About the artist: Olva Stewart Pharo|
"I have never really known which came first: my love of art or my love of horses. From early childhood I was completely captivated by the beauty and grace of the horse. I was obsessed with horses as many little girls are. I attempted to capture that passion on paper and in sculpture whenever I had a chance. The idea of capturing the beauty, power and spirit of each unique creature never tires for me. That is why I enjoy doing portraits. I like the challenge to portray the spark, the essence that makes that individual. My goal is to recreate for you your horse as you see him and feel him. What more can any artist strive to do."
I have ridden and drawn horses all of my life. My uncle was one of the first breeders of registered Palominos in Texas.
I remember riding his horses as a very small child and the joy it gave me. I never got over it.
I was raised a "city kid" in Houston, Texas but my
heart was always in the country. I never owned a horse
as a child but somehow over the years I managed to have
horses to take care of and ride. After high school, I was
fortunate enough to be accepted to the University of
Texas at Austin where I received a
Bachelor of Fine Arts
degree in 1969.
Olva at age 1 year on her uncle's Palomino mare, Bonita Mia
being assisted by her father at the family farm in Bay City, TX
In 1970 I returned to Houston where I worked for many years in the field of advertising art, designing logos,
brochures and display advertising for oil companies and banks and other industrial companies in the Houston area.
My heart was always with horses. I started taking English hunt seat lessons and learning to jump first at
Edgepark Stables from Charles Zimmerman and later at Parish Stables.
For many years I had been enamored with all things British.
In 1975 in a fit of romantic impulse I sold all my belongings (including
my precious MGB) and moved to London. It was the experience of
a lifetime. I rode horses and got hired as the Art Director of a Blood
Stock (racing) magazine called Stud & Stable. The office was in
Ascot and it was my job to go to the races and take pictures.
I learned a lot about journalism and photography, England and the
English. But I could not get a "green card" so I finally returned to
Texas inspired and tested.
STUD & STABLE MAGAZINE
I started creating logos and advertising for local
stables and equine organizations, such as the Area V USCTA Adult Team (event logo),
the Houston Dressage Society (enhanced logo),
USET Texas Endowment Campaign (special event drawing), and the Greater Houston Horse Council (logo design).
In 1977 I acquired my first registered horse, an Appendix
Quarter Horse named "Heza Splash", bred in Louisiana for
the race track.
He was a 3-year-old and 3 months gelded.
We all know the story of "green horse/green rider". We
were the epitomy. It is a long story but we finally
together. I renamed him "Calaveras County" after the
Mark Twain story. With the help of a number of very
skilled and patient trainers (Terri Beck, Kevin Cleveland,
Keith Merifield and Teri Bludworth to name a few) we went
to a lot of shows and won a lot of ribbons.
Olva and Calaveras County, aka: "Splash"
showing in Adult Hunter Division
This was the 1970s. As I became more involved in the equine community I realized
"the right hand did not know what the left hand was doing";
there was no communication
between the activities and no way of knowing what was going on right around the corner.
(There was no Horse Gazette,
no Lone Star Horse Report,
no Southwest Horse Trader in Texas.)
In 1980, I took on the job of communicator and started a magazine called
The Horse Sheet. It was the last word, no the "only word", on hunter/jumper, dressage &
combined training events, shows, and clinics in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana & New Mexico.
By default I became a photo/journalist, following Texans to horse
shows from Arizona to
Florida. I also started The Stable Farm & Trainer Directory which I re-named the
Texas Horseman's Directory, which I still publish online. 2010 marked its 30th Anniversary.
You can find the Texas Horseman's Directory online
After 6 years of publishing (1980-1986) The Horse Sheet went bankrupt
along with a lot of
my advertisers and many other unfortunate Texans.
Bad times in the oil patch. (You think 2009
was bad!) It was a learning experience though; I learned a lot about photography
and the horse show scene. I carried on for a while as a
freelance photo/journalist doing articles
for The Chronicle of the Horse, HorsePlay, Dressage & CT and Horse Illustrated.
In 1987 I became Assistant Editor of Horseman Magazine. It was the second largest horse
magazine in the U.S. and was published in Houston, Texas, by Scripps Howard Publishing Co.
along with a number of sport oriented publications. I reported on the top Quarter Horses in
Texas. I covered the Quarter Horse Congress and got to do three (3) really nice covers.
When Scripps sold the magazine and a new editor took over I decided it was time to go.
After that I took a hard look at my life. I decided I had forgotten to have kids. It took a few
years but on 28 December, 1989, Alexander William Pharo was born. My beloved horse,
Calaveras County, died 6 weeks earlier.
