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Cows Are Our New Favorite Abstract Art Subject

Sam Raines paints colorful, moo-ving portraits of the dairy cattle near his Vermont studio.
All images courtesy the artist.

Vermont is renowned for its cheese, but for artist Sam Raines it's mostly about the cows. Raines paints abstract animal portraits, mostly of the iconic Holstein dairy cattle that graze the pastureland near his Vermont studio. From their black and white hides emerge a myriad of textures and colors.

Raines was surrounded by art from a young age, spending long hours staring at paintings by Spanish surrealists and French impressionists, finding inspiration in Claude Monet's series on the Rouen Cathedral, which the French artist depicted during different times of day and year. Like Monet, Raines often paints the same subject in different settings and seasons. But, rather than the Rouen Cathedral, the Vermont painter portrays cows like Fiona, Elsie, and Sadie, whose images manifest in the colors of the countryside, an ordered mess of blues, greens, reds, and yellows.


Sam Raines depicts cows in the pastures around his Vermont studio.

"I keep as little of the basic structure and pattern of the cow as necessary," he tells Creators. "Sometimes a push and pull of what is revealed as a cow to the viewer happens. I guess it depends on how much people are tuned into trying to see something."

Though he's never lived or worked on a farm himself, Raines says he's always been drawn to animals in the countryside around him. He works simply, from memory, using acrylic paint, knives, and brushes to balance the colors and give the cows a weight that makes them rise off the canvas.

Raines uses acrylic paints and adds texture with a balance of knives and brushes.

"I have spent a lot of time over-thinking art, trying to get at something," he says. "The large colorful cows bring in some of those elements but are primarily meant to be beautiful and fun, not too complicated. I spend plenty of time trying to be serious and overly complicated with some of my other work."

Many of Raines' painting depict the same cow in a different setting.

From a young age, Raines was inspired by surrealist and impressionist painters.

See more of Sam Raines' work on his Etsy page.


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