Saturday, January 05, 2008

Kentucky Derby Artwork

I finally made contact with Clare Jett of JettStream Productions, the licensee for Churchill Downs' "Art of the Kentucky Derby" program. I sent her an e-mail with my introductory line:

My name is Sharon Crute and I create dynamic equine oil paintings on large scale canvases.

She answered back promptly with a polite explanation of the decision making philosophy. Involving a direction that researches trends, she stated that artists are chosen not only by the ability to be "comfortable with the horse form" but also have a style that embodies a 'lifestyle" approach: fashion, glamor, etc.

As enormously disappointing as this is to me, it makes perfect sense from a marketing standpoint. Just puruse a copy Art Business News to get a feel for what's hot and selling.

churchill downsThe artwork is created by Trish Biddle, a published artist from Texas. The horizontal format is cleverly split in two, the left side for the Derby and the right for the Oaks.

kentucky derbykentucky oaks
Another statement Ms. Jett made to me: "...the customer who purchases our brand is not necessarily a horse racing fan: it is usually the casual fan". This I know. I sell to many, many non-horse people - teachers, building contractors, various executives, sports team owners, etc. who tell me they are attracted to the color and action in my work.

So, I'm thankful to Ms. Jett for her gracious e-mail reply. However, you can be certain, without fail, that this dynamic, passionate and somewhat volatile artist will be in touch every year.


Nancy Moskovitz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Well Ladi-Da

The 3-hats, are right off that TV commercial about cholesterol – does it come from you family gens or Neapolitan ice-cream.

For Kentucky Derby art, this is a great disappointment. It's like everything else in marketing, it's again dommeing-down to meet the lack of intelligence in the consumer, instead of lifting them up and showing and yes, teaching, what really fine racing art is.

I want to hear the thunder of hooves in the art, not the pitter-pat of Prada.

All I can say to Ms. Jett is, Woops!, Not for me.

Anonymous said...

I may be the only one who is thinking this way, but. . .

Ms. Jett states in her explanation memo, that, "Several years ago, we introduced a marketing direction. . . "
Several years? - Meaning she is relying on past performance and not putting efforts into the present and the future of Horse Racing Art.

Seems to me she is a bit out of touch. Hasn't she seen a race lately? People want excitement, passion, they want to feel part of the action not asleep bystanders.

This sampleing of Horse Racing Art is boring. Plain and simple.

One figure isn't even watching the race. The most famous race in the world, in history, and she's not watching? Come-on.

Look at the field of horses. Are those three horses in the near ground at the end of the pack or the lead. And the other three horses at the far turn. Why are they so far apart from the front pack. What kind of race is this. Not a Derby race thats for sure.

Looks like a comity ordered this piece.

You can tell from the "New/Old" pink, brown and beige color scheme.

It's the new retro colors of the 60s/70s that is all the rage in fashion now.

I didn't like it the first go'round.

Michael Bray said...

I am biased.
The greatest horse race in the world, the Kentucky Derby, is not run by "fashion, glamor, etc". To my knowledge it is still being run by race horses! With that in mind, one would think that the artwork chosen would show the drama, passion, energy, danger, excitement, etc, created by the thundering hooves of these dynamic, powerful and majestic animals as they, along with all of their human connections, strive to attain a goal that can be achieved by only one horse each year. One of the greatest accomplishments in the sports world, winning the Triple Crown, begins and ends with the Kentucky Derby. While many racing fans are able to remember the winners of the Kentucky Derby, I sincerely doubt any can recall what anyone attending was wearing that day. In my opinion the artwork chosen should reflect the horses, the connections, the stories behind the scenes, the race and race track and yes, the racing fan. It appears to me that all of these important factors have been replaced by "fashion, glamor, etc". Put truly representational artwork up against the fashion and glamor pieces and there is no doubt the horse will prevail. There is no Kentucky Derby without the horses.
I am biased.

Michael Bray
horseman, owner, trainer, former jockey
Artist Representative and consultant, Fine Art Publisher, Chairman Ocala Municipal Arts Commission
and most importantly, husband of Dynamic Equine Artist Sharon Crute

stream747 said...

Dear Sharon,

I just ran across your blog and was quite surprised to find The Art of the Kentucky Derby series as the subject of a blog! That said, I am compelled to participate in this discussion.

We can appreciate that some artists and their peers are not aesthetically oriented towards the more graphic, stylized intrepretation of the KY Derby we introduced in 2007, and as you know, in 2008. That said, JettStream Productions previously published more hard-hitting horse race scenarios...such as internationally beloved artist, Barty Forbes in 2005. Mr. Forbes' painting was a stunning image and was quite popular. The result, however, was strong but did not compare to our sales revenues for 2007, featuring Russian artist, Misha Lenn (which embodied a vintage-inspired horse/fashion theme). Both works can be found at www.derbyarat

It is important to note that as a publisher and licensee for Churchill Downs, we are expected to see sales increases each year. We experienced a 65% increase in sales in 2007. which is quite a feat.

With Trish Biddle's 2008 art series, we anticipate even higher returns. As a publisher, I strive to re-invent America's greatest race each year...and as you know, art is so very subjective that it is virtually impossible to please each individuals's taste.

It is important to note, however that fashion is a KEY element at the KY Derby. OF COURSE the best thoroughbreds in the world are the focal point, but they are intertwined with the glamor and romance of well-dressed attendees and colorful pagentry.

That said, who knows what direction the future will bring to our program, and you are more than welcome to remind us of your work in the future.

Best regards,

Clare Jett
The Official Art of the kentucky Derby

mverrandeaux said...

