Cholla the horse painter

Cholllllpinttt  Newhorsebuckcr
Cholla is a horse whose painting seen here, "The Big Red Buck", will be exhibited at the 3rd International Art Prize Arte Laguna opening tomorrow in Mogliano Veneto, Italy. You can see more of the Reno, Nevada artist's work on his Web site, "Artist Is A Horse." All of the paintings reproduced on the site have a "copyright Cholla" watermark. Prints of The Big Red Buck are also available with a portion of the proceeds going to the Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Agency. From the Associated Press:
Renee Chambers, Cholla's owner and assistant, says his international acclaim proves his artistic talents.

"Yes, it's a novelty that a horse can paint," she said. "But it's not about novelty anymore. It's about his validation as an artist."

Cholla's painting career began by accident, Chambers said. He'd follow her around when she'd paint the corral each year, and one day her husband quipped, "You should get that horse to paint the fence."

Chambers instead tacked a piece of paper to a railing, bought some watercolors, mixed them up, and handed a brush to Cholla, who gripped it in his teeth and stroked the paper.

"He's been painting ever since," she said.
Horse takes up painting, has works exhibited

Previously on BB:
Elephant artists
• Elephant paints an elephant


  1. Under English law, there would be no copyright in this work, as horses cannot hold property or have standing to sue an infringer. (If he was a robot horse, this would be different, as you could argue that the work was computer generated).

    There is likely to be copyright in the picture of the work, however, although even that is not as clear cut as the photographer would like it to be.

    I wonder if the situation under US law is the same?

  2. I wonder if he’s actually trying to draw something, or if he’s just mucking about. The thing is, some people will always see something in his paintings, even if he is just randomly mucking about.

    I think it’s interesting, but I wouldn’t place too much in it without some extensive studying of his behavior.

  3. Can the horse see what it’s painting? I thought horses had vision restricted mostly to their sides ..

  4. You can get a custom ordered Dolphin painting from the Clearwater Aquarium:

    Proceeds go to support the animals they rescue. You can request 2 or 3 specific colors depending on the size you purchase. There’s no direct link, you’ll have to call – but they’ll be happy to assist you. I was there in May (go twice a year, always support the aquarium) and had my custom painting not long after.

  5. if the horse does this on its own accord than thats awsome and compelling but if the horse was trained to hold a brush and paint then it does nothing for me at all… yet another trained animal

  6. Cholla is what we called a latina gangbanger in my high school in California, weird.

    It probably makes the horse happy to paint and his owners should let him keep doing it. But its silly to post his paintings in international art shows and call him an artist.

  7. Hr’s sm ttls frm Chll’s rt gllry:
    “Stpd tsk fr ts”
    “Tds Rpttn fr ts”
    “wnr nssts Drg Ths Stck Wth Pgmnt n t Fw Mr Tms fr Hy”
    “‘m Hrs, Nt n rtst, nd Thr’s N Mnng t Ths”
    “Wll Hld Stck t Cnvs Fr ppls”
    Th rl tlnt hr r th ppl mkng sls frm ths mlrky.

  8. The Copyright Office takes the position that all authorship must be human. When I worked in the Office a guy from Texas (not George Bush who is from Greenwich CT anyway) attempted to register a plastic box with shit from his bull. The claim was denied, but we debated the grounds. One was that the shit didn’t originate with the claimant; the other was that the originator wasn’t human.

  9. —-techdeviant

    It would be “cholo” not “cholla” – at least I haven’t heard anyone use the second one. And who knows, that horse looks a little shifty, maybe he’s banging?

  10. “I wonder if he’s actually trying to draw something, or if he’s just mucking about.”

    That is a question I have asked in many galleries, many times…

  11. If I tilt my head to the right, as the horse might have done to better see the painting, it looks *to me* like a red-colored horse.

    “Your mileage may vary.”

  12. Every so often someone drags out the ‘animal as artist’ argument against the validity of modern or contmporary art. When I was a child my grandfather told me stories of a monkey whose paintings fooled the ctitics in some unnamed stuffy New York gallery. Just in case the paint starts flying I’ll offer this:
    It’s easy to see a correlation between modernist works and paintings created automatically or ignorantly by animals, but since there isn’t a knowable intent behind non-human “works” there can be no real comparison. It’s at best play arranged by people that mirrors human artmaking. The painter who dribbles or slashes paint on a canvas does so with a knowledge of the history of artmaking, and how his work relates to it. Even without extensive knowledge of history a painter knows whether he is breaking with certain traditions when he does so, and at the least his work falls into certain established categories. Without a history of painting to compare one’s work to, how could we distinguish between good or bad paintings? How could be progress with no scale by which to measure our steps?
    Now, were an artist to arrange for an animal to create some such semblance of art in order to illustrate a concept, then the game would change. At that point the exercise itself would fall under a larger conceptual umbrella, and not have to do with the end “product” exclusively.

