Nichole Laizure horse

If you’ve visited Western Spirit lately, or plan to visit soon, you may well see an artist, hard at work in the lobby, painting a life-size fiberglass model of a stallion. The energy of creation is electric, setting the stage for visitors to enter into the artistry of the Edward Curtis and Scott Baxter exhibitions. No one passes by without pausing to watch or ask a question. The artist is Nichole Laizure, and her artwork is part of a project called the Stallion Stampede, sponsored by the Rotary Club of North Scottsdale. Artists are painting horses which will be on display throughout the city until April 15th, when they will be auctioned off for charity at the Gala Auction at Royal Arabians.

We caught up with Nichole during a much-earned rest between the two stallions she is painting at Western Spirit.

WS: How did you get your start as an artist?
NL: We didn’t have a TV when I was growing up. Not until high school. Reading and art was my entertainment. My grandfather was a watercolorist and he encouraged me, sending me to classes at the Phoenix Art Museum. Eventually, I received my BFA in Fine Arts from Northern Arizona University, with an emphasis on illustration. I was interested in children’s books, but goals change, and I started out as an associate painter doing billboards. It’s wild working at that scale, but that training has come in handy painting the stallions for the Stampede.

WS: Where did your inspiration for Triumph, the stallion you just finished, come from?
NL: When I was 10, I had a horse named Elsa, and I based Triumph off of her. The silk ribbon suggests running through the finish line, to indicate what the sponsors of the Stallion Stampede are trying to accomplish in terms of helping those in need. I chose turquoise for the ribbon because that color, to me, is the color of Arizona—the sky, the light.

WS: What’s it like painting in public?
NL: I’m used to it from participating in the Celebration of Fine Art, so I actually enjoy it. Artists work in isolation, which was especially true during the worst of the pandemic, so it’s good to get to talk to people. They see that painting is a process—and it’s work. I’m kind of a living exhibit.

WS: Tell us about your second stallion.
NL: My second stallion is named Arizona, and it will be very different. Instead of painting a horse, I will be using the horse as a canvas. The right side will feature Camelback Mountain, saguaros, and a sunset sky with blues, roses, and purples. The left will center on Northern Arizona and the red rocks of Sedona. The skies will match up over the top of the horse and the legs will fade to black. My approach is totally different. With Triumph, I started with the eye and had to think about musculature of the animal. And I’m working with acrylic, which is better on fiberglass but dries quickly. With Arizona, the animal will be the landscape and I will have more freedom.

WS: You work in a number of genres—landscapes, portraits, abstraction. Can you talk a bit about your practice as an artist?
NL: I began as a watercolorist but have since moved to oils. I like the textures oil affords me. As for style, I like a bit of realism but use abstraction so that the viewer has lots of freedom for interpretation. But I will use whatever I know—tight illustration techniques, Japanese brushwork and calligraphy: whatever suits the work. I like to work in black and white as well, with just a touch of color to draw the eye.

WS: What’s next for you?
NL: Believe it or not, I’m doing illustrations—in watercolor and pen and ink—for a children’s book based on a real coyote who was rescued and placed in a conservation program. She was raised as a dog, but in the story a rattlesnake convinces her that she’s wild. I guess I have come full circle! The life of an artist.

Nicole Laizure is typically at Western Spirit Tuesday – Sunday, 10 am – 4 pm and Thursday, 3 – 9pm and will be at work on Arizona through the end of January. Visit her webpage: or her Instagram: for more information.