Fit For A Queen
Artist Lynne Gleason in Her Studio
It’s rare to spend time with someone who just totally changes your vibrational level. Such was the case in my meeting with artist Lynne Gleason. I stepped into her world and didn’t want to leave. Once inside her home, enormous works of art on white walls lined the entryway all the way back to her studio. Each piece, reminding her daily of where she was in her life when she painted it, happy times and sad. I joked that she must have had to buy her home just to accommodate her artwork, and she didn’t correct me.
As a matter of background, Lynne is a world-renowned artist whose work is owned by some of the most power people in the world. She’s created commissioned pieces for sultans and the Queen of England. Born and raised in New Orleans, she later spent a total of 12 years in London after what was supposed to be a one-year commitment.
A chance encounter landed her a coveted position close to the Crown, painting the Queen’s four hundred horses and acting as her stand in on several occasions (even once waiving to the crowd from one of the Queen's Rolls Royces). We sat down in her studio to talk about her life in the Royal bubble and what she is up to next.
I tried to buy your book [All the Queen's Horses] online before coming to meet you, but the least expensive copy was $690!
It's a limited edition, so they tend to go up. I don't go up [raise the price], but they do. Pretty cool!
Can you please tell us about your time with the Queen? How did it happen?
My timing... I was in the right place at the right time, and the doors kept swinging open. And I thought, just keep saying yes. Forget the fear. Just move through the doors.
I loved horses all my life, riding all my life, and when I got to London there was a ring on the way... I had a separate studio from my flat, and there was a ring on the way in Hyde Park, and I'd go by there every morning to watch them practicing for ceremonial events. I started taking photographs of the horses.
I was looking for a flat, and it's a long story, but I was so frustrated trying to find an apartment. I thought, if I could have any flat in the world there was this one. It was a long one, and I didn't know where it came out, but it overlooked the horses.
I had been through all the agents trying to find an apartment, and I opened the yellow pages and I went like that [pointing], and I called this woman. First flat she took me to, I said, "does this go all the way to Hyde Park by any chance?" And she said, "yes, it does." And I flew in the doors past her, and there I was staring, and I was in the flat.
I could look right in the stable, and I said, "I'm at home."
She had a hard time renting the flat in the summertime because of the manure, but here was this nutcase! And that was the beginning. It just went from there.
And you just went out onto your balcony and watched and painted?
I was painting still lifes, don't ask me why. I thought, this is ridiculous. You have four hundred horses going by, so I started painting the horses.
Long story short, I was taking so many photographs of the horses, I got a press pass one time. There was a show. I called and said, "look I'm going to be taking a lot of photographs, standing up and sitting down and such, and I'd like to get in the members' enclosure, but... I am going to be taking a lot of photographs." And she said, "Oh, no you need a press pass." And I was like, "Woo hoo!"
So I was sitting in the press box, and I was sitting in the second or third row, and this woman kept... so rude. Every time I moved, she moved in front of me. And she finally said, "Oh, am I getting in your way?" I just said, "It's alright, I'll just move over some more." And she said, "Ohhh, you're an American?! What are you doing here?"
So, I started telling her. What I didn't realize is that she was then interviewing me. She said, "Would you mind if I sent a photographer to your flat?" And I said, "I'm just practicing, I'm not ready for this." (None of us are ever ready).
What I didn't realize is that she was with the major newspaper. I got a full page with my picture. Well, the Commanding Officer found out about it. And he came in [to see my work], and he was just blown away. This is the Commanding Officer of the Queen's four hundred horses, the top honcho. I was so nervous.
So they offered me a show at the officers' quarters next door. One thing led to another, and I really got in with him. And they gave me a studio in the Commanding Officers' Conference Room overlooking Hyde Park. So before I knew it, I was hanging out with the Queen. She was places, I was places. They invited me to all these different things. If I had planned it, I would have fallen on my face. I was very lucky.
So you had this crescendo, and you're in this space. How did it wind back down? You were there, in the bubble, but how did you leave?
We were supposed to only be there one year. I said, "You want to see somebody really depressed? Try bringing me back to Atlanta!" And we stayed for 12 years, but he [my husband] was tired and ready to retire. I didn't mean to get in the door, but I did. I was in the back of the palace a lot, hanging with the group.
Lynne, does she still have any of your pieces now?
Oh, yes. The piece she has... When I gave it to her, I was at a luncheon. And she was with Phillip. I got up to meet her and present her the painting. She knew every horse by name. And she knew his name. Which means a lot to me, because when I paint a horse, I paint them as if I was painting you. Each one has an individual personality, and it's very important to acknowledge them. And then we laughed. People said to talk to her about the animals, and everything will be just fine.
How did you end up in San Miguel?
We would come to San Miguel in the summers so I could paint when Wesley [my son] was little. After many years of travel, living in London and traveling all over, we decided to move here 18 years ago.
What are you up to? Do you paint for anyone anymore?
Abstract. I started with abstract expressionism in the 50's and 60's. I don't paint for anyone specific any more. The designers here in San Miguel are liking it [my work]. But I hate marketing, having to talk about my work and sell it. This IS my mode of expression! Please don't ask me to explain it.
Lynne's past exhibitions and collections can be viewed on her website along with contact information for business inquiries and her latest works here.