Featured at the Denim and Diamonds fundraising gala on September 30 will be the art of Katie Upton, whose horse paintings have earned her international fame. Upton’s portrait of horse Hershey will be auctioned off at the event, which goes from 1 pm to 4 pm at the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club.

Upton, who was raised in Santa Barbara and earned a fine arts degree from UCSB, has an instantly recognizable style, evidenced by bold, striking, colorful and in-your-face paintings.

Her paintings and prints show in galleries in California and Vermont, and have been exhibited in dozens of group and solo shows. Private collections throughout the United States, as well as in Europe and Asia, include Upton's work.

Her paintings give the horse the spotlight, giving the viewer the full effect of each individual animal, exaggerating features to emphasize each horse's particular quirks.

“Using abstract techniques, Katie distorts or highlights equine features to bring to our attention the enormous size of a horse,” wrote Garry Stauber in his profile of Upton in Equestrian Network Magazine.

“Her complex understanding of the musculature and bone structure of horses allows her to emphasize, embellish, and exaggerate equine characteristics, while maintaining a sense of reality. She keeps the horse massive, alive, and natural with this skill.”

Upton herself explains that she accomplishes this look by using “an old-fashioned draftsman style drawing” as her foundation. Drawing on her abstract and cubist background and combining that training with strong draftsman lines and complex shadings, she paints portraits that allow the viewer to see different angles and dimensions in one view.

Equine Vision Magazine’s “Horses in Art” describes Upton’s art: “Indeed, her horses look right out at the viewer, seeming to pose for their moment in the spotlight. She uses light and shadow to accentuate her unique, angular drawing style. The painting focus is the play of light on surfaces and particularly the way light illuminates the protruding muscle, bone and resulting form.”

For tickets and more information, call 964-1519 or visit www.heartsadaptiveriding.org.