I was now horseless and in semi-retirement as a
One day in 1993, I sat down to see if I could still draw. I had been attending a few horse
shows just taking photographs.
Using one photograph as inspiration, I created "A Kind Eye,"
as a drawing of an idealized Grand Prix
dressage horse. Using a framed print of this drawing as
an award, I created the "Calaveras County Adult Amateur High Point Award"
to be presented to
Houston Dressage Society adult amateur member competitor at the annual Houston Dressage
Society Spring Show.
How it all began:
The following year I used a another
framed print for the 1994 Calaveras County Adult
Amateur High Point Award but this time the drawing was an actual portrait of a particular horse
still in competition. A competitor walked up to the drawing and said, "Is this Adelssohn?"
They had recognized the horse from the drawing, the Trakehner Stallion, Adelssohn, owned by Hans Boone. Then she asked,
"Can you draw my horse?"
Then and there "Equestrian Portraits by Olva Stewart Pharo" was born.
The idealized Grand Prix horse drawing, "A Kind Eye", became my logo.
Over 200 individual commissioned pencil portraits later, I renewed my passion for sculpture
by returning to bronze casting in 1999. (At the University of Texas I was one of two students in
1968 to build a foundry and cast a bronze under the guidance of Ishmael Soto. We were the
first UT students to work in bronze in over 25 years.) Today I offer sculptural portraits of horses,
dogs, and cats in bronze.
(See examples of sculptural portraits and limited editions in bronze
In 2001, inspired by the "Cow Parade" I started "Horses
of a Different Color" giving new life
to old Breyer Horses by painting and reshaping them to new and various designs. I have gone
farther with them now creating "Exotic Horses" with Ancient Egyptian, Assyrian and Ancient
Greek themes. I even offer custom portraits on Breyer Horses.
Portraits are aways my main area of concentration. Making a portrait of a beloved pet, be it
horse, dog, or cat, is very rewarding. The pleased and happy look on the face of a client or the
kind words in an email or letter make the challenge all worth while.
In 2005 work truly took off for me. I was gratified and overwhelmed by your commissions and
your attraction to my art. So was my immune system.
In May of 2006 I came down with
Shingles and have been playing "catch-up" ever since. Shingles put me flat on my back for
6 months and took my energy away.
By the end of 2008, I was on my way to catching up. Many of you who have been waiting so
patiently are now seeing your commissions delivered. With that in mind I returned to the horse
show scene in the fall of 2009. I managed to make it to Pin Oak and The Spring Gathering and
the National Reining Breeder Cup.
Then in the summer of 2010 disaster struck. My brother died unexpectedly while on safari in
South Africa. It turned my life upside down. I was unaware that he had made me Executrix of
his estate. My life became a series of lawyers, accoutants, bankers and real estate agents. I did not made it to any 2010 fall shows.
In 2011 I decided to get back to normal and made plans to attend the spring shows:
Pin Oak, The Spring Gathering, NRBC and the Houston Dressage Society Spring Shows.
Everything was in place to set up my booth at these shows. Then just as Pin Oak was getting
started my mother fell ill. She died March 27, 2011, at the age of 97. Never did I expect to
loose my mother and my brother in less than a year. I truly could not predict
what life had in store for me.
Early in 2012 my father-in-law died naming my husband executor of his estate. I made it to
Pin Oak and The Spring Gathering. Being completely stressed out I decided to take some time
off for a little fun. In 2011 Georgia Griffiths of Encino, California, commissioned a perpetual
trophy for the Del Mar National Dressage Show held each spring. It is the Two Dancers
Perpetual Trophy, commissioned by G2 Software, Ms. Griffiths' company, to be awrded to the
winner of the Grand Prix Musical Freestyle Class.
In 2011 the winner was Steffen Peters on Ravel. But the actual bronze trophy was not ready. It would be delivered in early 2012 in time for the 2012 event.
I flew out to Del Mar in April, 2012, to present the trophy for the first time. Steffen Peters won again, but this time on Legolas 92. Ravel ws being saved for the Olympics.
It was a wonderful opportunity to meet some new people and forget all taht was a home for a few days.
Now with 3 estates to settle and 4 houses to sell life is complicated. I do want to make an
appearaance at the fall shows at Great Southwest Equestrian Center in Katy.Look for my booth in October and November. See my On the Road page for more details.
What is sure is that we will eventually move to the Hill Country near Austin. My husband and I are both Texas Exes and have always wanted to move back to Austin. But I still plan to keep a presence at Great Southwest through sponsorship and advertising. My billboard.
Horses and art are my passion and will remain so.
