At the Races

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At the Races

I find horses and ponies fascinating to observe and draw, and some of my charcoals and paintings have included them in a rural setting. Recently I've been broadening my equestrian work to include horses in dressage and racing and I'm happy to be working with Chester Racecourse to develop this further.

Chester Racecourse, otherwise known as the Roodee, is Britian's oldest racecourse dating back to 1539.   I visited on a sunny day last September. It's only a stroll down Watergate Street from our gallery against Chester's famous walls.  As a painter, I was captivated by the sight of the magnificent thoroughbreds and the colours of both the racegoers outfits and the jockeys' silks. When I returned to the studio, I worked on getting down on paper the speed of the horses galloping past. On the day I took some photos for reference but wanted to use loose brush marks and colour in my painting to express the movement.

I also visited Bangor on Dee racecourse. A very different venue to Chester, set in the Welsh countryside.  It's a jump racing course with a natural amphitheatre rather than a grandstand.  In the distance, the hills of Ruabon were lit by the sunlight with grey December skies above.  I first took some photographs to use for reference as the scene was very fast moving with horses being moved from paddock to course and I wanted to capture the horses galloping.  I also sketched horses being led around the paddock, the drizzly weather added to the artwork and I found I was drawing on damp paper which gave a loose effect. 

Eager to discover more about the horse in art,  I took a trip with Jon to the newly opened National Horseracing Museum at Newmarket. It tells the story of horseracing and the development of the thoroughbred horse.  The neighbouring Palace House, once home to Charles II, houses the Fred Packard Museum and Galleries for British Sporting Art. I was particularly drawn to the works by Sir Alfred Munnings.. I was impressed by how he gave the feeling of movement with a few well-chosen brush strokes. I loved seeing the dramatic “Fighting Stallions” by Stubbs, and to view a first edition of “The Anatomy of the Horse".  I’ve been studying his exquisite drawings and it's fascinating how he achieved them by dissection. 

Also at the Museum we were shown a demonstration by the Retraining of Racehorses charity. The Rothschild Yard at the museum stables a number of racehorses being retrained for second careers. Many make excellent dressage, polo or riding horses, and we were very impressed by the work of the charity. There was too much to see in one day!

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Swept Frames in Farrow & Ball Colours

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Swept Frames in Farrow & Ball Colours

For some time we've been thinking about offering frames in the Farrow & Ball colour range but we wanted to make sure the finish was up to the right standard - without the brush marks and gaps that can appear on hand painted frames.

So we were delighted to discover that the supplier of our handmade swept frames also makes them in the full range of Farrow & Ball colours. The finishes are professionally applied in a spray booth and the quality is clear on the samples we have on display.

The photo on this post is a 1.75" swept frame painted in Hardwick White, which matches perfectly with the colours in the print of "Reflections, Criccieth". This frame is a traditional swept design, but they are also available in several contemporary designs.

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Betws-y-coed Trail Challenge

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Betws-y-coed Trail Challenge

Following another successful event last November, we are delighted to be supporting the fifth Betws-y-coed Trail Challenge on Saturday 11th November this year.

The Trail Challenge is run in support of Help for Heroes, a charity we have been supporting for nine years, and having seen their work up close at their recovery centres we can tell you both how vital that work is, and how well the donations are spent.

The race includes four categories - 10k Trail, 5k Trail, 10k Canicross, and 5k Canicross. We particularly love the Canicrossers as they add a very friendly and fun dimension to the day. If you've never heard the term before, Canicross is cross-country or trail running with a dog. Or two. Last year's Betws-y-coed Trail Challenge was thought to be the biggest Canicross event in the UK with circa 100 entries, and the startline was a sight - and sound - to behold.

All four categories start behind St Mary's Church and follow the (steep) path up towards Llyn Elsi. The 10kers do a lap around the lake whilst the 5kers turn off part way up the hill and rejoin the 10k course as it descends to the finish at the Waterloo Hotel.

We've been involved with Betws-y-coed Trail Challenge since it first started in 2013, and we've enjoyed every one. It's a really friendly event and a great day out.

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