Strokes of Genius

Legendary equine artist Orren Mixer can't remember names, dates or places worth a dime. But when it comes to horses, the 87-year-old has a photographic memory. For instance, he doesn't recall the exact year he was commissioned to paint his first equine portrait, other than it was 1949 or 1950, but he does know that he painted racehorses Tom's Lady Gray and Gray Lady, both owned by James Reese of Temple, Oklahoma.

If you asked Mixer to paint any of the thousands of horses he's commemorated on canvas today, he could do so with pinpoint accuracy, even without reference material. The artist's astute eye for horseflesh, enhanced by a sixth sense when it comes to proportion, conformation and composition, have earned him the reputation as a prolific equine portrait artist.

"One thing I can tell you about Orren is that his works depict balanced, correctly proportioned horses," notes American Quarter Horse Association Executive Vice President Bill Brewer, who met Mixer 35 years ago. "His works certainly demonstrate the fact that he 'sees' the entire horse. Even to the uninitiated, you just know when you're looking at a Mixer painting. His style, ability and the beauty of his art are evident."

In addition to being a painter, Mixer also is an accomplished photographer. His photographic and fine-art portraits of two- and four-legged stock-horse icons grace the walls of museums and private collections throughout the country, linking the horse cultures of past and present. Furthermore, Mixer is a member of seven halls of fame and was commissioned by eight associations, including the American Paint Horse Association, AQHA, the Appaloosa Horse Club and the Palomino Horse Breeders Association, with the task of painting horses that typify the breed standards in color and conformation.

It's been more than four decades since Mixer painted his first breed-association project, for AQHA, and 10 years since his last breed-registry commission, a piece for the Ponies of the Americas. Despite trends in breeding and conformation, the acclaimed artist's photography and artwork remain symbols of breed excellence and create an archive of stock-horse history.

October issue of Western Horseman.