) and wondered if they could possibly be related.  The Deleyers, the MaClains and Longacre Hunt had been very kind to me over the years, and had featured in many of my works.  “That would be an uncanny coincidence” I thought.  It turned out John was indeed Harry’s son, and recalled happy times with Snowman, even though he was not mentioned in the book.   It was ‘one of those Kismet moments’ for me.

I arrived at Myrtle Beach with my art supplies and the most important ingredient of all : Inspiration!  I was ‘fired up’ with thoughts about Harry Deleyer and his remarkable horse Snowman, and what his story meant to me.  I imagined what it would be like to be in Snowman’s presence and I painted from this feeling.

I did several just like this one, using a variety of media to feel the “gesture” of what I was experiencing.  Once I had the ‘initial burst’ onto the water colour paper, I then began to pour color, texture, rhythm and pattern onto and into the images.  It was as if the initial gestures were a sort of “crucible” or container for the creative fire generated by this story, Snowman.

Each one taught me something.  Each enabled me to experience things in paint I had never experienced before… from a place of “no mind”.  Whilst I could never meet Snowman, when I was painting Snowman, I liked to think of myself being close to this fabulous horse, at least in my imagination.  I liked the experience so much, I continued to paint from the same gestural marks all week!  A new series was born.

The Series Is Its Own Reward

At home in my studio, I began to paint more Snowman paintings in other media. I painted Snowman in my watercolor travel pad, on spare panels and canvases in my studio, and before I knew it, I had over 27 in oils, watercolor, acrylic and gouache.

I loved painting Snowman!  The important thing for you to realize is, I painted them because I loved doing them.  They did not feel like work to me, and I gave no thought of what would happen to them afterwards.

Fruits of Your Labor And The Pitfalls of Success

So often artists gain some success, and begin to gain some fruit for their labors, and the danger is when he/she begins to paint for ‘the fruits’ when the art is in the work.  Bolstered by accolades and a few sales, he forgets that it is the creative work, being deeply embedded in creative fire… that brought him the fruits in the first place!

(Escape Velocity was the first painting that was marketed, thanks to Greg Ladd and the Keeneland Sporting Art Auction, 2013.  You can read about it on my Artful Life blog).

Don’t let success go to your head.  Paint from the heart.  Keep your ego in check. If you’re doing something worthwhile, you will eventually be noticed, and while it’s nice to have ‘fruits’ true happiness lies in doing the work.  The work will speak for itself when the time comes.  You have to trust that the energy of your inspiration was given to you for a reason.  You don’t have to know what it is.

The latest Snowman and some of his predecessors: Esprit, 48 x 24 oil on canvas. 

“ESPRIT” 48 x 24 Oil on canvas by Lesley Humphrey. Copyright 2014.

I’m grateful to Frankie York at New Editions Gallery, Lexington, Kentucky who will be exhibiting the framed Snowman watercolors at her grand opening in September. 

 Many thanks to Cross Gate Gallery, Lexington, and Keeneland Sporting Art Auction for offering a variety of oils in your fall exhibitions.  

Please check my galleries for available works in the series.

Want to see the process in action? Click below.

Final Word….



My life is a living testament to the old statement “What comes around, goes around”’; or “What you do for others in an act of generosity, comes back tenfold”.  In honor of this code, I began writing down everything I know in these lessons in 2011 and began to offer them out, for free…. But it’s very valuable information.  The lessons constitute a lifetime of learning, and are lent to you as an act of generosity to help you on your artistic journey.  If you find this material helpful, continue to ‘pay it forward’ by sharing this website with others so that they too can be inspired with Art through "Lessons With Lesley."

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