Sunday, 2 July 2017

Road Trip UK 14 - 22 July!

I'm using a photo of a recent piece, the incredibly handsome Bruno, as the hook for my travelling blog. I was so privileged to be asked to portray this stunning chap! He was just the perfect subject, smiling for the camera, in all his different hats, and at every angle we wanted. We were totally spoilt for choice when we had to choose what photo to work from!

Trip to date, I'll be near London around the 14th & 15th July, and in Scotland during the following week, though not exactly sure where and when, just yet!

Plans are still fluid so message me on FB, or email me on to organise me taking photos.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Cheats Never Prosper.... or do they?

This is a bit of a cautionary tale for artists in the current climate of social media as an advertising tool.

Anyone that knows me will be aware that I have been politically involved in equine welfare for a long time, hence part of what I look at on social media involves scanning the myriad of equine pages scattered across Facebook. Particularly active pages include an assortment of 'Dodgy Dealers' groups, with posts invariably culminating in groundhog day bunfights between buyers and sellers.

A couple of weeks ago there was different topic, a poster asking about an artist doing pencil sketches, and had anyone had problems with her. She was charging £40 a drawing, and was either not sending the work, or when she did send it, it was dreadful, and nothing like the subject. There is clearly a degree of buyer beware if a client thinks they'll get a decent portrayal for such a small sum, but that's not the point to this. It's hardly rocket science to figure that all those commissioning paid upfront!
I followed the entire thread, and it transpired that the 'artist' was not in fact the girl whose FB page was advertising, but her partner. As more people joined in the thread showing the frankly awful work they'd received, one of them showed a sample of work she'd been sent as an example of what she could expect back for her money. It was a good enough drawing, and looked a real bargain for around the £40 mark. Sadly for this particular purchaser, the 'artist' had just stolen a photograph from another artist online, and pretended it was his own work.

Now, that kind of shook me. I'm aware there are people who will share images about, with the danger of them being downloaded. I'm one of them. I know that if I found my work being reproduced then the law of copyright would allow me to sue. My work doesn't photograph well, and I don't think that any downloaded from lowish resolutions would make anyone any money, but I'm probably very naive about that. However, I digress.

What would really infuriate me would be someone using one of my pieces as an example of their work, and profiteering from that. So from now on, everything I do will have this watermark online. I've created one in a circle as below to try and not block the flow of the artwork.
The only different watermarks will be the limited edition prints advertised, such as Sprinter Sacre, as they are done in a design shop.

I feel quite disillusioned by the dishonesty of people forcing me to have to take such precautions, but it seems that's the way of things nowadays.

I always sign my work at the base of the neck, and date with the year, as in the pics above. As you can see, my signature could quite easily be cropped out, so the watermark will now hopefully prevent anyone being able to pretend my work is their own. If indeed, they would want to!
Many artists sign at the bottom of the page, so their signature could be made disappear too.

For anyone looking at work with a view to commission, please make sure the entire work is visible, to prevent anyone using other artists work as examples for you.

Sorry it's a bit of a dull blog, but hopefully it might help stop the scammers, who have obviously already fleeced a few quid from unsuspecting, now unhappy, clients.

I hope you enjoyed looking at the gorgeous Kelpie and Robbie too!

Monday, 8 May 2017

Memory Lane

I seem to be playing catch up all the time, so I've put these two lovely horses in the same blog as they were both commissioned by the same client. You'll see I've also added watermarks. I'll do a blog about the reason why soon. It's such a shame it's necessary.

Skase Rase was PP (private purchase) New Zealand bred horse who ran and won in the top rated races in HK, he won over two million HKD.

Sadly, I didn't get to meet Skase Race in the flesh, as he was in Hong Kong and old age took him before I had the chance to return. After a great deal of scouring memory cards, deliberation, mind-changing and drop-boxing, we finally found/agreed a photo that I could work from, and the portrait on here is the result. I know how adored he was, and I hope I've managed to capture the beautiful soul that shone from his eyes.

Looking at the photos took me back in time. Skase Race was kept at one of the amazing facilities for horses leaving racing in Hong Kong, Beas River, where the XC phase of the 2008 Olympics was held. I have great memories of being there a few years before that, and riding some of the slightly excitable horses that were in the process of being rehabilitated to leisure horses. The indoor school had mirrors down the entire long side, ages before they were commonplace in the UK. It was the first time I'd watched myself being bronced with from one end of an arena to the other!

Eagle Regiment was also a PP, but this time from Australia. He had a stellar career on the track, winning over nine million HKD.

I'm so pleased I did get to meet him when he was sent back to the UK for retirement. I travelled to photograph him, and he had a look about him that told you he knew he was a racehorse, he had that way about him that special horses have, the ones that know they've been good.
He was mildly woolly when I photographed him as his body was still adjusting to the change in hemisphere, however his quality still shone through his coat, and his intelligence was so clear in his eyes.

My client seems to have an eye for a good horse, so I'm looking forward to my next commission!

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Time Warp

This is a multi-portrait blog, as these three are all owned by the same client, who scarily, I first worked with over 20 years ago, on one of several Hong Kong trips. It seemed like a time warp!

Nicole is now competing internationally under the Hong Kong flag, so I was delighted to be asked to do portraits of her two very smart competition horses, Scobie and Arthur, at Pau, as well as the very much larger than life Pixie!
Of course it rained on the day that we elected to photograph, and it was also the swansong for my camera, which gave up the ghost immediately after I'd finished! Thankfully, despite circumstances conspiring against me, we managed to get the photos I needed.
Annoyingly, it also meant I didn't have my camera to take good photos of the completed work, so apologies for the quality!

First up was Scobie, whose party name is 'The Navigator'.

 He is such a lovely, kind horse, and has been the most solid and consistent competitor for many years,  ensuring his place in history, by partnering Nicole to a Bronze medal in the 17th Asian Games in 2014. The link below will tell you all about that! Me, I just adored him for being so good to photograph!

Arthur, whose party name is Vihara du Causse, was a little more challenging; he was a tad bemused at being pulled out to stand in the rain, but was very good once he realised all he needed to do was smile! He is extremely handsome, with the most wonderful, expressive eye, but that is really an irrelevance, as he is such an exciting horse to look to the future with. He had a great placing at Le Lion 2016 under Kevin McNab.

The last, but not least, Pixie. Pixie was very vocal during the shoot, convinced the camera was a major threat, that needed scaring off, along with me, behind it! Because she's such a busy little person, I was relieved that her attention would switch like lightning to something else. giving me the opportunity to catch her in mouth closed, silent mode, before she gave her opinion again! The photos of this is from my phone, so really poor, and doesn't show her amazing colouring properly!

Here's hoping all three of them have a good season eventing!

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Myriad Punchinello, aka Punk.

 When Sarah asked me to do a portrait of her very wonderful Punk, I wasn't expecting to see such amazing markings, nor had I anticipated quite how difficult they'd be to get right! I'm always delighted to to do horses that have such individual markings, as the finished piece is (if I get it right!) unmistakably 'them'. The downside is that halfway through, I become cross-eyed at making sure every spot and dot and change of colour is in the right place. (The photo of the piece isn't good, as I still hadn't got my camera, so it's a phone photo)
Punk (or Myriad Punchinello, to give him his full title) has an interesting past. He's out of a TB mare, by the gypsy Appaloosa Stallion, Skywalker. Bred at a small private stud - the Myriad Stud, he was sold as a foal to a young girl as a pet. She kept him as a colt and he became too much to handle once fully grown - there are rumours he may have some illicit offspring! 😳😳😳 
He was luckily bought by Jane Wilson, gelded, and sent away to be professionally broken. He impressed the various trainers who progressed his training, in both SJ and dressage, and during his time with Jane was National Appaloosa Champion 3 times running. 
Sarah then bought Punk as a rising 9 yr old who had done no real eventing. Her daughter Vanessa was then 14 and took him from Pre Novice (back in the day when eventing started at that level)) through to Weston Park JRN champs - the last long format 3-day - where he was double clear and team 3rd.
Punk unfortunately picked up an injury the next season and was off for 18 months. Then Suz, the next daughter in line, evented him, qualifying both for Weston and PC open champs. She took Punk to PC champs and came 3rd and the pair won the Urky Newton scholarship for the best x-c round.
The next bit is a direct quote from Sarah, because it puts the horse into words better than I can! 
"I also did bits of competing on him over the years. Such an amazingly talented horse who was so light in the mouth and 'off the leg' it was such fun to ride him. In more professional hands he would have gone to the to the top (as Ian Stark, David Gatherer and others who sat on him would testify) but I like to think he had a wonderful happy life with us from 8 yrs to 24 years. 
Such a character too - not so much into cuddles but always friendly and cheerful, and up for anything! Latterly he was a great companion horse, but also helped me to get fit to ride out 5 hrs a day in Botswana - he was so happy to be hacked out again for a few months while I got my muscles into shape!! Sorry this is so long - but a horse of a lifetime he really was - and we all miss him so much."
As ever, I feel very privileged to be given the responsibility for portraying a horse of a lifetime, and I'm thankful I met him as he heartbreakingly went to the pastures in the sky last year.  
Wouldn't it be lovely if every horse was so cherished?

