LOLO – M. Scott Miller wasn't used to canvases this large.

He'd spent three hours at it and still had more work to go.

"It's a big space to cover," he said.

Thankfully, Lady Lonza, a gaited horse with an apricot champagne coat, was cooperating Tuesday afternoon, as Miller painted her with neon paisley designs.

Miller, well known around town for his scenes of Missoula city lights after dark, said the design was inspired by Andy Warhol's renderings of pigs with flowers.

Nearby on Dunrovin Guest Ranch, picnickers from an entrepreneurial dinner nearby dropped in and help paint other horses as part of Dunrovin's unofficial first Equine Art Extravaganza.

Originally, Dunrovin owner SuzAnne Miller planned the event as part of the first Montana Festival of the Horse, which was canceled earlier this month due to financial setbacks.

Miller pressed ahead with her event. She envisions a full-fledged contest next year with professional artists and amateurs, with the proceeds going toward nonprofits. She's recruiting a board and working with local galleries.

"We're trying to have get an example of how a horse can be painted so people can begin to see a horse as an object of art and a canvas for decorating," she said.

"Horses are important to nearly all the major civilizations of the world and they celebrate them by decorating them," she said.

Miller has been trying to broaden the definition of a guest ranch with inclusive ideas and events to get people to enjoy the outdoors. The ranch is equipped with osprey nests and web cameras, which have drawn up to 800,000 unique visitors at a time. With a horse-painting contest held on site, voters from an international audience could cast their votes.

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After the horses were completed Tuesday, photographer Pam Voth would shoot portraits. At future events, artists could incorporate their own photography and back-drops into the pieces.

"In many ways, the photograph is the only enduring piece of art that comes out of it," Miller said. "This is very ephemeral art."

That's because a horse painting is naturally temporary: M. Scott Miller was using tempura, which could wash off easily. It's all water-soluble paint that's safe for the animals.

"Really anything you can put on a person you can put on a horse," SuZanne Miller said.

On the other side of Lonza, who was stoically feeding from a bag of carrots, Miller's friend Jo Lopez was working on Lonza's rear right leg.

What advice would Miller give to others attempting to paint a horse?

"Be creative," he said. "And don't be afraid of a moving canvas."

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