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Fourteen - Shades of Grey, Light and Colour


I started 2014 with an artistic challenge to myself - to just paint skies for a whole month. I have mentioned before that I set a challenge to improve an area of my work, and as an equine artist, I don’t just have to paint horses, but also landscape, skyscape, water etc for backgrounds and I paint people too. Not many other art genres require such a range of subjects. ‘Cobalt Greys’ is my favourite from the series, and, proving yet again that I am not the best judge of my own work, it is still sitting in my studio! The sketches for this painting were done in 2013 while I waited for the panel to jury my work for the Horse in Art exhibition, and the statue (I thought it ironic to paint a statue of a horse and rider!) is in one of the streets behind the Mall Galleries, where the judges were hard at work. This is another limited palette painting - only three pigments this time - and the dramatic composition is one of the things that I like about it.

In March, I exhibited with the Association of Animals Artists for the first time – at their Annual exhibition in Cheshire, then moved straight on to an invitational exhibition at the Handlesbanken in Wetherby. Also in March, my work was featured on the Art blog ArtsyShark. I had a couple of months back in studio before it was time for The Rutland Show, then Bramham, a week later. This time, I had works by sculptor Eoghan Bridge, also shown on my stand (and I admit to adding one of his pieces to my own art collection). I exhibited and demonstrated at The Art Show at The Great Yorkshire Show, again with Les Packham as my greatest supporter and cheerleader. Also in July, I launched my artist website, having struggled to learn to use a sitebuilder to add website design to my business skills.

I added a new show in 2014, by exhibiting at Cowdray Park, near Chichester, for The (Polo) Gold Cup. Emma came along for the (very long) road trip to help me, and we stayed at a road hotel nearby. Unfortunately, while there was a pool and I got to swim, there was also a pool in the bathroom if anyone took a shower, so between paddling – actually more like wading - to the loo and the rather noisy wedding reception going on, we didn’t get much sleep.

At Cowdray, I had an artist visit me on my stand who was a scout for a London Gallery, and who also helped to find writers for ‘The Artist’ magazine. We had a long conversation, and he recommended me to the Marylebone Gallery in London, and to the Editor of the publication. I did have some paintings of polo, having been invited to Toulston Polo Club, one of the oldest clubs in England, but which is very near to where I live, and 'Conquistador' is one of the paintings that resulted from my referencing there. Conquistador follows on from last year's 'Chuckle', in that it uses a limited palette (the background wash colours along with an added red for the shirt), and the it is another Golden Section composition. I made a two-part video of the work process for Conquistador, which you can see on my youtube channel. Part 1(sketches and drawing) and Part 2 (painting). Movie making is another skill that I lack, so I apologise for the lack of production values.

If that all seems a hectic Summer schedule, I also managed to fit in a trip to Scotland, a trip to France alongside two other artists where I worked on developing my oil painting with artist David Mcewen, and a show with the same two artists at Myerscough in Lancashire! At the end of June, I went to Hopetoun Horse Trials, near Edinburgh, to reference a horse for a commission. I tend to reference and see the horse myself rather than work from supplied photos as, to me, a painting should be much more than just a photographic likeness. These are my times when I am most happy, just walking around, stopping to sketch, watching horses warm up, taking some photographs, it is all very 'zen' and relaxing . . . until I have to sprint across a cross country course to try to catch my subject at more than one jump (I rehearse this with several horses before the one I am there to see, so can sometimes cover a lot of ground). Hopetoun was even more idyllic as it was beautiful clear weather; some of my friends were also there as their horse (remember Ty from last year’s paintings?) was competing and were even staying at the same hotel I had booked into; and my great trade stand buddies, Arthur Griffiths and Maggie Evans, were exhibiting with their jewelry stand, Griff.

Towards the end of Hopetoun Horse Trials, I managed to reference some friesian driving horses who had been taking part in a display. When I got back to my studio, I drew them as a subtractive artwork: 'Driven Black'. The subtractive technique is an interesting one, and is mostly used in Life Drawing. In the previous year I had also started wondering why I did not apply Life Drawing techniques to other subjects, and 'Glimmer', then Driven Black, were my first attempts. If you would like to see the technique, I filmed myself working, and the short video of me working on Driven Black is on my YouTube channel.

Artworks of Friesian horses (mainly referenced at the The Friesian Horse Association of Great Britain and Ireland annual grading) became part of my Black Horse Series, along with paintings of black horse Opposition Buzz (Dodi), Nicola Wilson's London Olympic medal ride (referenced at Wetherby racecourse, where he was paraded in October 2012; at Nicola's yard; and at Badminton in 2013). Again, I was looking at using colour to depict black animals, and Nicola's head girl, Lynn Swift, summed it up for me when she commented that in Summer Dodi's coat looked like 'oil on water'. That was too good a title and 'Oil On Water' is another of my favourites from this year. The painting has been a very successful one for me, and has featured in quite a few publications. Oil on Water is also a Limited Edition print.

The bad weather returned later in the year, and my gazebo tent was nearly blown away at Frickley Park Horse Trials (I should have taken my stronger marquee, but it is too heavy to transport and erect when I don't have staff at a show. I held an Open Studio in October, but it too was very quiet due to bad weather.

My Christmas card in 2014 was Chilly Christmas Morning’. I painted the tree separately, and my printer added it digitally to my painting ‘Morning Breath’(2013). The original oil painting was never exhibited, as it was acquired by a collector of my work straight from studio after said collector heard it described in a conversation with my husband. The painting is special to me, partly because the second horse (behind the grey), is my husband’s horse, Boris, but also as the scene is one I saw every morning at the yard. The horses waiting for their breakfasts - their breath visible in the cold air, and the low winter sun turning the plain concrete of the aisle into a kaleidoscope of colour and light.

I say again:

" The fall of light can turn the every-day and ordinary into the notable and extra-ordinary."

Ruth Buchanan


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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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