Monday, 19 December 2016

Racehorse to Riding horse - Celtic Sage aka Harry

 I was very chuffed to be asked to do a portrait of the lovely Harry, the horse that started Hannah’s eventing career. 

Harry ran as Celtic Sage for about three seasons, winning a PTP at Southwell (that’s how long ago!). He retired from racing in 1995, and throughout his life has generally been an all-round good egg. His post-race, pre-Hannah tasks included foal-nanny surrogacy and and acting as lead horse for youngsters. He was Hannah’s first horse and they were both 12 years old when he went to her! 

Teenager’s horses in the right homes have the best life, and he did side saddle, riding club camps, dressage and eventing. He jumped like a stag (Celtic Cone as his sire probably having a say in that) and competed up to open PC eventing. 
When he retired from competition, he then had a couple of loan homes; leading kids and ponies out hunting, with his last job as a happy hacker. Harry retired properly when he was 25/26. You’ll (hopefully) see from the portrait what great shape he’s in for a 29 year old horse. Apparently there will be a big party in January for his 30th! 

His longevity is testament to not only Hannah’s watching after him all these years, but to the TB horse as a breed. Correctly turned around after racing, they make fantastic horses. I managed to break my camera just before I finished this portrait, so I don’t unfortunately have a decent photo of it. This fairly poor one at the top from my phone will have to suffice, along with the one Hannah sent me when it arrived. 

Possibly the most amusing response from a client ever is detailed below! 

Me: Can't wait for you to see it! 
Hannah: So excited .... Just need to move house as I know EXACTLY where it's going! 
Me: I do love a client that moves house to hang a picture ! 😂😂 

Happy Birthday for January, Harry!

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

When Worlds Collide

I feel privileged to have been asked to immortalise this beautiful horse, this incredible athlete who, in the company of so many others, had been spectacularly thrown from grace, discarded into the downward spiral suffered by horses in the UAE once their spirit and bodies are broken.

Meceva is now in the lap of luxury thanks to Suzanne fighting tooth and nail to remove him from Dubai. His registered FEI name is GORAN. He was bred in New Zealand then sold by Chris King, of Canterbury, as a 10yo in 2010 to Sheikh Mohammed, the founder of Godolphin. He was 'trained' in the AL AASFA complex - follow the link for comment by Greg Wood of the Guardian.

Suzanne had already managed to acquire another reject from Al Aasfa, Yogi. His registered FEI name was MAGIC GLENN SOVEREIGN, although he arrived without a passport. He was considered ‘too wild’ to be of any use and was for sale for about £1,000. He was bought from a horrible stable yard where a lot of the Sheik Mohammed horses end up. Because of the poor stable management, and the abusive riding, notwithstanding the lack of aircon in those extremes of heat, she made the decision to send Yogi back to the UK as soon as possible, fearing for his well-being given his recent medial splint bone fractures (both back legs) and previous pelvic fracture. Before shipping him out, she moved him to another more suitable yard, run by an Australian woman.

Knowing she was sending Yogi to safety, Suzanne thought to rescue another endurance horse and if possible one she could ride. She asked at the yard, and was told another nine had arrived the night before. There she found Goran - a big, grey horse, very thin, with a sunken chest and a drooping neck with what seemed an enormous head. Closer inspection revealed a network of whip marks across his quarters, and blistering on a leg. Suzanne fell for him immediately, as despite all the abuse he’d suffered, he was still sweet and gentle.

