Not just horsing around

Published 12:41 pm Friday, October 10, 2008

In the new teen area in the Helena library several young ladies were applying themselves to their studies and I happened to notice a fat binder labeled “Laura’s Art Notebook” with four pencil sketches of horses finely captured on the front.

Laura Smith, 14, is the oldest sibling and aspiring artist in a family of five home-schooled children, all voracious readers. Laura’s mother, Melissa, began home schooling her at 5.

“My mother has always encouraged my love for drawing. We have all taken group classes, but in the past two years I have worked one-on-one with an art teacher,” Laura said. “In exchange, my mother teaches her daughter piano lessons.”

Laura said she once tore up her older drawings because she felt like each new one was better, but now she can see the value of keeping a record of the progression of her artistic development. Her notebook contains a selection of people sketches, animal sketches and horses, horses, horses.

“Even my math book has horses doodled in all the borders,” she admits.

Horses are definitely her thing, as reflected by her reading material and large collection of mostly Breyer collectible horse statues. She has a designated “Horse Corner” in the family playroom which houses stalls, horse games and horse accessories such as the custom barn her father, Eric, built for her.

Laura recommends Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series and Justin Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry.

“We studied the state of Vermont where this story took place,” she says. “And with my birthday money this year, I bought a Breyer Black Stallion statue that came with two books on ebay,” Laura said.

Perhaps for Laura, her most referenced book is The Complete Book of Horses and Horsemanship by C. W. Anderson, which contains beautiful illustrations. “Many of his books are out of print and not easy to come by,” she adds.

Just this past week, her family saw the Leonardo da Vinci show at the Birmingham Museum of Art. For Laura, the highlight was spending time sketching from the equine studies of Leonardo himself. Laura draws only in pencil at this time, using colored pencils or crayons only in her people sketches.

Laura’s supportive parents have even provided her with a Web site at: