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Self-proclaimed ‘horseaholic’ paints, too

by Nancy Hamlett

For as long as she can remember, Patti Bertram has found ways to combine her two passions: Horses and art.

She’s doing it again with a Jackpot grant from the Nevada Arts Council.

Bertram grew up in the Midway City/Westminster areas of California. She got her first horse when she was 10 years old and hasn’t been horseless since.

“Every Saturday I rode my horse to Midway City Feed Store, and on the way I gave rides to kids for 10 cents each,” said Bertram. “If I was lucky, I’d pay for a bale of hay and get a 12-cent fries and 15-cent milkshake at McDonald’s on the way home.”

If she didn’t have a line of kids waiting for rides, she would trade a drawing of a horse for the hay.

“I went back years later, and some of the drawings were still on the wall,” said Bertram. She laughed and hid her eyes with a hand. “My horses looked like boxer dogs back then. Thank goodness I’ve gotten better.”

A Johnson Lane resident since 1974, Bertram owns 19 Appaloosa horses she breeds and shows. Her breeding program is successful. Mr. Glo Jangles, who was bred, born and raised on Bertram’s ranch, won a world championship in the hunter in hand category. However, the focus of Bertram’s breeding program is subtly changing.

“I never quite reached the acclaim I was looking for as a breeder, and I was always in this mad pursuit to raise a world champion halter horse,” said Bertram. “Now I just want to raise healthy, beautiful horses. That one of my horses is the most gorgeous in the world is not that big of a deal anymore. I’d rather enjoy all of their beauty.”

Bertram continued to draw and sketch mostly horses, dogs and the Western way of life. However, in the early 1970s a birthday present changed her life.

“I was given five watercolor lessons with Phil Penn, who lived in the Johnson Lane area,” said Bertram. “He gave me my heart, and I really got into painting. But even after the lessons, I wasn’t there like I am now.”

Bertram sold her first painting in 1977 to her husband, Bruce, when he was still just a neighbor. She enjoyed mild success for a while, but then painting took a back seat to her horses.

“I’m a horseaholic, and my art stagnated because I was so darn horsy for so many years,” said Bertram.

A concussion in 1999 slowed her horse activities, and Bertram picked up a paintbrush again while recuperating.

“I realized I can still do this, and I liked what I was doing. I used to have zero time for myself. Now I paint every day,” said Bertram.

The Nevada Art Council Jackpot grants offer assistance to artists and art organizations in producing arts activities. In the application process, Bertram earmarked her $900 grant for framing existing paintings and travel expenses for researching ideas for her exhibit, Labor of Love.

Already completed for the exhibit, showing at the Douglas County Library during the month of March, are mares and foals, a boxer dog and her puppies, and a giraffe with her young, plus several projects still in the works.

“I paint those tender moments between mothers and newborns,” said Bertram.

A current exhibit of Bertram’s work, Nevada Men and the Land They Love, is showing at the Carson City Library. Bertram will also be a featured artist at the Nevada Artist Association show at the Brewery Arts Center March 24 through April 14.

“I was chosen People’s Choice at the Nevada Day Art Exhibit. The honor earned a spot at the association’s show,” said Bertram.

While driving a bus for the Douglas County School District, Bertram often reflects on her life accomplishments. Bertram sometimes thinks she has fallen short of her expectations. She wants to accomplish more.

“If I had spent all those number of years painting, look where I could be today. This is the beginning of an art career and I’m excited and optimistic. If I become famous as an artist, I’ll finally be able to afford my horses,” she said.

Although painting is gaining priority, Bertram doesn’t believe she can ever give up her horses. She says she has done it all, from exercising racehorses to breeding and showing cutting, halter and performance horses. Arthritis has slowed her down, but Bertram isn’t ready to quit.

“So what if I have to take Aleve in order to ride? There are worse things,” said Bertram. “When I reach 50 I can compete in the master’s non-pro division. Fifty isn’t that far away.”

Bertram’s three grown children from a previous marriage share their mother’s love of art and horses. Laura, who lives in Smith Valley with her husband and two children, trains horses and gives riding lessons. Holly is a graphic artist and lives in Carson City with her husband and child. Only Jim, in the bar and restaurant business in Phoenix, seems to have missed his mother’s calling.

“Sometimes I think they got ignored as they were growing up, I was so into the horses and painting,” said Bertram. “But they all own their own homes, and they aren’t asking for money. I guess they managed to grow up without me.”