When he arrived back in the UK.

As happens across the world with big racing/equestrian outfits, passports often disappear, and the big owners don’t want abuses traced back to them (and how well do I know about that at the moment). He had no value, he was a difficult ride, and eventually the then 'owner' gifted him to Suzanne. However, as he'd originally been in Sheik Mohammed's ownership, it took Suzanne a long time and a great deal of difficulty to get the letter of ownership that would allow her to move him back to the UK when she left. By sheer luck, she also managed to acquire his passport when the Australian woman was sacked, and the new manager took over. This was still not enough, and the UAE NF tried to prevent Suzanne moving him out of Dubai (no wonder). After discussions at FEI and EU level, a lot of help from the international transporters and a fortuitous timescale of a UAE official going on holiday, Suzanne finally managed to get him out of the hellhole.

Here he is, in his new UK home.

So, to bring this story up to date, I went to photograph Goran in August.

The scars across his quarters are still visible, the mental scars manifest in his behaviour and reactions, but for all that, he is still a very beautiful horse. He fills the eye with quality and class, he has exceptional movement, and such presence and generosity of spirit.

I'm no stranger to being asked to portray top-level horses, or sticking my head above the parapet for equine welfare wherever I can. It's not often both worlds collide, however. 
Recently, much of my welfare focus has been highlighting the sickening abuse suffered by Endurance horses in the Middle East. I’ll spare readers the stomach churning details here, but for those interested, the more palatable reports are documented on the WRITING WRONGS page.

Goran could have done anything - dressage, eventing, showing. Instead, he was just more cannon fodder for Sheik Mohammed, run into the ground. I know that those who read this blog don’t necessarily read the welfare stuff, but sharing this might help highlight what really happens to horses in Dubai. 

Mostly, I’d like it to persuade those with even a smidgeon of conscience not to sell any more horses to the UAE.

Friday, 16 September 2016


Many moons ago I did a portrait for Sue, of her fabulous horse of a lifetime, Count Rostov. She had a significant birthday coming up, so contacted me to do another portrait, this time of her second horse of a lifetime, the wonderful Tom.

I feel privileged to have been asked to portray him, although it was looking like a bit of a nightmare at one point as we couldn't track down the 'tog who'd taken the photo I wanted to work from! I love how he has that casual leg cross in front, that to me always signifies a natural, confident jumper. Pleas on Facebook, and lots of helpful people in the Scottish eventing community eventually tracked down Thane Rudi Brooker, who was extremely generous in allowing me to work from his photograph. So a huge thanks to him!

Tom has a brilliant life story with Sue, and it's worth a share.

Sue was finding her hips were giving her too much pain to ride, and as she had to have competition in her life she took up driving. The first driving horse was apparently talented but a tad scary, so she decided to a find nicer pony to play with! 

After finding an ad for a coloured cob from gypsy stock on A1 north of Luton, she flew down to see the pony. He turned out not to be suitable, but on nosing around, she found a just gelded, 4yo Tom in a back stable. His sire was a trotter stallion with mane to his knees! She really liked Tom, but he wasn't for sale. Clearly there was some serious persuading going on, as she managed to try him for 10 mins (with a plane to catch) and convinced the owner to sell him to her. 
This was however, early in 2001 and there was a race against time to get him up the road before the country shut down due to foot and mouth. He was the last load Gillies delivered before the transport ban and had to be dropped at the road end due to all the precautions. 

Tom proved to be the perfect gent to drive, they started competing and got to doing FEI singles and was long listed for the GB team for the World Championships. 

He was so special, that when Sue emigrated to Australia, she took Tom with her and had the thrill of her first Oz driving event only being at the Sydney Olympics XC site! Then, when she came home again to Scotland (oh, how I understand that desire!), he came back with her.

After her first hip replacement, she found driving a 'faff' so thought she'd try riding again and was delighted to have no pain. So having no event horse, thought to give Tom a try under saddle. He took to it like a duck to water, went BE, and other than once was never lower than 4th, always going clear XC, and only twice clipping rails show jumping over 2/3 yrs. He qualified for the Grassroots class at Badminton but Sue was over qualified having competed at 4*. After a second hip operation, Tom went on loan to a chum to hack/pc. 

