My visit in September was to spend more time at the BRS itself and with a pretty full on schedule. I have an idea on the go of painting a large scale picture, the overall composition containing a group of watercolour vignette studies of scenes at The British Racing School. So I wanted to gather some key photographic information that I felt would represent the School well. Various ideas, from a portrait of the popular Kingsgate Native, to scenes at the yard and also out on the gallops with student apprentice jockeys came to mind. All offering interesting possibilities.
We set up a photo shoot for Kingsgate Native, thanks to Alison Harper, and the students were a huge help in sprucing him up for his portrait and taking it in turns to patiently hold him still for the camera, while I got the right shot. He looked a treat and is clearly a huge favourite at the yard. Everyone wanted a nice record of him for the painting.
Richard Perham was fantastic in helping me find the right spot to photograph his apprentice jockey licence students riding out on the BRS track for some fast action shots, and I also took some more relaxed ones of them returning down the track at a leisurely walk afterwards. We were so fortunate it was a dry day with good light and all went to plan.
I am currently in the process of planning the composition of the painting, to incorporate images that both work together and encapsulate the dynamic of the school. The picture below is showing a rough working sketch layout board, with a photo of Kingsgate Native centre stage. The second picture is showing a charcoal and chalk drawing of a group of riders returning down the track after their gallop.
A visit to Heath House to see the swimming pool facility
I was delighted also to be returning to Sir Mark Prescott’s yard at Heath House again. This time specifically to see the swimming pool exercise facility. As Sir Mark was away at the Sales in The States, I was kindly shown around by William Butler and thoroughly enjoyed our chat and time spent at the yard. William introduced me to Colin who has worked with Sir Mark for many decades and was managing the swimming pool and treadmill exercise routine for some of the horses at Heath House that day. It was such a fascinating insight. Purely from a visual perspective, the pool, or channel of water through which the horse swims, and the environment itself, present a lovely spectacle, with a curved design, in brightly painted colours, within a pleasing setting. . Each horse was gently led into the water by Colin, swam the channel and then emerged gleaming and dripping at the other end, providing some wonderful compositions and ideas for sketches. The ripples in the water as they swam and the broken up reflection of their legs and raised carriage of the head. And the horses appeared to enjoy it. It was also interesting seeing them work first on the treadmill which has an adjustable angled ramp and speed function. I was fascinated to watch Colin monitor them to a carefully designed individual programme and to stand beside him, finding myself at such close quarters to a horse safely contained in a stationery position, yet going through its paces. This was to fully appreciate the power of it moving at such close quarters. What an experience. I took some video footage with sound, the auditory sensation of which i find really helpful to listen to when painting racehorses in action. It reminds me of their awesome power at close quarters. Altogether a most enjoyable morning.
The Munnings Art Museum
While in Suffolk and before returning to Oxfordshire, I took the opportunity to visit the Munnings Art Museum at Dedham before it closes for the winter months. And as a great admirer of this artist, a place I have long wanted to see. It certainly didn’t disappoint, and I spent the most enjoyable day there, soaking up the very special ambience of the charming house he lived in and the adjacent studio barn, and browsing through the painting collections in the rooms, packed with paintings and drawings from his long and celebrated career. The Museum is staffed by volunteers, who couldn’t have been better informed and or more helpful. There was also happened to be a temporary special exhibition hung at the house, showing a selection of his non equestrian landscape paintings, from the west country. Absolutely stunning. One could see how different and how much freer the dynamic of his pure landscape painting was to the commissioned equestrian portraiture, providing him no doubt with a welcome relief and break from the demands of studio painting and portrait commissions, which he described in his memoirs as at times, finding a challenge.
I would highly recommend visiting this museum. For further information please click on this link: munningsmuseum.org.uk
A Christmas Card image and design for the BRS.
I was keen to provide an image for the BRS to reproduce on their 2018 Christmas Card, and together, and with Sir Mark Prescott’s approval, we selected the image below, an oil painting, showing Sir Mark with his horses after exercise, in the woods above Warren Hill. I wrote in an earlier blog entry this year of my wonderful experience of being out on Warren Hill with Sir Mark that Spring morning and coming across this very scene.
And on this end of year note, I sign off this blog for 2018 and look forward to revisiting it again in January to outline ideas for my continuing artist residency for the second year, 2019, including a Sketching and Painting Workshop I shall be teaching at Newmarket, based at The BRS for 3 days in August.
Moller Lecture Theatre
Up to 80 delegates
Up to 30 delegates
Sir Gordon Richards Room
Up to 12 delegates
Up to 12 delegates
Hong Kong Room
Up to 12 delegates