Artist and Maker Spotlights

Why Gillian Higgins Paints all Over Horses

painted horse
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She doesn’t show her artwork in galleries, and she probably won’t sit around chatting composition and color theory with you, but she makes some of the most wonderful art I’ve ever seen.

Gillian Higgins is an equine anatomy expert, coach and therapist, and she also paints all over horses.

painted horse

In order to see what’s going on inside the horse, and help facilitate her ideas, Gillian paints some of the bones, muscles, and tendons on the outside of the horse. The result is one amazing-looking horse that acts as an active model to aid in Gillan’s teachings.

I stumbled across her a few years back when I was writing a post on anatomy art projects for kids, and was mind-blown by how striking these horses looked with the equivalent of a picture window to their innards.

painted horse

The intersection of art, anatomy, and giant animal is a beautiful place, and I was transported back to freshman year figure drawing classes. The best way to truly understand the human body and how it works (in order to draw it), is to draw a bunch of naked bodies. This gives you a solid idea of how muscles/bones/fat/skin all work together in movement, space, reflection of light, etc.

Take that one step further and spend time drawing human skeletons, and you get a pretty good understanding of the human form.

So while I’m sure I’m not the only one who gasped upon first seeing Gillian’s painted horses, I know that this concept is especially inspiring to artists. I love how in the photo  above she also took this idea to the human form! See the horses in action here:

If you want to try your hand at horse-sculpting, Gillian has teamed up with artist Judy Boyt to teach workshops in Leicestershire, England. This looks fuuuuuun!

Explore more of what Gillian does on her website, and here is her YouTube channel.

horse art art on horses

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  • Are we sure, or more important, is Gillian sure that the paint she uses is absolutely safe for the animals? Though it is very striking, it occurs to me that this is certainly not a natural treatment of the horse’s hide, fur, or hair. Is this in any way good for the horse?? While I applaud her creativity and skill, I question the decision to cover much of an animal with paint of some kind.

    • Hi Jill- I completely appreciate your concern for the horse’s well-being. It does state on her website that the paints are non-toxic and safe for the horses. I guess you can never be 100% sure, but she’s been doing this for a while, so I’m sure if she had seen any negative effects from the paint she wouldn’t have continued? Hopefully… 🙂