The World Equestrian Center is dark these days. The officials, starters, announcers and jump crew have gone home for the holidays. Both the Paddock Club and the International Café are closed and no lights shine in the shops of the Vendor Village or A Sudden Impulse boutique. The huge indoor arenas and barns sit empty, awaiting the start of the 2019 show season.
But as 2018 draws to a close, there is one person still at World Equestrian Center, working dawn ‘til dusk. It is a young woman who is working tirelessly on a gift for the entire World Equestrian Center family to share. That woman is Kristi Rauckis, a 25 year old, self-taught equestrian artist, driven by a lifelong passion for horses. Her gift is a spectacular 115’ x 20’ mural called ‘4 Horses’ that will grace the far end of the Sanctuary arena for all to enjoy.
With only two weeks to complete the work, Kristi stands atop a lift 25 – 40 feet off the ground each day, painting the massive ‘canvas’ with broad, sweeping brush strokes.
Having never created a piece of this size, Kristi researched ways to scale her sketch to the massive Sanctuary arena wall. She settled on projeting the image to get her started. Her tools? Very large brushes, the kind you might see being used by professional house painters.
To create the mural, she is using 10-11 gallons of exterior house paint in 15 different base colors. During the process, she may mix paints to make additional colors.
The mural is a colorful celebration of equine athleticism. Some horses depicted in the massive mural are jumping towards the viewer, while others are galloping free and all are captured in dynamic, free-flowing movement.
The chestnut jumper with the brilliant white blaze at the center of the piece is a favorite of the artist and recognizable as Bugatti, a fabulous Grand Prix jumper who won the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Sacremento in October with Wilhelm Genn.
In late November, Kristi presented this extraordinary work of art as a gift to the World Equestrian Center and in a way, as a gift to herself. As 2019 will mark her third year as an artist in residence at World Equestrian Center, she felt it was time to give back to the place where she has established herself as an artist and felt the atmosphere of support that has enabled her to grow creatively. The mural will be unveiled during the first week of the 2019 show season.
We sat down with Kristi right before she got started to learn a bit more about the process she would use, and about the artist herself. With her flowing blonde hair and dancing blue eyes, she is lightness personified – bright and engaging with an effervescent personality. Her smile is contagious and she is quick to laugh.
Tell is a bit about your background – were you always artistic?
Yes, I was always the artistic person in my grade at school. Early on my Dad noticed that my brain worked different than others – for example, by age 7 I was drawing compositions that other children my age would not have done.
So he really identified that there was something different there when I was young.
Did you go to art school?
I grew up in Royal Oak, Michigan, and have lived there my whole life.
I’ve only taken high school art classes. I did not go to college.
After high school I didn’t know what I wanted to do. But I told myself that I did not want art to be my job because I thought that I’d start to hate it. I was terrified of going in to debt – that was something I did not want to do, so I took a year after high school to ride horses and figure out what I wanted to do.
I started to play around with paint and people started asking me for things, and so it started that way. Now I’m extremely grateful, and I would never look back.
Do you ride?
I am a third generation horsewoman. My Grandma rode until she was 75 and my Mom grew up riding. I started riding when I was 6. I had a pony and did schooling shows, but I didn’t have the money to do anything more until I graduated from high school. After I graduated I had one more Junior year to do the equitation thing. I also groomed a lot at horse shows to supplement my income.
So how did you decide to make a living with art?
While I was grooming I’d do pencil drawings (of horses) and sell them. That’s how I began marketing myself through the horse world. In terms of commissions and portraits, a friend paid me to do a 3×4 for above her fireplace and that started it all. I’d do one every two months, and it just built on itself to become enough to make a living.
Your work is really soulful – it captures so much expression. What’s your process?
My process has to do with my passion for horses. I love horses. People would call me Snow White when I was growing up because the animals always flocked to me. It was like a different connection – I could always see them – the horses especially. I feel like I can connect on that level, I feel the love and connection on that level that the people have for their horses. That is most important for me to portray on the canvas so I go and meet the horse and take photos and I do them from their favorite from our session. If I cannot take the photos that’s OK, but I really like to meet the horse so I can see their personality.
What brought you to World Equestrian Center?
This is my third year here. I had heard a lot about the facility and I had been going to GLEF and there was a lot of talk about it. In 2016, I was trying to decide what to do for the Winter and I thought I’d check it out. Right away it was like family and the atmosphere was amazing, I was totally drawn in.
How has WEC influenced your business?
I’ve gotten a lot of really interesting commissions from WEC. I’ve met clients here who are repeat clients and that has been really cool. The atmosphere here is so relaxed and friendly, it helps people create better relationships. There’s a different dynamic here and people are more apt to connect.
What made you think of gifting the mural to WEC?
I knew there was something that I wanted to do (in appreciation for WEC), but I wasn’t sure. Also my confidence was not that high then because I was just starting out, but I knew that I wanted to do something. I just felt this drive to want to do something for WEC.
I’ve grown so much in the last few years – envisioning larger things, learning how to be able to envision bigger things, act on things and be ok with taking no for an answer. I don’t bring myself down to match my belief at the moment – I am always striving to do things bigger.
And is it true that this is your first large-scale mural?
Yes. I did a mural for my high school (9×12) near Detroit and then a horse-themed mural for a nursery, but that’s the extent of my experience. So this one will be my biggest. It’s a big scope, really fun.
How will you accomplish it?
I have a sketch. I want to get the composition correct. I may use a projector if I can find one that will project large enough. This is going to be different for me for sure, but that means growth.
The technique I’ll be using won’t use tons of paint, there is a free feeling so not super detailed on all of it – some of it is fade out.
My motto is “The world is my canvas and my life is my masterpiece.”
I feel like it’s fun to play around and see what the possibilities are. I play a lot – in my life. I really believe that if you’re doing what you love and coming from your heart, then great things just happen.
Last question – what’s your favorite color?