Step in Time ~ Inspirations for Portraits of Duke and Ivy

Step in Time ~ Inspirations for Portraits of Duke and Ivy

“Step in time through wildflowers we prance
We are Arabians, we were born to dance

On trails of endurance we learn courage and trust
Each milestone marks a new goal for us

With you as our guardian our loyalty is strong
Our home and our family is where we belong.”

~ Kim McElroy

Jody found her two Arabian horses in different ways but what they had in common was they had been overlooked by others. Jody is an endurance rider and she saw their potential and brought them to her farm. First she bought Duke, and some time later she acquired Ivy. With her love and attention they blossomed into talented endurance horses that have given her many exciting milestones to celebrate their mutual success.

In March I went to nearby Gig Harbor to photograph Jody’s horses and I was struck by how happy the horses were and how bonded they were as a pair. I was surprised to hear they hadn’t been together that long. I asked Jody if they would like to run around, and she smiled knowingly as if to say, “are you kidding?” I was used to being around my pasture pets and I had never been around endurance Arabian horses before.  All one had to do was up the energy and they were off and running around the huge property with their tails held high. In this regard they were challenging to photograph at liberty because in such a large area they were often too far away even with my telephoto lens! But I managed to capture them trotting together at a distance, and then when they settled down again near to us they finally stood still and struck a pose. My artistic challenge would be figuring out how they would look in their summer coats!

Once we had the photos to review, it was clear that the horses were almost always next to each other in all the pictures.They two horses had such a nice kinship I suggested to Jody that since she was considering portraits of both horses it would be fun to portray them together in one painting, and then separately as individual head portraits. She loved the idea, and she asked if I could add flowers to the portraits like I had in my painting “Lady Faire” , because her young, artistically inclined daughter loves to weave flowers in their manes. We also discussed adding some sort of nature or mountain backdrop to the portraits to reflect her endurance riding, and her husband’s love of the mountains.

I looked through the photos of Duke and Ivy, and though they were trotting together in most of the photos, there wasn’t a single photo where both of them were in an attractive gait, so I chose another photo of Ivy to put with the one I liked of Duke. It wasn’t until later that I realized I had chosen the same leg placement for both horses!

Edited in Photoshop putting two horses together


For the background of the running horses I came up with the idea of a mountain meadow which fit in with the wildflower theme. Jody loved the idea as she told me she had ridden in wildflowers that were in full bloom and she said the smell was intoxicating.

For the head portraits my idea was to feature the horses against a backdrop of the fir trees and moss and fall leaves of their home pasture. I imagined that the horses went off to a mountain meadow together, and when they returned home the flowers were in their manes, as a reminder of their adventure.I chose Northwest wildflowers to weave in their manes; daisies and, of course, ivy – for Ivy, and sweet pea for Duke.

Duke reference photo

Jody smiled when I told her of my choices, and she said “Duke IS my sweet pea!”

Duke – 14″ x 18″ Pastel Portrait by Kim McElroy

Ivy Reference photo

Ivy – 14″ x 18″ Pastel Portrait by Kim McElroy

When I realized that I had put the trotting horses in the same leg positions, I came up with the title “Step in Time” after the song from Mary Poppins. When I unveiled the portraits for Jody and her family – I told her of the inspiration, and she laughed and said, “I JUST watched Mary Poppins last week with the kids!  I was amazed as always at the synchronicity!


  1. Such amazing artistry… Arabians are so close to my heart ✌🏼️❤️🐴

  2. Thank you Michelle – mine too!

  3. Such amazing stories to go along with your most amazing art. I love reading about the path to the final paintings!!! Always inspiring and beautiful Kim

  4. Stunning! Love your stories of how these portraits come together, Kim.

  5. You do such beautiful artwork and your writing is so enjoyable along with it. I love to read about the process of how you accomplish both creations!

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