A native of St. Simons Island, Ga., Conni Purciarele remembers drawing whenever possible as a child.
“The teachers would get frustrated with me because I would sketch during class,” she said.
After graduation, she enrolled at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, where the buildings were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
“I was crazy about his architecture and attended Florida Southern College for two years. Because it did not have an extensive art department, I transferred to the University of Georgia and graduated with a bachelor of fine arts. I studied commercial art, then married right out of college, started a family, got a job, got a horse, then art took a back seat. Once in a blue moon I might paint a horse portrait for a friend,” she said.
For 30 years, she worked as a photographer, typesetter and graphic designer. “The computer revolutionized graphic design,” she said.
Because of the development of St. Simons Island, Purciarele found it increasingly difficult to find riding trails. A search for the right place to live with her family and horses drew them to this area in 2000, first searching Aiken because of Hitchcock Woods, then settling in Trenton on acreage they named The WhistleTop Farm.
“The first time I rode my horse through Hitchcock Woods I thought I had died and gone to heaven,” she said.
When Purciarele was 51 years old, she started eventing with her horse, competing in the three phases: dressage, cross-country and stadium jumping.
“The horse had to be correct, bold, confident and talented,” she said.
Her horse was 5 years old when she started eventing with him, and he lived to be 24.
“He was a wonderful horse, great with kids, and his name was Kahlua,” she added.
Currently, Purciarele competes in hunter paces, working a prescribed route and the run is timed. Riding lessons are available at The WhistleTop Farm.
After she retired, she felt she wanted to return to painting and started classes with Sharon Taylor-Padgett in Aiken studying acrylics. Taylor-Padgett helped her with her brushes and color and has become her mentor. She has studied with Gretchen Hash-Haffner plus Judy Adamick and is also a member of the Aiken Artist Guild.
Purciarele participated in the Gaston Livery Stable’s fundraiser in 2012, painting a cat sculpture. There were nine of her sponsor’s horses in the painting.
Her favorite subjects to paint are horses, dogs, cats, old homesteads and barns, and exotic animals.
She is a repeat winner at the annual North Augusta Artists Guild’s Fall into Art Show at the Arts and Heritage Center of North Augusta, winning honorable mention for her acrylic painting Daisy in 2012 and honorable mention for her acrylic painting Hounds in this year’s show. She also enjoys baking. Her specialties are strawberry, hummingbird and caramel cakes that can be purchased directly from Purciarele.
Reach Purciarele at (803) 275-4908 or