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Central Coast artist Pat Robert captures beauty of horses through sculpture

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The white walls were overwhelming. 

At age 30, Pat Roberts, along with her husband and three children, moved into what would be her forever home on a sprawling horse ranch property off Highway 246 in between Lompoc and Solvang, and was confronted with the problem of bare, white walls.

LASSO ’EM UP:  In the bronze piece Buckaroo, Pat Roberts captures the movement of a cowboy riding his horse and trying to lasso up a cow. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PAT ROBERTS
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PAT ROBERTS
  • LASSO ’EM UP: In the bronze piece Buckaroo, Pat Roberts captures the movement of a cowboy riding his horse and trying to lasso up a cow.

“I looked at all these white walls and thought, ‘I need color,’ and I didn’t have a budget to go out and buy a collection of paintings,” Roberts said.

Sometimes you’re born with a particular passion. Other times that passion is born out of necessity. 

“So I went and bought a how-to book on painting,” Roberts said. “And I wasn’t very good, but I was willing to work at it and I found a wonderful teacher who brought me along, and I started selling paintings within two or three years.”

While painting was Roberts’ first artistic love, it wasn’t her last. After she felt she had a handle on painting, she took a sculpture class. When Roberts, who trains and shows horses professionally, tried to transfer the same techniques to sculpting a horse that she had learned for sculpting the human figure, it didn’t go so well.

“I was struggling and having a hard time and probably never would have done a second sculpture if a friend hadn’t come by and showed me how to make an armature or frame for a horse sculpture.”

FOREVER YOUNG:  At 79 years old, Pat Roberts is still showing and riding horses. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PAT ROBERTS
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PAT ROBERTS
  • FOREVER YOUNG: At 79 years old, Pat Roberts is still showing and riding horses.

After that, Roberts was hooked. Having grown up in Salinas where she rode horses on her grandmother’s ranch and later marrying Monty Roberts, known internationally as a celebrity horse trainer, it makes perfect sense that her favorite subject matter would be horses.

“Most people sculpt or paint what they’re interested in,” Roberts said. “Capturing movement is what inspires me. When you deal with something that’s solid, trying to capture movement in it is the challenge. Anyone can sculpt a horse standing still, but to sculpt a horse that looks like it’s moving is the challenge.”

Roberts’ home, located next to their horse training facility, Flag Is Up Farms, is filled with numerous sculptures of horses racing, rearing up, or having a quiet moment of connection with their human. 

A HORSE OF A DIFFERENT KIND:  One of the editions of Pat Roberts’ sculpture Equus in Flight sits in the home of a Spanish Countess, who spends part of the year in Santa Barbara. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PAT ROBERTS
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF PAT ROBERTS
  • A HORSE OF A DIFFERENT KIND: One of the editions of Pat Roberts’ sculpture Equus in Flight sits in the home of a Spanish Countess, who spends part of the year in Santa Barbara.

She starts with sculpting the figure out of clay onto a pipe frame. Then a mother mold is made of the clay sculpture at the foundry and that mold is used to make bronze sculptures. Different combinations of acids and heat are used to get different colors or patinas. 

Roberts’ work will be on display at the Seaside Gallery in Pismo Beach as part of the Sculptorama event on May 14. 

One of her pieces featuring three horses running together sits in the home of a Spanish Countess who lives in Santa Barbara. Another piece of her husband doing join up, a form of nonverbal communication with a horse, sits in the home of Queen Elizabeth II of England, whose horses Roberts’ husband has trained. At her majesty’s invitation, the couple will attend the Queen’s 90th birthday celebration at Windsor Castle in mid May. 

- HOT TO TROT:  Pat Roberts’ sculptures of horses, along with the three-dimensional works of other artists, will be on display at the Seaside Gallery in Pismo Beach, as part of the Sculptorama event on May 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit theseasidegallery.com or patrobertssculpture.com for more information. -
  • HOT TO TROT: Pat Roberts’ sculptures of horses, along with the three-dimensional works of other artists, will be on display at the Seaside Gallery in Pismo Beach, as part of the Sculptorama event on May 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit theseasidegallery.com or patrobertssculpture.com for more information.

Roberts got onto a horse for the first time when she was only 2 years old. Fast forward more than 70 years, and Roberts, who is approaching her 80th birthday, shows no signs of giving up riding or showing horses.

“No one ever figures how old I am,” Roberts said. “It’s kind of fun to fool people. I don’t feel old. I don’t feel any different from when I was 40. I think if a person stays active and you love what you do, that’s the secret. That’s what keeps you young.” 

Ryah Cooley is admiring all the pretty ponies at rcooley@newtimesslo.com.

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