  13. Spanish nouns are gender-specific. Chola refers to a female, while cholo refers to a male. Cholos, the plural, might refer to a group of males, or one with with both males and females.

    Speaking of painting, some latina gangbangers are known to shave their eyebrows, then use a Sharpie (magic marker) to paint them back on. Sometime they’re tattooed back on too. See: (1) (2) (3)

    Back here on the east coast, the gang kids have no fashion/style sense that can touch las cholas.

  14. As long as no art museum spends millions on it with tax payer money, I’m all for it. I really like the colour scheme of the one shown on top.

  15. BuildupBuzzkill, have another look at the story. The horse is self-taught, and apparently self-motivated.

    Versh, autogenerated groundless cynicism is an offense against good conversation.

    Techdeviant @10, was that “chola” (pronounced the way it looks) or “cholla” (pronounced CHOee-yah)? The first, as Anonymous @14 pointed out, is just the feminine form of “cholo”. Cholla is a thoroughly evil species of cactus that thrives in the Sonoran desert. All those pretty gold spines have microscopic backward barbs all over them. If you brush against one, the cholla joint will come loose and embed itself in your flesh. If you pull it out (don’t use your fingers), the barbs will stay with you, and have to be plucked out with pliers. You occasionally see local fauna that’s gotten itself crucified on the stuff.

    I would automatically give a wide berth to a horse someone had named “Cholla”.

    Bonnie @20: And if he were evil, you’d have a Heroes/Dr. Horrible crossover!

    Wolfiesma @21, but can he or she do it in Photoshop, with pixels?

    Anonymous @23: Are you sure you mean the Impressionists?

    Secret Life of Plants: It’s Modern Arf!

  16. Clearly, the horse did not title this painting. His title would undoubtedly be “Grass Soaked with the Blood of my Primate Oppressors.”

  17. i read/looked at this book of cats who painted. it seemed pretty clear that they were actually painting based on observation of with some intent most of the time. there were a few pieces in which the cat had matched colors and basic layout of a still life.

    and some [human] artists believe that mindlessly or randomly painting, as some say this horse is, is a legitimate form and use of art. so, whether or not the horse is painting with intention, or whether or not it can be compared to human artist, isn’t really all that important, because it’s pretty awesome either way. at least, in my opinion.

    i’ll see if i can find some sort of link to the kitty painting. i’m not sure if there was ever a website made for it, because i saw a print version.

  18. @ Anthony

    Or maybe, just maybe, humans don’t have an exclusive lock on having a sense of visual esthetics.

  19. A cholla is a type of cactus. The jumping cholla is particularly rancorous as the barbs hook into your skin and burrow in like fish hooks, and the segments ‘jump’ on you if you brush those barbs. ouch.

    a chola is the female version of the word cholo.

  20. OK dragonfrog but you’ll have to prove that animals make decisions based on some quality of mind when they are painting. Even so, if they are not deliberately eschewing traditional painting or making some other aesthetic point, then their paintings suck (in my opinion).

  21. Animal “artists” almost always have an “assistant” who points their mouths/trunks/paws at the canvas, actually doing most, if not all of the cognitive work of creating marks on the canvas.

    Not only that but horses are legendarily stupid. No horse has ever passed the self-awareness mirror test, nor are they ever likely to. The idea that they could have any sort of aesthetic sense is laughable.

    However, if the proceeds from these sales go to worthy causes then I’m all for it. I’m just not quite stupid enough to fall for it.

  22. Anthony – I would have to prove that they are making aesthetic choices, for you to take it for granted they are. But you seemed to be taking it for granted they aren’t, without proving that either. Barring a proof one way or the other, you have to accept both as a possibility, right?

    It’s probably not surprising your taste in paintings differs from that of a horse – given the range of taste within our own species (this is the Internet, so you’ll have to take it as given that we share species), imagine what the range would be between species.

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