Totally 10 Years . . . Really?
First published Sunday 10th January 2021
I started the year painting as usual, and one of my favourite pieces ‘Touch’ was a commission from this year. I remember really understanding how to paint spots for the first time, and learned a lot about colour by painting this. Pose? I can’t remember if it was me or if it was the owner who asked that it become a card, but it is one that I am proud of (please see my previous post for my policy on publishing commissioned work).
Another commission from this year gives some insight into how my illustration background (I could be asked to draw or paint anything) helped me in my current career. Below is a detail of the commissioned painting of two terriers in a wicker bed. Painting the wicker took a long time, but was strangely cathartic, in a hand-cramping sort of way!
In May, David and I visited family in the USA, with trips to Lake Tahoe and San Francisco. While we were there, all flights were grounded due to the Ash cloud from the eruption of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull. David managed to get a single seat on a flight back to fulfil work obligations, but I was stranded in Nevada for nine further days. When I did finally manage to get a flight (by which time the American Airlines check-in staff knew me by name), high cross winds at Reno airport delayed me by a further day, so I eventually arrived home ten days late. I did not waste my time though. I was fortunate to be able to visit a dressage rider friend of the family to sketch and do some ground work with one of her youngsters. I also went to in to work with my (now) sister-in-law, who runs a ballet academy. There I sketched and referenced the dancers, drawing on my Life Drawing experience from University.
I sort of have a history with natural occurrences disrupting things. In fact, my decision to give up my Graphics & Illustration business and become an artist was cemented in 1994, when I was in Los Angeles. I was due to fly home on the 14th January, but the 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit at 4.31am that morning. I did not have an earthquake epiphany, I had been thinking about my career the whole time I was staying in Santa Monica with friends, one a musician, and the other an artist. I had spent a month with them in ‘arty pursuits’ and being introduced to proper Mexican food. The industry I worked in was moving more and more to computers and while I was used to working long hours, I found I did not like that to be increasingly in front of a screen. The earthquake was the final catalyst though, and on my return to Yorkshire, I wound up my business, started riding again, and took on a teaching role at a Further Education College to give myself time to make a business plan. I am still following that plan all these years later.
It was a scramble with the time I had lost due to the ash-cloud delay, but Emma and I exhibited at Chatsworth in May, Bramham in June, then at the brand new Burgham event in July. Burgham was scheduled to be a Horse Trials with additional BSJA Show Jumping classes, but in that first year, last minute problems with the Cross-Country course meant it was rescheduled as purely show jumping.
At Burghley, I exhibited ‘On The Beach’, referenced at Studland Beach on a great day out with the Walkinshaws. Grand labrador, Pickle (left in the painting) played with his best pal (my JRT, Riley), and their other lab, Widget chased a stick as if his life depended on it. When the labs collapsed in chairs at home, I drew that too as part of the story (then re-drew them on the painting’s mount as a ‘remarque’). Mr & Mrs Walkinshaw kindly provided me with a testimonial, and agreed to cards being made of the painting – including the remarques of course!
"We were so delighted with Ruth's painting
of our horse Magic (Walk On Star) that we have also commissioned a painting of our two dogs”
Mr & Mrs N Walkinshaw
On The Beach is a favourite, not just because of the wonderful memories it evokes, but because it was another one where I had to learn, this time my first attempt at sea waves (and wet dogs!). I have included a picture of my stand at Burghley showing The painting hanging on the ‘hound wall’. It was marked as a commission and not for sale, but we had quite a few offers for it. Also on the ‘hound wall’ are ‘Peer’ and ‘Poker Face’ (sometimes referred to by Emma as ‘the noses’ paintings. We had to keep cleaning the glass on these, as people would touch them because they thought that the noses looked wet!
In November, I was invited to exhibit at The Living North Christmas Fair at the Great Yorkshire Showground Flower and Craft Halls, where there was a dedicated area for arts and crafts (fortunately, next to the champagne bar). This was my first show that was not equestrian or country, and we were back in the now revamped halls where we had exhibited with Contour in my first years of business. We did pretty well with sales, but incredibly well with commissions, and I was now booked up well into 2012. Toward the end of each day, the owner of the champagne bar would come over with a tray bearing mulled wine for Emma, and a variety of champagnes for me to taste while we chatted over the day. Around lunchtime on the last day, it started to snow heavily. By the time we had broken down the stand and loaded everything into our cars there was a thick blanket, and it was still coming down in fat, fluffy flakes. Emma had left earlier, but my partner and I, David, had to queue to get out of the show ground . . . for over two hours. The problem was the hill towards the Kestrel pub on the A661 Wetherby Road.
While some cars were fine (including ours, though the weight of being loaded with pictures etc may have helped with that). Other cars were slipping sideways if they could make it up the hill at all, or getting stuck and then have to be pushed onto the snow-covered grass verge. We eventually arrived home, taking nearly three hours to drive less than eleven miles.
Continuing the canine theme of this year, my Christmas card was a painting of Riley, ‘Whatever’. This was his look in the studio when I finally took a break from painting. He would sit up ‘ready for whatever’, but hoping for playtime (I didn’t dare mention the word ‘walk’, or even spell it out). Riley’s attitude reminded me of the painting ‘No More Whipping’ and relates to that painting in style.