Story by Kathryn R. Burke
All content © San Juan Publishing Group, Inc, All rights reserved.

Alice Billings at home in her art studio.

[Ridgway, Colorado] ALICE BILLLINGS IS THE HORSE LADY. Meeting her, talking with her, you sense this immediately. It’s not the scruffy hat, or the manure-bottomed boots, or even the bits of hay in her hair. It’s the look in her eye when she talks about her beloved horses. Then you look at her art and there is no doubt, all that emotion and feeling, color and line, just leaps from the canvas and captures your heart. As it surely has captured hers. Her work is joyous, vibrant, alive. It’s interactive. Makes you want to throw out your arms and just plain, hug a horse!.


Which is what she does when riding or working with them.  And that’s the love she portrays in every painting and drawing.  When this woman paints a horse, it’s not just a presentation of paint on canvas. What appears or her canvas is a window to the animal’s personality and emotions.

And to how Alice relates to it. That relationship is absolutely present in the colors she chooses and uses. You look at that horse’s face and you know what it is feeling. You are right there, communing with it, not just looking at a static picture. One horse might be sad and blue, another happy as springtime and just as brightly colored.

“My strong suit is line,” Alice says. “Line and color, but not in the traditional sense.” Absolutely. Look at her work and there’s no doubt of it. Nor is there any doubt of her ability to get right into the horse’s head, and perform her own magic ‘show and tell’ act. She does make you want to hug a horse! Asked where she will go with her art next, Alice states, “The horses will tell me.” It will be interesting to watch her journey, see where her beloved horses lead her.”

“I’ve loved horses all my life,” Alice says, “but I never had the opportunity to own one until I moved out here.” Now that the opportunity has arrived, she’s the owner of seven—Thunder, Scout, Dakota, Gus, Ryah and Pockets— “Of which three are rescues,” she says. “My great family.” All are subject matter for her colorful, evocative paintings—many of them reminiscent of the Paris ‘salon’ era popular with Picasso and Kandinsky, land where her father spent five years as a Bohemian artist.

Alice as a little cowgirl in Queens. Look at the boots and hat!

He was also a teacher while Alice was growing up in Queens. She made her first drawings and paintings working alongside him in his studio. “I was four years old,” she says. “It was from my father that I learned the importance of drawing and of understanding color.” She mastered them both. Just look at one of her paintings. To abstract a subject, you must first understand the reality of it, be able to portray it with a nearly photographic eye before you can believably distort it. “To be a good abstractionist, you have to be a good draftsman,” says Alice.

Alice followed in her father’s footsteps studying art. She also studied music and has a degree in both). “He was a true Gemini,” she says of her dad. Conservative in some things, way out there in others.” She also emulated her mother, a school secretary, who was also the principal’s right hand.

For more than 40 years, Alice worked with the  Dennis Weaver Family. She served as assistant to the actor, who starred in “Gunsmoke” and “McCloud” and other westerns where he rode horses. Another equine connection.  When the Weavers moved from Los Angeles to Ridgway, Colorado, Alice also relocated and continued to work with the Weavers.  She was involved with the Dennis Weaver Memorial Park, a tribute to Dennis located on land donated to the city by the Weaver family, and adjacent to the Weaver’s RiverSage subdivision.

Top: Alice’s colorful, whimsical horses. Can’t you just see what they’re thinking? ©Kathryn R. Burke
Middle: Alice in her studio.©Kathryn R. Burke
Bottom: Off to an early start. Check out the hat and boots. Courtesy Alice Billings.