Although I grew up showing hunters and jumpers, I love horse racing and have never met an equine artist who can capture the thrill, excitement and the true emotion of horse racing the way Sharon Crute does.

I find it very hard to believe that a race such as the Kentucky Derby would want this celebrated event to be represented as just a "glamour and fashion" statement rather than capturing the imagination that only horse racing and Sharon can through her incredible paintings.

Mrs. Intelligent Consumer said...

WOW! ... it seems as though there are some strong feelings for you and your dynamic artwork Mrs Crute. Your blog has your husband and some "anonymous" fans pretty ticked about the direction of the Derby choices as of late.
I looked at your website and found your artwork to be truely exciting and quite beautiful in the equine world. I too am a fellow artist (by degree only, i'm sorry to say) and passionate equine fancier! My daughter has fallen in love with horses as well! She takes riding lessons and just received her first set of English competition ribbons this past summer.
I also happen to be a very close and longtime friend of the 2008 Derby artist that has taken some huge daggers in your blog here. Perhaps some of them could look at her body of work and appreciate the labor of love that it has taken for her to be recognized for her talented passion of Art....just as I have done in your website...

As all here know, Art is Subjective, otherwise we would all paint the same thing in the same way. I guess I just wanted Mrs.Biddle to have a fair shake for her absolutely fresh and vibrant view of the Derby EXPERIENCE.... I would also like to applaude Mrs.Jett for providing the KYD with sellable, fun, sophisticated, and talented artistic products that will draw an even larger market to come and enjoy the AMAzing horses and all that worked so hard to get them there!
See "Ladi-Da", I am quite surprised that you attack the intelligence of consumers.... Could it not be that we may just LIKE the art?? Please try to understand that there are photographs and posters and many other products to represent the sentiments of the "thunder of hooves." Just look and educate yourself of the items you can choose from on the Kentucky Derby website. We are not ALL jockeys, trainers, owners and such... These paintings have both elegance and symbolism...I noticed that many of the Artworks over the years have not depicted the race in such ABSOLUTE Accuracy although "someone" sure felt like taking a dig at this years expense of such outrage among the art through the years.... :-0

I own a limited edition of these 2008 giclee's and I can assure you they look ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS in my living room whereas the paintings you described may have looked "boring" or just 'out of place' for my home. ...And I don't even have any ice cream decor either, hmmmmm.
These Derby paintings are the topic of many conversations, and would you believe that none of which has spurred comments to any resemblance of a cholesterol commercial?!! And quite the opposite of several equine experts stated here.... Many of my friends and colleges who haven't had an interest in the KY Derby now have just that...An interest!
....and they told two friends....
....and they told two friends....
....and they told two friends... and so on..
(sorry, I just had to throw in a commercial reference for my new anonymous friend, just for fun)

A note to Mrs.Crute... I sincerely believe your equine art to be very beautiful and should be in the home of any equine entusiast that can afford talented artwork!

Mrs.I AM an intelligent consumer! :)

Michael, you're are biased BUT you have the expertise to have such a wonderful differing opinion on this subject and I appreciate what you had to say because of your Equine Authority! Plus it is nice to see a guy supporting his wife!! :)

Linda Blondheim said...

Hi Sharon,
I just tagged you on my blog. Go there to see what to do.

Sharon Crute said...

The outcome of my recent post has been…er…most interesting. Not only with these comments but also with an avalanche of e-mails in my inbox as a result of the RSS feed. The opinions represent both ends of some very passionate views.

To Ms. Biddle: in no way do I impart any negative opinions of your artwork. Quite the contrary – it is unique, lovely and elegant in a pleasing way. We as artists must support and encourage each other (why else would I have founded the powerful “Out of Hand Artists” salon) and applaud our successes. Needless to say, it is difficult enough for an individual artist to make a living from their creations. Being named the Official Artist of the Kentucky Derby is a huge accomplishment and I congratulate you wholeheartedly. As pointed out, art is subjective and there are plenty of clients/collectors for all of us.

I truly understand the market value of this style of work. Researching trends is paramount in this fickle, ever evolving art business. I consider my own painting business no different than any other type of business in that it must produce financially and continuously grow a client base. I see nothing wrong with keeping an open eye towards the whims and desires of art collectors.

My blog post is in response to frustration that I feel towards a venue that eludes me. After all, I’m not only an equine artist specializing in horse racing - I’ve worked in the racing industry since my early teens and remain an adamant supporter of all things race horse. I exhibit at galleries throughout the country and I possess a long list of well-known international clients. However, this is all good. The effects of my obsessive ambitions cause me to strive for excellence – to be a better painter and a better businesswoman. As my dear departed mother said to me: no door closes that another doesn’t open.

Thank you all for your informative comments and e-mails.

sports betting said...

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Ryan said...

I think the negative criticism of this years painting is patently unwarranted. The artist has managed to capture much of the true essence of the race. The stunning scene at the first turn with the twin spires in the background, tastefully dressed men and woman wearing hats which harkens to the roots of tradition which is what the derby is all about. Tradition!!

I agree that it's not the most exciting derby art, inasmuch as it does not portray the surging energy of the pack as they gallop proudly down the stretch. But ya know what? Isn't that done just about every year?? I applaud this years artist for a change from the norm that captures the tradition of the derby.

Dan said...

I have a great picture of Alydar vs Affirmed called "The Duel" By artist Fred Stone. It is professionally framed and signed by the Artist Fred Stone and triple crown winning rider Steve Cauthen. Im looking to sell it. If anyone has any Ideas of who would want a Piece like this please let me know. my email is
Thanks Dan