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!