What do you mean you aren’t a geneticist?

LKathmanPic

No, I am not a geneticist. Although I am often asked, I do not teach nor am I associated with a university. I am, by profession, a sculptor and colorist working in the equine collectibles industry. Blackberry Lane Press, my publishing company, takes its name from the pottery where I create small-scale figurines of horses.

So why is an artist writing about horse color genetics?

When people ask what I do for a living, I am always tempted to say that I color in horses. Granted I do a bit of sculpting, and a fair bit of mold-making, but the rest is a lot like having a three-dimensional coloring book of horses. Adding color is my favorite part of what I do in the studio.

My initial desire was to understand horse color so that I could make the horses I created as realistic as possible. From there my interest grew, until I was spending almost as much time researching horse colors and patterns as I was painting them. In 1992, I began publishing articles with the hope of helping other artists accurately portray colors and patterns.  Not long after, I began to get requests for articles from the horse community.  In 2001, I was asked to give a presentation in Lexington, Kentucky, alongside Dr. Phillip Sponenberg, whose 1983 book Horse Color had sparked my initial interest in the subject all those years ago.  That experience convinced me that while my background might seem unconventional, it offers its own perspective on the visible expression of coat color genes. I still believe that artists, along with breeders, bring a unique set of skills and insights that complement those of the scientists working in this field.

Since that first presentation, I have continued to write and give occasional seminars. Over the years, I have often been asked if I had considered writing a book on horse color. It was an appealing idea, but one that I never found much time to pursue. The studio is my home, and writing takes me away from it. I wasn’t sure I could do the project justice without neglecting ongoing studio work.

In 2009, I began work on what was intended to be a small guidebook for artists covering the colors found in the different breeds. The project grew in scope, and my “guidebook” became a set of four books that covered not just the colors as they are currently found, but the historical context for each breed. The first volume of The Equine Tapestry, covering the draft and coaching breeds, was published by Blackberry Lane Press in the summer of 2012. A full-color supplement covering the different colors and patterns is scheduled for late 2013.

It is my hope that this blog will prove useful for discussing the material in the books, as well as for sharing information on horse breeds and their colors and patterns. While the book collection here at the house is a testament to the value I give printed books, the informal nature of blog posts – as well as the interactive nature of the medium – comes far more naturally to me. I am looking forward to the conversation!