COLUMBUS, Ind. (AP) – The artist known simply as Justin works furiously with a brush on canvas, creating abstract works with big bold strokes of color.
His paintings have sold for hundreds of dollars, but all he usually wants in return are a few carrots.
It’s a good life for a horse.
The 1,500-pound Fresian paints nearly every day, gripping the brush in his teeth with some help from his owner, Adonna Combs of Columbus, Ind.
“We try to do this regularly and he’s really become quite fond of it,” Combs said in an interview at the Indiana barn where Justin works.
The barn is decorated with Justin’s works, big and small, including a red and white “self-portrait” that bears an uncanny resemblance to a horse with ears, snout, a tail and legs.
“A lot of the paintings that he does you can see horses in them,” Combs said. “He surprises me all the time with what he can do, and how the paintings turn out.”
Combs bought Justin as a 2-year-old to be a show horse, but the strong-willed colt showed little interest in a career as a saddlebred. She noticed that Justin liked playing with her whip, holding it in his teeth and scrawling shapes in the sand.
Combs, a professional graphic artist, had an idea. She attached a brush to the whip to see if Justin had an artist’s stroke.
“I thought it might be a good release for him to express himself and release some of the energy he’s built up during the day,” she said.
Justin started painting every day, getting better at holding the brushes in his teeth. Now 9 years old, he can even paint on an easel.
One of Justin’s works, “Chevaux,” will be auctioned Saturday at the annual The Equine Art, Antique and Rare Book Auction at the American Saddlebred Museum in Lexington.
The auction raises money for the museum, which is located on the grounds of Kentucky Horse Park.
Justin’s first painting sold for $15, but now they can fetch several hundred dollars. He even has his own website, www.artistichorses.com.
Susan Egbert bought one of Justin’s paintings, called “Freedom” and has it hanging prominently in her home. She said she liked the red, white and blue color pattern and calls the work a “conversation piece.”
“I’ve never owned an original piece of art, it’s something I’ve always wanted,” said Egbert, who lives in Columbus and has seen Justin at work.
“When you look at some art in people’s homes, you’re more drawn to something that is quirky. You gravitate to it,” she said. She has had friends visit just to see the painting.
The art auction Saturday features paintings, antiques and rare books on the subject of horses. Combs said Justin will be doing a demonstration before the event begins.
Watch Justin paint Saturday
What: Justin the Artistic Horse will demonstrate his skills before an auction featuring, among other items, one of his paintings to benefit the American Saddlebred Museum
Where: American Saddlebred Museum, 4083 Iron Works Parkway, Lexington
When: Demonstration by Justin at 11 a.m. Saturday, followed by the auction at noon
For more: Call (859) 259-2746 or visit Asbmuseum.org