Her permanently smudged fingers tell the stories of hundreds of lives.

Standing in front of an easel, pastels in hand, the outside world melts away for figurative and equine artist Sharon Matisoff.

“I paint all day long. It’s like breathing for me,” said the 66-year-old retiree.

Originally from southern California, Matisoff and her husband of 35 years, Marty, relocated to Louisville about 10 years ago and migrated to the capital city a little more than a year ago.

Since age 5, art has been a staple in Matisoff’s life, a trait she picked up from her mother, who also used pastels.

“She taught me the very basics to get a feel for it — turns out I had a knack for it,” Matisoff said, adding she is fascinated with painting people. “I once had a teacher tell me, ‘If you can paint a portrait, you can paint anything.’”

Although Matisoff minored in art through high school, she earned her degree from Cal State Northridge in psychology. But she couldn’t shake the “art bug” and supplemented her education by taking art classes at night — and it changed her life.

“I can be sick and when I stand in front of my easel, I instantly feel better,” she added.

She’s done many portrait commissions for numerous clients, but one particular man’s request to paint a picture of his wife as a scantily clad 18-year-old in a squatting position on the ground was a bit much.

“That made me the most uncomfortable,” she chuckled.

Since moving to the Bluegrass state, Matisoff, who still paints with oil and creates pastels portraits, has found a new love — horses.

“They are so beautiful,” she added. “I figured I live in Kentucky, I gotta get with the program.”

Although she was wary at first, or “willingly dragged” as she puts it, Matisoff was soon hooked on equine paintings. Dr. Marion Simon, who works with Marty at Kentucky State University, gave Matisoff the proper nudge to get her in horses.

“I knew nothing about (horse) anatomy, disposition or the difference between Western and equestrian,” the artist said. “(Simon) took me in and introduced me to the horses. She’s been very supportive.”

Matisoff also credits Xochitl Barnes, an instructor at the American Academy of Equine Art, with helping her make the successful transition from people to horses.

To look at her equine paintings, one would never know Matisoff has only been dabbling in horses for two years.

“It’s difficult for newcomers to break in,” she said, of trying to get her name and work out there.

But she is slowly working her way into the scene.

She recently had seven paintings hanging in the Bluegrass Stampede art show at Brown Hotel in Louisville — one of which continues to be on display in the Shop at the Brown gift shop.

Matisoff has also donated a painting to Old Friends Farm, a thoroughbred retirement facility, for its upcoming spring auction.

Her work has also been accepted into New Jersey Equine Artists’ Association’s 8th biennial National Juried Exhibit, which opens May 20 and runs until June 17.

“Painting people helped with learning the proportions of horses,” Matisoff added.

For her accomplishments, she was granted Signature membership into the exclusive Chicago Pastel Painters, after winning the Multimedia Artboard award in its 2017 6th biennial National Juried Exhibition.

The Matisoffs live in western Franklin County with their two dogs.

For more information on her artwork, check out her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008304167037 or by phone at 502-243-7609.