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Four Years In - 2004

First published Monday 4th January 2021


The year started with me working away in our (rather cold) conservatory, before taking a trip to (a much warmer) Dubai in March to stay with my ex-pat brother. While there, I was able to attend the Dubai International Arabian Horse Show to experience, sketch and reference some of the finest Arabian horses in the world. ‘Horse and Boy’ and ‘Glimmer’ sketches (right) show a double page spread from my A4 sketchbook, drawn at the time. Again, I credit my gestural Life Drawing for the speed needed to capture these moments in time, though the more detailed shading in the upper right image was added later. That sketch later became a subtractive charcoal drawing: 'Glimmer'.

I also attended the Dubai World Cup horse racing festival, a floodlit event at Nad Al Sheba, and returned a few days later to visit the Horse Racing museum there.

In January, Emma had been presented with my painting of her Jack Russell Terrier, Sparky, commissioned by her mum and a group of friends as a birthday surprise, and which I had referenced at Bramham the year before.

I can honestly say it is the only time I have ever seen Emma speechless!

In May, Sparky, had puppies, and one of the pups, named Riley by my then partner (now husband), decided that he was to come home with us. We had been chosen and there was no looking back – at least we now had a garden for him to play in! Favourities from this year include a set of Sketches of Riley as a pup on his beanbag for the memories they evoke and because I simply did them for fun! Some of these sketches, I later coloured and captioned with anthropomorphic family Christmas memories, and this became my Christmas card in 2004 - a card that still sells well now.

Over the Summer, Emma and I loaded my trailer with the up the ex-hire marquee that I had bought. With a car full of pictures (and Sparky and Riley wedged onto Emma’s knee in the passenger seat) we drove to exhibit at shows and events nearly every weekend whatever the weather. At Skipton, I learned not to judge a book by its cover when a farmer with a 'holey' jumper and baling twine holding up his (really rather ragged) trousers, first lectured me on what I was doing wrong in my artwork and the weak areas of my painting, then returned at the end of the day and produced a roll of bank notes secured with an elastic band to buy four original paintings. At Hambleton I learned that, despite the considerable effort of building our marquee at each show, I was right in investing in a solid structure as we watched every other tent get levelled by the wind and rain. Emma and I (well mainly Emma) devised a stronger hanging system from the marquee frame using chains and butchers ‘S’ hooks. Emma patiently coached and cajoled me to talk to people about my work - she is fond of recalling that I turned red and ran away if anyone spoke to me, and that it took 10 years for her to ‘train’ me to stay put and have a conversation. Riley learned patience and manners from his mum, Sparky, while we worked. And hard work it was! Painting during the week (Emma also worked full-time), setting up, exhibiting, then breaking it all down again most weekends. It was exhausting, and I found the process stressful, but we both have truly fond memories of that time. We did have some fun ‘day-out’ trips to reconnoitre other larger shows as well.

My My favourite full painted piece from 2004 is ‘Distant’, which I had referenced the previous year. The watercolour painting shows Pippa Funnell and Cornerman warming up before the dressage phase, with Burghley house in the background.

I have chosen this piece as it is an early marker of me being drawn to the background story of competition. The composition; the rider ‘head-in the-clouds’ above what is around her and totally focussed on the horse; the horse’s tail echoing the movement of the flags; the resistance in the painting of being drawn to too much detail. I painted these without being aware, yet they clearly show the path my work would take.


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The contents of this article or blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article or blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article or blog. Ruth Buchanan disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article or blog.

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