Indiana artist gaining international attention

By Bennett Haeberle bio | Oct 28, 2012

COLUMBUS, IN (WDRB) — His paintings mimic those of famous abstract and impressionist painters. They appear to be heavily influenced by Jackson Pollock or Vincent Van Gogh. But the artist himself more closely resembles Smarty Jones or Secretariat.

Justin is a nine-year old 1500-pound Friesian horse that began painting two years ago.


His owner, Adonna Combs, noticed that Justin would often steal her riding whip and begin to draw in the sand. She soon added a brush to the end of the whip and they were off on art experiment that has now landed Justin in regional galleries and drawn international attention.

Combs says she received emails from as far away as Denmark, Austria and Australia. Mostly from people interested in buying art her horse created.

Combs, a commercial artist herself, began the experiment with Justin but kept his artwork a secret, initially only telling a few friends.

“So they came into the studio barn and said ‘These are pretty good, who is justin?’ And I said well he’s my horse,” said Combs in an interview with WDRB News.

“It just made sense to tie a brush on the end of the whip, so I did. And to my surprise he kept painting. He kept making those brushs strokes.”

Now his collection has grown. And they’re selling too from $75 up to $2500 dollars a piece.

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He paints as he pleases, Adonna usually picks out the colors but after that it’s up to Justin, she says.

“A lot of times when we finish a painting I’ll think well there’s not much to that and then it really looks like a nice painting.”

Justin has painted in public only four times. This weekend marked his first exhibit in his home studio near Columbus, Indiana.

He drew a crowd of onlookers – mostly friends but a few gawkers strolled in along with those interested in buying some of his paintings.

It impressed even a 90-year old novice painter like Eleanor Haltom.

“And to see the things he has painting — they’re worth framing,” said Haltom.

But even Adonna was taken aback by this one. A small red splotchy painting that closely resembled a horse. Perhaps it was unintentional. Perhaps not.

“And I told everybody about him painting a self portrait, everyone is skeptical and then they see it and say ‘It is a horse!”

Like Michelangelo’s Pieta it now sits behind protective glass. And like any fine artist Justin always signs his paintings by stamping his hoof in paint.

“A lot of the time in it’s in the center and some times he signs it more than once,” said Combs.

He often stops his paintings to go visit with onlookers – a social butterfly trapped in horse flesh.

Justin is unaware of the pressures other artists face.

“If he likes a color, he goes with it – if not he just drops it a moves on,” said Ed Breunjes, who has bought some of Justin’s artwork.

Combs says she often contacts galleries about displaying Justin’s works. When they found out who he is, galleries often contact Combs.

Photos: WDRB

Link: Indiana artist gaining international attention

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