The years of driving had taken their toll a bit, so they concentrated on SJ instead. In 3 years he'd won most of his classes (twice has won 9 on the bounce), been in the top 3 in 85% of his starts, is now out of Foxhunter classes on winnings, and is nearly Grade B! He's now just jumping 90/100 opens as age is catching up with him, but what a fabulous little horse!  

In Sue's words - "He outdoes his physical ability with his huge heart and generous spirit. He is awesome. Like having your childhood perfect pony back (he is 14.2), safe as houses but a winning machine, perfect for an ageing ex-event rider to live the dream."

I think he's just as lucky as Sue, to have found such a brilliant home.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Road Trip UK/Scotland

Woohoo! Road Trip!!

I'll be over in the UK to take photos the last week in August.

I'm extremely pleased with myself that I've organised the timing to take in Blair, link below, so if anyone wants photographs doing at the event, I'm already photographing so will have my camera with me.

I'm driving up from the south of England to Scotland on the 24th, Wednesday, and will be in Scotland for a couple of days.
If your horse/dog/cat/budgie is not already on my 'to capture' list, and you like him/her to be, please contact me either via my FB page below, or my email

Friday, 15 April 2016

The Eyes Have It

As the weather is pretty miserable outside, I'm catching up on some long overdue blog posts.

You may remember the extreme windswept photos of Vaila, a little orange Shetland girl on the Archie post.
I was highly amused at the time, and I do remember glibly commenting that they'd make a fantastic portrait, never thinking that my client, Jo, would actually want me to work from them.
Well, sometimes, the chickens just come home to roost.

I photographed her two horses that day: Kerry, a lovely big bay warmblood cross mare, and Vaila of the mane. Once home, and having worked through the photos, I sent them to Jo and we discussed how I was going to do the portrait. Jo was determined she wanted them together, liked the heads-on shots, and much as I tried to gently dissuade her she was adamant. As 'the customer is always right', I agreed, but inside I was dying a death because I had no idea how I'd make it work.

Individual portraits are relatively simple. If the execution is good, all vagaries of light and colour are insignificant. Put two horses into the mix, and immediately you have several contrasting elements to consider.
The light needs to be (or appear to be) the same - both from direction of source and time of day. Light is colder (blue) in the morning or when overcast, and warmer (yellow/red) in the evening. Bright sunlight can be bleaching, and poor light loses detail.
The heads must be at angles that complement each other, and the colours of the horses compatible.
If their heads are markedly different in size, there's necessarily a fair degree of practice and juggling that goes on to make sure the balance works on paper.
Chestnuts are notoriously difficult to match with other horses.
Head on shots dictate that the eyes and muzzle have to tell the whole story, which is fairly tasking.
Wind blowing manes in different directions is also challenging.


I won't lie and say it was a walk in the park, because it wasn't, and I had the whole 'I can't do this' (artist's version of writer's block) running through my head a fair whack of the time. It was only really in the last few hours that it all fell into place and I knew I'd nailed it. I am more than delighted with the end result, and it's often the case that the works that test me the most end up being my most successful.

A huge thanks to Jo for pushing me (albeit unknowingly) out of my comfort zone, and to Kerry and Vaila for saving me with their beautiful eyes!

Monday, 29 February 2016

Sprinter Sacre - in the presence of greatness

This should probably have been written a week ago, but as ever I'm a bit tardy - I blame my creative genes that seem to overrule the clock that everyone else lives by!

Earlier this season, on social media, I saw Hannah Bishop looking for sponsorship to ride in a charity race to raise funds for Greatwood, an amazing facility caring for ex-racehorses. I contacted Hannah, offered a portrait, and we thought that a famous racehorse would be the best idea. 
Sprinter Sacre was my legend of choice.

I was lucky enough to be at the Festival when he won the Queen Mother in 2013. He took my breath away. His effortless, flawless jumping at speed left me reeling. He was magical, a deity of the turf. I even forgave him for beating my hitherto favourite two mile chaser, Sizing Europe. 

I ran, trying to beat the crowds, to see this towering genius in the winner's enclosure. Always, there is a special kind of magic surrounding every winner that stands there, but this horse, this horse for me transcended all others. The roars of applause that accompanied his walk to the coveted First Place spot were spine-tingling, the emotion was huge, the wonder wide-eyed. Yet he gave even more than that, this horse acknowledged the adoration. He lifted his head, and looked up at the crowd. He knew, really knew, that all this was just for him. 
From that moment onwards I was forever smitten. 