Commissions and Special Awards and Trophies Olva has been involved with:
* 1996 - Official Portrait of the Border Fiesta Grand Prix, graphite pencil
portrait (18" x 24") "Peter Pletcher and Uncle Sam", now in private collection.
* 1997 - Official Artist for the United States Equestrian Team Texas Endowment Campaign, "A Very Special Evening at
the King Ranch," graphite pencil drawing, 18" x 24", auctioned at this gala fund raiser at the King Ranch in Kingsville. It was bought by a member of the King Ranch family and resides at the ranch.
* 1997 - "A Labor of Love", graphite pencil drawing, 18" x 24", is a special drawing I donated to SIRE Therapeutic Riding to honor the dedicated volunteers.
Sales of prints and note cards still benefit S.I.R.E., in privae collection.
* 1997 - drawing "A Labor of Love" appeared on the cover of "The Chronicle of the Horse"
* 1998 - commissioned to do the cover art for the 51st Pin Oak Charity Horse Show, program, colored pencil drawing of past POCHS champions, 18" x 24". The design was used for prints,
posters and t-shirts. A portion of the proceeds benefited the Ronald McDonald House of Houston.
* 1999 - drawing "Ribbon Guard", appeared on the cover of "The Chronicle of the Horse" one of the few cats to ever appear on a Chronicle cover.
* 2000 - commissioned to create a trophy for the Texas Dressage Classic, held annually at Las Colinas Equestrian Center
in Irving, TX. It is awarded annually to the high point amateur at the show. The first award was given April 29, 2001.
* 2000 - drawings featured on the cover of the "Lone Star Horse Report", the portrait of "Gigong, the Elite Hanoverian Stallion".
* 2000 - "Gigong's" portrait along with a portrait bronze of "Pintus, an Irish Hunter" appeared in an article on equine artists in "Horse Illustrated".
* 2002 - commissioned by Positive Step Farm to create a perpetual trophy for the Detroit Dressage Society, Detroit, MI. Awarded annually with plaques.
* 2003 - drawing called "A Colt, a Bucket and a Big Red Barn" appears on the cover of "Lone Star Horse Report".
* 2003 - "Gucci", a bronze portrait of Canaan Ranch's champion dressage gelding, was awarded the
Equine Visions Choice Award for sculpture in the Equine Art Guild's Annual Show and was featured in Equine Visions Magazine
(now called "Horses in Art").
* 2004 - created the "Calaveras County Lifetime Achievement Award" for the Greater Houston Hunter Jumper Association, to be awarded annually to the GHHJA member who has made a significant contribution to the club and horse showing in general
* 2004 - commissioned portrait of Jennifer Price's horses appeared in an article on equine artists in Horse Illustrated showing how such a drawing of two horses together
* 2005 - created the "Calaveras County Perpetual Trophy" for the Annual Pin Oak Charity Horse Show. In 2005 and 2006 awarded to the winner of the $5000
Adult/Junior Gamblers Choice. Since 2007 it has been awarded to the winner of the $20,000 Children's/Adult Jumper Classic.
* 2005 - Reserve Champion Adult Division, "Tricked Out Pony Contest", 50% of proceeds to animal shelter groups, contest to make a Peter Stone model horse into a
"Tricked Out Pony".
* 2005 - colored pencil drawing "Farrier's First
Horse" appeared in December, 2005, EQUUS magazine as an illustration for an
article on new horse owners.
* 2007 - Created Jane Queener Perpetual Trophy Best Young Horse Award to be presented annually at The Spring Gathering Hunter Jumper Show held each April, Katy, TX
* 2008 - Kickin' Cancer Out of Texas, benefiting Cancer Couceling, Inc., Boot Painter - January 10, 2008
* 2008 - RESS Bas Relief Exhibition - 2nd ("A Kind Eye") & 3rd Place ("Hunter Head") Advanced Sculpture Division
* 2008 - Mural Mosaic Project: The Cadeau de Chival - The Gift Horse
* 2008 - Dressage At Devon Born in the U.S.A. Breeders Award High Point Stallion Trophy, Dr. Robert Miller Perpetual Trophy & Dressage At Devon Born in the U.S.A. Breeders Award High Point Mare Trophy, Dr. Robert Miller Perpetual Trophy commissioned by Melanie Pai of Canaan Ranch.
* 2009 - Kickin' Cancer Out of Texas Benefitting Cancer Couceling, Inc.,
"Hardest Workin' (Most Creative) Boots
* 2009 - drawing called "White Horse on Klimt"
appears on the
cover of the May issue of
"Lone Star Horse Report".
