Editor’s note: Lincoln Studio is The Interior Journal’s new occasional series looking at the art and lives of local artists.
It makes sense that Polish native Ela Ladwig would eventually make her way to the rolling hills of central Kentucky.
For an equine artist like Ladwig, there may be no better location on the planet than in the heart of the Bluegrass.
Ludwig was born in Poland and has lived in Scotland, England and California. Now, she calls a scenic 60-acre horse farm tucked away in the middle of Lincoln County her home.
"The land was gorgeous," she recalls thinking of Kentucky as she and her husband were considering where they would like to relocate after deciding to leave the west coast. "Rolling hills, lush green grass — it looked perfect for horses."
Ladwig has a pair of day jobs, working as a hygienist and running Maple Swamp Farm, which offers horse breeding and training services.
But Ladwig is also a prolific painter, focusing much of her artistic efforts on capturing horses on canvas.
"I grew up with horses. Some people like dogs, cats, I just like horses," she said. "They're just beautiful; they're majestic. Although they're 1,200 pounds, you can train them and they'll be your best friend."
Ladwig has been sketching horses since she was a little kid. That hobby grew into something more about 13 years ago, when she began painting on canvas.
A rancher in California asked Ladwig to paint a very small photo he had of himself and his family onto a larger canvas.
"I said, 'well sir, I don't even have paint brushes,'" she said.
The rancher gave her $50 for supplies, and she worked for two months on completing the painting.
She used oil paints for the rancher's painting, but found the drying time slowed down her creative juices too much. As she continued to paint, she switched to acrylics, which allow her to finish a painting in a single day if she chooses to.
Ladwig said in her earlier paintings, she focused on realism, attempting to make her creations look like photographs. Now, she's added some impressionism in and likes to use brilliant colors.
"Over the years I've noticed that I just love bold colors and the suggestion of a shape more than being so perfect," she said. "I will let the viewer read into it."
Ladwig's art has been featured at the Bluebird restaurant in Stanford and is currently on display in at least two galleries, including the Maple Tree Gallery in Danville. Among her other artistic accomplishments, Ladwig has designed a stylistic horse image for a Lexington thoroughbred show poster and sold one of her paintings to someone in Great Britain.
Ladwig said living in Kentucky means she and her husband Milo are far from their families, who still live in Poland and California, respectively. But it's also brought them and their two children — Ada, 10, and Eli, 8 — that much closer together. And the friendly culture in Kentucky is wonderful.
"I love the Bible Belt," she said. "It's just good people. It's a good place to live. California is a good place to go to visit."
Editor's note: Lincoln Art Spotlight is an occasional feature profiling artists of all mediums and styles based in Lincoln County. If you are an artist or know an artist who would like to be profiled, call The Interior Journal at (606) 365-2104.