I hoped to try and have some of that memory in the portrait. The very talented Fran Altoft, top class racing photographer, searched her portfolio and found some excellent images to supply the look I was aiming for. A huge thanks to Fran, this wouldn't have been the same without her help. 

No piece of art can convey everything I felt that day, but I am so privileged to have had the opportunity to try. 

The portrait, now signed by Sprinter Sacre's supreme trainer Nicky Henderson, is in the online auction below which will finish on the Charity raceday at Newbury on 5th March 2016. 

Friday, 22 January 2016

Changes and Coincidences.

Changes afoot chez Lupton, as I've made the decision to return to Edinburgh to live.

I have a few exciting projects in the offing back in the UK, not least a portrait of a legend of the chasing world to be auctioned at Newbury racecourse on the 5th of March as part of the fundraising day for Greatwood, an incredible ex-racehorse charity. I've not done the best job at keeping the horse a secret as I'm so pleased with it and keep showing the proof to people!
Watch this space for all to be revealed very soon!

Coincidences have been flying at me from all directions, and all of them good.
Recently I was asked by a previous client to do a portrait of her new horse. It transpired he was purchased from a longtime good friend of mine who had also bred him. 

I confess I coveted this horse when he was a youngster, so was lovely to see him grown up and looking splendid. 

He wasn't the easiest to photograph, as he was convinced some stranger pointing a camera at him was pointless, and he'd really much rather be elsewhere, thanks! He was fairly determined to execute a circuit or two of the field, and much throwing some moves ensued, but eventually he gave in, and I finally had photos to work from. 

He's very very handsome, and an incredibly tall horse, so the angle of shot is slightly different to normal. 

I think it worked well, and even better, the frame that my client had chosen for previous commissions worked perfectly with him too. 

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Hong Kong Revisited!

About twenty years ago, I was lucky enough to work periodically in Hong Kong, doing portraits of racehorses, livery horses and many cherished four-legged friends for clients living there.

The opportunity came about after I was asked to do a portrait for two HK charities, RDA and KELY, to be auctioned at the ROA (Racehorse Owners Association) annual dinner, held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in October of 1994. It was decided that the subject would be the then last eight Derby winners entitled 'PRIDE OF THE DERBY' as eight is considered a lucky number in Hong Kong.

I worked on the portrait for several weeks but due to the time taken to finish the piece, there wasn't any guarantee that a photo of the work sent overland would arrive in time to be included in the brochure for the dinner. It has brought it home to me how far technology has advanced in the last 20 years, as there was no facility in 1994 to send a large image via email! Hard to believe nowadays!

I was very nervous, as I had no idea how much the portrait would raise, but my fears were totally unfounded as the bidding was fast and furious and the final bid was from Ronald Arculli for HK$350,000. Hence my enormous grin in the photo below!

The portrait was the horses listed below. I felt very privileged not only to have been commissioned, but to have met some of these amazing horses. On one of my subsequent visits to Beas River, where the ex racehorses are rehabilitated, I was honoured to be allowed to ride Clear City. It's not often one gets the chance to say one's ridden a Derby winner!

The portrait now hangs in the Clubhouse at Sha-Tin racecourse, generously donated to the HKJC by Ronald Arculli.

Some of my past racing commissions from HK included Roaring Success, Master Eagle, Leprachaun, Ufo, Motivation, Pinkie Long Legs, Sea Jade and Super Fit.

Unfortunately, the only one of those portraits I seem to have a record of is Master Eagle, so here he is at his peak in 1997. I do remember what a huge engine he had, and the portrait bears out the power of that!

So, the whole point of this blog is that through a couple of meetings with some friends, there appears to be an opportunity to return to Hong Kong and re-establish connections there, both old and new so please feel free to share with everyone who might be interested!

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Archie Goes Home, and the Perils of Inclement Weather.

Part way up the route northwards, I arranged for Archie's owner to collect him from where I stopped off to photograph some horses and stay over.
Archie is part of the family that have the very precious Princess Rosie (see the link at the end of the paragraph), and watched our antics photographing her in a car park with great bemusement.
He of course, was excellent to work with, and took no time at all to photograph, which nearly balanced out Rosie!

