Illustration is Bliss

Keely Dakin
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Local equine painter contributes to Canuck/Yankee children’s book

The Heart of a Horse is the combined effort of an artist from the north and another from the south of the 49th parallel.

Local painter, Pat Bliss, holds The Heart of a Horse, which he illustrated. The book is aimed at children and takes the story of a Yankee and the paintings of a Canuck and melds them together to tell the story of two young foals and their challenges in life. This is Bliss’s first crack at story illustration but he is already considering doing it again. Above he stands in front of a collection of his own work, hung in On the Avenue Artisan’s Gallery, on Tuesday afternoon.

The writer is Katherine Call-Morin, who hails from Plattsburg, N.Y., and the Prince Albert illustrator, Pat Bliss.

Pat Bliss grew up on a farm just west of the city.

As a child he was very interested in art and explored it with the encouragement of his own artistic mother. He did not take it up more seriously however until he was in his 40s.

The book is based on a real story it tells the tale of two young foals that the writer regretted selling to an inadequate owner.

“The story is about two young horses and their various misadventures,” Bliss said.

It chronicles their challenges as the two foals finally find a home where they can grow up strong and well taken care of.

Call-Morin found Bliss by a fluke of names. She saw his name on an equine artist’s website, while researching visual artists. When she saw the name Bliss she had to investigate further as he own horse had been of the same name.

Upon investigating his work, she contacted him to illustrate he story.

In the beginning, Bliss was nervous of the prospect of painting dozens of illustrations for another artists project.

“I had never illustrated a book before,” he said.

Of course perhaps it helped that she was also a first-time book author.

“The more I talked to her the more I thought this was kind of an interesting prospect … she sent me her manuscript,” he said.

The manuscript was full of little sketched ideas she had for illustrations and he was hooked.

Because of the distance, the two have never met and due to modern technology they have only spoken on the phone once. Their communication has been entirely via email.

In the end he chose to take on the challenge.

“I did close to 40(illustrations) and there were I think 36 put into the book,” he said.

“It took me about a year to have everything done,” Bliss said.

“She actually sent me photos of the two foals, the story is based on.”

The fact that Bliss is a horseman and that most of his work canters around equine and wilderness images, was one of the main reason she chose him, Bliss said.

Art is usually a personal journey for Bliss, so corralling his tastes to fit with a co-creator was not always easy.

 “It’s really hard to do that many paintings that will suit somebody else’s interest,” he said.

Luckily their artistic bents matched well.

“She says she was amazed at how I captured those two horses visually and spiritually,” Bliss said.

While his work only took about a year, it was another two and a half finding a publisher.

It turned out to be a challenge to find a publisher who would match their needs and budget as well as be willing to represent a book created by an Canuck and a Yankee.

“Because it’s kind of a cross border thing it was hard to find publishers,” Bliss said.

The book finally made print in August and has since been a fair success for the first-time publishers. They printed 250 copies and have sold most of them.

“It was a real thrill to get the final product,” Bliss said.

Call-Morin has sold out of her half of the printed copies completely, while Bliss has sold over a hundred and hopes to sell the rest soon.

“We’re starting to get into the profit zone,” he said.

This success means they will be reprinting it in the new year and are considering an online version as well as a more cost effective option.

The book seems to be appealing to a fairly wide audience; from about age six up until the early teens as the book has not only the story to carry it through but also a selection of fact boxes about horses.

The book is still available at the On the Avenue Artisan’s Gallery at 911 Central Ave. for $20.

More of Bliss’s work can be seen online at

Organizations: Prince Albert

Geographic location: Plattsburg

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Recent comments

  • David Meldrum
    January 11, 2013 - 17:43

    The article was great. I have known the author of the book since she was a wee lass. I have also perused the illustrator's work at his online site. I am interested in purchasing a copy of the book and would be grateful to learn how I could puchase one. Thanks. David Meldrum Buda, TX