* 2010 - Sandy Hager Memorial Sportsmanship Award for the Greater Houston Hunter Jumper Association
* 2010 April - cover art of "The Exhibitor", the official publication of Great Southwest Equestrian Center, portrait of Jerry Kimmel's Champion Reining Stallion, Dun Gotta Gun.
* 2010 June - SADDLE UP FOR NAM fibrglass horse project: chosen as artist to paint 2 fiberglass horses as fundraiser for the Northwest Assistance Ministries of Houston, TX. See completed "Colorado Kid" For more information on NAM see: www.namonline.org/
*2011 - Commission: a perpetual trophy, Two Dancers
Perpetual Trophyfor the Grand Prix Musical
Freestyle at the Del Mar National Dressage Show, Del Mar, CA. Presented in 2011 to Steffen Peters
*2011 - Creation of an Adult Amateur High Point Award for the new Diamond and Platinum Dressage Show Series at Great Southwest Eq. Center, Katy, TX
*2012 - Commission: a perpetual trophy for Potomac Valley Dressage Club
Olva Stewart Pharo, artist & horsewoman -
Bachelor of Fine Arts, University of Texas at Austin, 1969
Houston Dressage Society (HDS), member since 1979
Greater Houston Hunter Jumper Association (GHHJA), member since 1984
Founding Board Member of the Greater Houston Horse Council, newletter editor, 1993
Equine Art Guild (EAG), 1999-2010
Realistic Equine Sculpture Society (RESS), since 2007-2010
Women in the Visual and Literary Arts (WIVLA), since 2007
Saying "Goodbye" to a friend. . . . .
The Texas equestrian community lost a great supporter on March 18, 2011.
Phil Sawin died from non-horse
related injuries at his Pine Hill Farm in
Bellville, TX on Friday. Phil leaves behind a legacy of hard work and a
passion for the Olympic side of the sport. He built the first cross country course in this area. He had the
only field hunter course around. Phil hosted hunter/jumper shows, dressage shows, driving events, pony
club rallies and twice a year a USEA recognized event.
This has been a personal loss for me. Phil goes back to the very beginning of my involvement with
"english" riding. My first hunter trainer was a friend of Phil's and took us on riding excursions to Pine Hill
Farm in its infancy. I saw it grow from a weekend project into a way of life.
Phil became a friend and Pine Hill a constant destination for horse shows. I competed in hunter/jumper shows at Pine Hill in the 80s. I was once unceremoniously rubbed off on one of those beautiful pine tree limbs by my high spirited Calaveras County.
;It was at a Houston Dressage Society show in 1994 that my career as a portrait artist began. The year before I had created a high point award for the Houston Dressage Society with a print of a idealized dressage horse head (now my logo) as the award. In 1994 I used a photograph of Hans Boone's stallion, Adelssohn, as the model for the first Calaveras County Adult Amateur High Point Award. The award was a framed print of my pencil portrait of Adelssohn and was displayed at my booth.
A competitor walked up and said, "Is that Adelssohn?" The likeness was strong enough that she recognized him. Then she asked, "Can you do my horse?" The rest is history. I made 6 portraits at this competitor's barn and my new career grew from there.
If I had not made the portrait from a photograph I took at a dressage show at Pine Hill and if I had not had a booth at the HDS show at Pine Hill, Equestrian Portraits may never had gotten started.
(I had my first Blizzard at the DQ in Bellville in 1985. Things we remember.)
I designed Phil's Pine Hill Farm logo using one of the large pine cones from those beautiful trees as a model. Just last fall Phil asked me to design a new sign to go on his barn. It was to be cut out of metal. I have not seen the finished piece.
Pine Hill was always a fun place to go to. Phil always made me feel at home. He seemed a bit like my second older brother, the one who loved horses. I had no idea how close that was. My brother was born on August 8, 1942 just 2-1/2 weeks before Phil. My brother died last summer, June 21, 2010. He never liked horses.
My life took another path and I stopped showing and did not visit Pine Hill much but whenever Phil saw me at a show at Great Southwest he was always ready with a grin and a hug. I was so happy he had found Ruth to share his passion and had Ellie. He had a wonderful life and will be long remembered for what he did for the horse community and his fellow horse lovers.
A memorial fund has been set up to assist in maintaining Phil's legacy of Pine Hill Farm. To contribute send a check payable to: "Phil Sawin Memorial Trust Fund" and mail it to: Sterling Bank, Phil Sawin Memorial Trust Fund, 15000 Northwest Freeway, Houston, TX 77040. Please enclose a note with the check as to the fund you wish to contribute to.