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Artist Jocelyn Sandor Urban


By Nancy Brannon

Jocelyn Urban, of Nantucket, Massachusetts, is an artist who has taken her love of art and horses and turned it into a lifelong career. She has been painting for 40 years, completing more than 2,000 commissioned portraits of horses and dogs, and exhibiting her work in several galleries throughout the northeast U.S.  Jocelyn exhibited her work at major horse shows on the east coast for many years where she built up her portrait commission business.  “I have clients all over the world,” she told me. “I always knew what I wanted to do. ‘It sure beats having a job,’ I once told my husband.”

In addition to doing commission work, she donates art work to charities. One of her favorites was a painting she did, for a presentation to John Lyons at Equitana, of Lyons’ favorite horse. She helps fundraise for Lifeline Horse Rescue and Rehab in Gaithersburg, Maryland. She painted “Rescued” two years ago and it helped raise $40,000-$50,000 for them. The original drawing sold for $10,000 and prints sold for $250.

Her favorite portrait is of a Paso Fino stallion that she has hanging on the wall in her condo in Vermont. “It’s the only horse on the wall there,” she said. “The rest are in my studio. My husband loves it; everyone loves it; it’s one of the best portraits I’ve ever done.”

She paints in oil, does graphite drawings, and some of her portraits are in conté crayon. The conté crayon is an especially hard pencil, made of an admixture of graphite and clay, named after Nicolas-Jacques Conté, the French scientist who invented it in the late 18th century. “It’s one of the oldest drawing materials in the world,” she explained. “It produces rich black, brown, and grey tones. It’s very intense color and it stains the paper very well. I use heavy paper for my conté drawings. It’s perfect for drawing animals, much finer in texture than pastel, especially for horses and dogs. It’s not as chalky. When I’m doing just the head and neck, I create them in conté.”  

Urban “was a horse crazy kid,” she admitted. Her father and grandmother were both artists and she was drawing from an early age, from the time she could hold a pencil. Her mother would buy her coloring books, but she wanted blank paper instead, so she could make her own drawings.

She got her riding start at the New Canaan Mounted Troop in Connecticut, founded in 1939 by Margaret Cabell Self. This is where she and her sister learned all about horses, as well as how to ride. Students at the Troop do the barn work, grooming, tacking up, and learn all about horse care.

Urban doesn’t have any horses of her own now. Her last one died at age 27. Formerly she had seven horses at one time, mostly Thoroughbreds and Oldenburgs; she trained some youngsters and did some breeding. Now she has three rescue dogs for canine companions.

Urban said she got a really, really good foundation in art when she was at Stanford High School. She earned her undergraduate BS degree at Skidmore College and went on to earn a Masters of Fine Arts at UMASS Amherst. All through her six years in college and grad school she didn’t draw any horses, but she did learn printmaking. “It was the best thing I could have done,” she realized. “Not drawing horses all the time helped me focus on different ways to draw, different subject matter, and different techniques. When I came back to horses after grad school, I looked at them in a completely different way. When I got out of school I knew exactly what I wanted to do – portraits of horses and dogs.”

Her woodcut prints have been popular, too, and have been sold through galleries in Boston, Chicago, and New York.

Urban also started a humorous greeting card company. Drawing on her observations of people with horses, she can capture a hilarious moment that most horse people can identify with. Her greeting card company, Urban Visual Media, LLC, (formerly Fursure Enterprises, Inc.) was developed in 1989 together with her equine veterinarian husband Richard B. Urban, VMD. She creates Christmas cards, notepads, wrapping paper, and cards that illustrate the humorous side of life with horses. Enjoy browsing her cards at:

She has illustrated two books, Beaufort the Painted Pony by Candyce Miller and Hungry Hapby Cynthia Guill. A third book, Everest, by Wayne Strickler about an eagle who is afraid to fly, is in the works

Reflecting on her years of experience as an artist, she says, “I’ve met a lot of nice people and some great horses. I never say ‘no’ if someone asks me to do something, even if I’ve never done it before. I can usually figure out how to do it. I love doing new things!”

Visit the artist’s website, Urban Visual Media:

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