Equus: Life as Art

by Matt

Meeting Jeffrey Terreson in the wonderful Cutter & Cutter Art Gallery in St. Augustine, Florida this year was an amazing moment for me.

I’m a horse person and he paints the most beautiful images of equines I’ve ever seen. But a more amazing story is how Jeffrey got there.

Jeffrey has been an artist all his life. Like many artists, a devotion to art means years of struggle but he never gave up. “I’m 55 and I’m still friends with this remarkable teacher I had in high school, Harold Witherspoon. He’s the one who really taught me that you have to stick to something and do it even when no one is watching.”

During twelve of those years when no one was watching, Jeffrey simply had to lay down his brushes. He had built a successful career as a commercial fine-art illustrator but that was not to last. It’s an art whose time had passed and he found himself raising four kids in a tiny house and teaching tennis to feed them.

In 2009, an astonishing stroke of luck triggered a resurgence of his passion to get back to his art. The small town of Bedford, where he’s lived for many years, asked him to participate in a gallery walk.

Unenthused, he agreed but asked to be put next to the horse supply store. “I’ve lived here forever and I know what a horse town Bedford is. I’ve stopped by the fields around here a thousand times just to watch horses because they’re so beautiful, sensual, and powerful. I wanted to show my Equus series in the gallery walk.”

As he sat on the sidewalk with his paintings, he looked down the street and saw a gorgeous Bugatti approaching. As it passed by, it turned and parked. The occupants got out and approached.

Despite his instantly recognizable, handsome face, the man stuck out his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Ralph Lauren.” For the next twenty minutes, Mr. Lauren, his wife, and Jeffrey carried on a wide-ranging discussion of art, Jeffrey’s art, and what a tough time it was economically for artists in general.

After assuring him they’d be back, they went off to see the rest of the walk. When they returned, they spent several minutes trying to decide which of two of Jeffrey’s paintings to take home.

Finally, Lauren asked him, “Which one do you like?” Jeffrey told him to take the one he initially was drawn to, despite it being substantially less money than the other. The painting now hangs in Ralph Lauren’s home.

Jeffrey knew instantly—this was his time. He took the money from that sale and put together a one-man show. He contacted galleries all over the country to recall some of his paintings that had not sold. It was a family affair with all of his kids helping to serve beverages and food. The show was an enormous success and well-covered in the media.

While the rest of the country was reeling from the banking meltdown, Jeffrey shifted into high gear. He now paints from 40-60 paintings a year, 25-40% of them on commission. The prices for his work have increased substantially and he has realized his dream of making a living from his art. We might even say his life is a work of art.

While no one was looking, Jeffrey Terreson was always an artist, even when his brushes were still. He always knew he’d come back to it, and we’re all richer for the determination that leveraged his chance meeting with Ralph Lauren into a vibrant career.

In another blog post, we’ll talk with Jeffrey about how he came to paint horses and something about his process. Come back for more of that and in the meantime, check out Jeffery’s work on http://www.jterreson.com.

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