Because Archie's coat is so wiry, I worked mostly in line from the very start with very little solid colour, as sometimes pastels can be limiting when trying to work a lot of 'hair' strokes on top of fixed block colour. It's given the piece a slightly different feel, but I like it.
More importantly, so did Val, although she did cry again, she was quick to reassure people present it was because she liked the portrait.

Thankfully, I was also forgiven for getting so engrossed in photographing horses that I completely forgot to look out for her arrival and she had to wait in the pub up the road.

This is a picture of the finished framed up artwork, and I'm distraught that the wholesalers no longer supply this brilliant hockey stick veneer moulding, which was just the best for small dogs!

I then whizzed on up to Scotland to photograph more horses the next morning where we woke up to horrendous weather. One poor client had spent the early morning removing sheep from what was now a totally submerged field, and a local village, Alyth, was completely flooded with cars being swept away! I was very lucky as the rain stopped for the hour I needed, and the photos have all worked out really well.

I headed down south of Edinburgh, and by now the rain had turned to wind. It's not usually a problem with horses, and sometimes it helps to perk them up a bit, however I'll sign off with some photos of why Shetland ponies and wind don't mix well! :-D

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Mayhem, Madness and Moving Pictures.

Time for a quick update, I think.

The last week has been a whirlwind of travelling, photographing, delivering and collecting via ferries, trains, helpful clients and friends acting as my personal taxis and driving a left hand drive lorry van round the UK. Narrow English lanes with thick hedges and cats eyes made me scream, I can still hear the tortuous noise of continually driving over them.

I've driven 3,500 km, and still have over 1300 photos to go through, despite having already selected and deleted about 500 non starters!

I started the trip landing at Newhaven, to avoid the horrific queues and delays at Calais, but still had to have the truck checked out for unwanted passengers. Luckily, there were none.

My first stop was to longstanding clients who I hadn't met before, so it was great to put faces to names. Not only did I have their new horse to meet, I also got to see Monty, a previous victim of my pastels! 
His people had also had the lovely thought to bring along his portrait, so that I could see both the horse and the picture together. 

Well that was too good a photo opportunity to miss, so here's the result. Not entirely sure Monty was convinced by the whole faffing about, but he took it like a man!

I've collected some of my older work from Scotland, including the first head portrait I ever did. It's too awful to post, but suffice to say I'm very thankful to anyone who commissioned me on the basis of it, and allowed me to start my career!

The one below was also added to the trip, my first ever attempt at a jumping portrait. Fortunately I had a bit more of a clue what I was doing by then, although there's plenty in it makes me wince still. It wasn't a commission, it was just me and my horse of a lifetime, the fabulous Mutty.

I've had a wonderful time catching up with old friends, and meeting new clients, and just want to say a huge heartfelt thanks to everyone for their excellent hospitality, accommodating my hectic schedule and forgiving my overly optimistic journey times.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The Cobbler's Child

Quick blog with the first of my animals I've done in a long time, hence the title!

The Pikester is very strikingly marked, so gave me the opportunity to play a bit with this.
I've deliberately restricted myself to working only the light areas, not the black paper. (I've also messed around with the exposure to black the black paper, and I seem to have darkened the white as well!)

It was quite strange not having to work to my 'format' for portraits, and was good to step outside the safe zone for a bit.

I need to leave it for a bit, as I'm not sure whether that's it or not!

Don't forget, anyone wanting to commission me, I'm in the UK second week in July ish!

Monday, 15 June 2015

Musical Pictures.

Two blogs in a week - I'm flying!

To follow on my theme of tricky portraits, I've recently finished a commission for a surprise birthday present from Emma and her sister, to their Mother. The portrait involved the very cute Jock and Jasper, two little dachshund boys.

A few years ago, I was commissioned to do a surprise portrait of Emma's fantastic event horse, Ninety Nine. It was a Christmas present that nearly didn't make the date due to the courier messing up the bar codes and sending both pieces of work picked up from me to the same address - and it wasn't theirs!!! There was a bit of a mad dash across Scotland to collect it in time!

