Gulfport artist tapped to paint Kentucky Derby winner

Gulfport artist tapped to paint Kentucky Derby winner
Sherry Smith's painting of Justify, the winner of the Kentucky Derby. (Photo source: WLOX News)
Sherry Smith painted the winner of the Kentucky Derby. (Photo source: WLOX News)
Sherry Smith painted the winner of the Kentucky Derby. (Photo source: WLOX News)

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A Gulfport artist was tapped to paint Justify, the winner of the 144th Kentucky Derby earlier this month.

Sherry Smith was originally approached by a company and asked to paint a picture of the prize-winning horse. That painting has now been turned into prints and pins and is being sold online.

It was an exciting invitation for Smith, who considers herself still a very green artist.

"I was just honored to be asked. You know, I'm a beginner painter painting about a year, a little over a year," said Smith.

Recently, a company that creates licensed Olympic pins, sports pins, lanyards, and custom lapel pins, asked Smith to paint the winning horse of the Kentucky Derby. She said it was during a call about updating her address that the man on the other line asked if she would be interested in painting a horse and rider.

"He looked at it and said, would you be interested in painting a horse and rider? And I'm thinking, 'Oh, well he has a child and he wants a picture of his child on a horse or something,'" she added.

Smith, a freelance artist, agreed to do it.

"He says, 'Well, this is the deal, there's this race that runs every year and it's called the Kentucky Derby.' And I'm thinking, 'Yes, I know.' And he says, 'And if you can get us something together and it passes our company.'"

The request was something she couldn't believe.

"When I got off the phone my neighbors probably heard me cause I was like, wow. I was thrilled," said Smith.

Smith began researching the Kentucky Derby -- everything from Churchhill Downs to the people in the stands and a horse and rider. Before the race was won, she had completed the background and a generic sketch of a horse in action.

"Because I had no idea the color or anything. So once the race was ran, we had the winner and then I started painting the horse and rider," said Smith.

In three days, she completed the painting of Justify and Churchill Downs using acrylic paint. It's now sold on The website is not only selling prints of her work, which shows the winning horse Justify, but it also created a pin version of the painting.

"I was very happy. I really wish there had been more sunlight. So I could've shown a little bit more detail, but I tried to paint it as true as to what I could visualize myself," said Smith.

In the past, Smith has created a number of works of art for others who have requested paintings of loved ones. For Smith, painting is so much more than putting color on canvas.

"It makes me so happy. So much joy. I feel like I've accomplished something to touch somebody's life. If you are happy with a painting or drawing I have created then that makes me happy and I get satisfaction that way," said Smith.

Smith said her passion for painting really started while she was a graphic design student at MGCCC.

To see more of Sherry Smith's artwork visit: 

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