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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Artist Profile – Hester Zoutendijk

Hester Zoutendijk is clearly a master of drawing animals – horses, dogs, cats, sheep, cows ….

The list goes on. Her sketches are created with graphite or water soluble color pencils on 23 x 29 inch sheets of 100% rag vellum white paper with exact detail to the personality of the subject. I was introduced to Hester through a friend who owns horses. My friend gave me a beautiful note card with a high quality reproduction of a horse portrait. She mentioned that the horse was her gelding, Paragon. Little did I know the specialness of this gesture until I met Hester in her studio nestled in a field off of Starr Road outside of Windsor.

Horse enthusiasts have known Hester as a horse trainer and teacher of dressage since her arrival in Sonoma County in 1990. Her home is on a two acre horse ranch and her professional life was totally consumed with horses. In 2000, Hester was kicked by a horse in the forearm while training. The injury was serious and the trauma was a wakeup call for Hester. She began experiencing fear while working with the horses which, of course, they could sense. She had a six year old daughter and a wonderful husband and she needed to pursue a less physically demanding profession.

Hester has drawn creatures throughout her life. She liked to create fantasy animals and funny sketches to amuse herself and her large family during her childhood. She also has an affinity for the animal world and early in her life found that she was a natural vegetarian. She remembers as a child saving her money to purchase caged birds at the pet store, sketching them and then releasing them into freedom. She attended an art school in South America as a teenager and eventually graduated from the Royal Academy of Art in Amsterdam. Her deep connection with animals allows her to portray the personality of the animal and not just the superficial exterior appearance.

She drew her first animal portrait of a Jack Russell in 1992 as a gift for a friend. The response was delight. Hester’s ability to capture the essence of an animal created a loyal following of pet and livestock owners who wished to have their companions memorialized in a work of fine art. Although Hester has always exercised her artist skills, the efforts were for her personal pleasure and not something that she considered a professional activity. That all changed within six months of the accident.

As always, I wanted to know the story of Hester’s journey to Sonoma County. With the surname of Zoutendijk, there is little doubt that Hester is Dutch. But according to Hester, “Holland was not large enough to handle” her, her adventurous parents and her seven siblings. Shortly after she was born, Hester’s parents moved their eight children to the Dutch Colony of New Guinea where her father was a school principal. They remained there until New Guinea reverted back to Indonesia. The Zoutendijks returned to Holland for a few years and then ventured to Suriname, a Dutch Colony located on the northern edge of South America where Hester’s father started a center for performing arts.

At age 17, Hester left her family to attend the Royal Academy of Art in Holland. After school, Hester sailed, traveled and recorded her adventures through sketching. She eventually returned to Holland and began working with horses. On vacation, she visited one of her sisters who lived on Mark West Spring Road. Recognizing that Sonoma County offered one of the best year round climates in the world, she moved here in 1990 bringing her horse, dog and parrot. She finally had found a place where she could settle down and grow real roots.

Seeing Hester’s work is a special treat. I learned while visiting her that with each original portrait, she provides an 8.5 x 11 print and two note cards with smaller prints. I now hold one of those small prints of Paragon. Hester has ventured into Sonoma County landscapes that always include some creature, baby portraits and other observations. You will find her work at the St. Helena Hometown Harvest Faire, Windsor Town Green events (check out the Windsor Official Website 2008 Fine Art Gallery) and various horse shows. Hauck Cellars has graced their Sauvignon Blanc with a portrait of winery dog Margaux by Hester. Two venues in Windsor, Lupe’s Restaurant and Copperstone Coffee Shop currently have exhibits of Hester’s work. Check out for prints for sale, price lists for custom portraits and to learn more about Hester.

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