Despite this being Emma's portrait, it was still hanging in her Mum's house in pride of place above the fireplace, so there was clearly an agenda behind this commission - Jock and Jasper could hang in the space where Ninety Nine was, and Emma could reclaim her present!

Before I started it, I thought it was going to be one of those ones that goes swimmingly and I was looking forward to doing it. I had excellent photos to work from, Jock and Jasper's colouring matched and the images sat well together. For some reason, however, I couldn't get into the swing of it. I have no idea why this sometimes happens, but it does, and it makes me twitchy when I have a deadline.

Because I can't really rub out mistakes with the way I work there is no real opportunity to correct errors, hence every mark I make on the paper has to be accurate. When the drawing flows, it's almost an instinctive process, but when every mark has to be a considered decision, my focus starts to fry a bit! Even when I can still see it's working and I do know it's going to be fine at the end, it is still quite stressful!

All I could do was just keep going, and when suddenly I turned the corner (admittedly near the end!) I was really pleased with it. I was really happy how the frame finished it off.

There's a bit more of the story - when I was following the courier tracker to make sure all was going well, there was a missed collection at the depot, the parcel didn't make the Friday pick up at the airport, and the Monday was a Bank Holiday. I though history was going to repeat itself, but luckily the parcel arrived with days to spare!

So I've had a bit of a double whammy of result with this, as Jock and Jasper went down a storm and have gone above the fireplace, and Emma has pinched her picture back!

All's well that ends well!

Friday, 12 June 2015

Delivering Prys

I'm a bit slow at this regular posting stuff. Must do better!

Anyway - two years ago, I offered a portrait to the organisers of the Campbell Gillies Memorial Ball, held to raise funds for the IJF - - who were a fantastic support to Campbell's family after his tragic death on holiday the previous year. The portrait raised £1500, and the subject of the photo was to be Jo Luton's stunning Prys, who sadly moved on to the pastures in the sky just before the ball.

I realise two years is a long time to come to fruition, but we had some difficulties finding good photos to work from, and then organising those photos to get to me. I ended up collecting them in person from Scotland last year. It wouldn't be one of the easiest portraits I've tackled, and I knew Prys (and Jo), so had to get him right.

There wasn't enough information on any of the photos to do one head portrait, and they were too far back in the photographer's records for him to find and to blow up from the negatives, so I worked from a jumping photo (with very kind permission from John Grossick, photographer extrordinaire!) and a snap Jo had of him, which to both of us summed his character up.

I then started the portrait the way I normally work on commission, with the paper colour that most of my clients prefer. For us artists, most times we start a piece of work there is the extreme self-doubt, the worry that it isn't working, and the dawning of relief that it is all coming together.

Only this time, it wasn't working, it didn't work, relief didn't dawn and and I had to scrap it. It looked heavy and clumsy and the colours were warring.

I then wanted to panic, of course. I had to walk away for a bit and decide what to do. ( I can't believe I've actually posted it, but I thought it might be interesting, even though I wince when I see it!)

Often when I do two different heads of two different horses together, it can be tricky getting the colour right (as an aside, black horses beside chestnut horses are REALLY awkward). In this instance, I think the lack of information combined with the amount of shadow in the photos, and the seasonal coat colour change, made it very hard to pull both images together.

I left it a few weeks, revisited, and thought that maybe working on a black paper where I could allow the shadow to disappear into the background might be a solution, so I ran with it, and I think it worked.

Once the portrait is finished, in an instance like this it can also be difficult to frame well. Finding one frame that highlights the same colours on both heads can be a challenge. Clever framing will lift certain areas of a piece of work, and bad framing will make the eye see only the frame. However gorgeous a frame may be, on a portrait it must enhance, not override.

Hopefully I've got the mix right. So far Jo likes the photos of the portrait, but I will be delivering Prys in person in July, so that will be the acid test.

On that note - I will be in the UK photographing horses for commissions in the first half of July.

So far, my journey is taking me from Portsmouth to Dundee, so if you live in the UK and want your horse(s) or dog(s), or anything else photographed for a future portrait I can pretty much sort out anywhere. Plenty of warning would be great, so that I can arrange the route accordingly.

Please contact me and let me know on

The contact page on here has my phone details, (tho please don't try the UK one until I'm in the UK!) if you'd prefer to phone me to arrange to photograph.

Look forward to seeing everyone!