Born and raised in Ponca City, Oklahoma, Leslie Gates was as crazy about horses as she was about drawing, and they quickly became her favorite subject, especially since she did not have a real one to lavish attention upon. However, she got away from them during her late teen years and early 20’s, as her artwork began to reflect her new passion of flowers and gardening.
A move to the South in late 1998 to help her aunt and uncle at their pecan shelling plant in Louisville, Alabama brought about some changes with her artwork as she added the local wildlife to her mix, and eventually a return to horses came through a commissioned pencil drawing. It didn’t take long before the horses as subject took over again, not only on paper and canvas, but on a different, dimensional medium she was trying her hand at—gourds. Many of the latest gourd pieces as well as paintings have begun to reflect a Native American influence inspired by her Cherokee and Delaware ancestry.
Leslie discovered The Trail of Painted Ponies through a Call-for-Designs ad in Southwest Art magazine, so she sent an entry in for the Native Art of Horse Painting competition. Leslie’s entry was not chosen, but she tried again for the next competition, America the Beautiful, and her design “Morning Star-n-Stripes” was chosen as one of the 10 finalists. She then tried her hand at putting some of her other ideas onto the Paint Your Own Pony blank forms, and one of these, combining her love of horses and flowers, became her first figurine with The Trail: “Tip Toe Through the Tulips”, chosen as Spring in the Four Seasons collection.
Additional figurines with The Trail are “Peppermint Twist” and “Victorian Christmas”.
Painted Pony figurines by Leslie Gates: