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AN EYE FOR DETAIL: Tilly Woodward's Bits and Pieces

By Betts Coup

There is plenty of art featuring horses from George Ford Morris to the more locally known Saddlebred artists you see at larger shows.

However, Tilly Woodward takes a different angle toward Saddlebred art, looking not just at direct images of horses, but examining the unique details of the little things that help the industry work.

Her current series of oil paintings features small, delicate images of snaffle bits, though Woodward intends to soon focus on other intimate details of the business, such as different kinds of spurs and gloves.

This interest in Saddlebreds comes from both of Woodward’s children, Adrian and Walker Bell, and developed especially during Adrian’s extensive pleasure equitation career.

Working with the tiny details that make a successful equitation rider brought all of the little things to Woodward’s attention, and having been an artist her entire life, she could not resist the opportunity to depict those intimate details. Her fascination with those forgotten elements shows vividly in her oil paintings. Her careful attention to detail probably derives from years painting of portraits, as well as some 20 years of drawing.

Art is nothing new for Tilly Woodward. She had formal training at the renowned Kansas City Institute of Arts and earned her Masters in Fine Arts from the University of Kansas. Her history also includes two prestigious awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as being shown in exhibits throughout the country. Additionally, Woodward’s art is included in several major corporate and private collections throughout the country.

Yet, Woodward has a yearning to do more than simply create drawings and paintings for the everyday viewer’s pleasure. When she moved with her family to Pella, Iowa 14 years ago, Woodward took it upon herself to start the now massive Art Center Program. Years later, the Art Center Program serves approximately 10,000 people annually, both with classes and other activities for ages four through adults. Most of these are free, or for the small price of $2 a visit.

Woodward also teaches art education and occasionally drawing or design at Central College in Iowa. Before working there, she focused on helping communities struggling to find their identity. Woodward worked on a project in the Dubuque community following a series of problems they had with the KKK. Not something that the North is generally accustomed to facing, Woodward provided the community with a way to reestablish its identity with a focus on general human kindness. She has also worked with Iowa’s AIDS community, as well as doing large-scale projects with Iowa’s lieutenant governor.

Woodward now turns her focus towards her work at Central College, as well as her Saddlebred themed oil paintings. You can investigate her art at shows throughout the Midwest, including the Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art Gallery in Kansas City and the Mills Gallery at Central College in Pella, Iowa. For those in the Kentucky area, a piece featuring a yellow rose and a snaffle bit will be available at the American Saddlebred Museum’s Equine Art Auction at Tattersalls. Woodward is also willing to do commissioned works and portraits.

Tilly Woodward represents a new view of the Saddlebred industry, one that brings attention to the poignancy and intimacy of some of the more delicate and ignored details that truly make up a part of the foundation of the business.

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