Sunday, 19 October 2014

A Tribute to Carnacrack

A couple of years ago, I was contacted to do a portrait of a horse for a surprise birthday present. This in itself wasn't unusual, but when I found out who the horse was, I was so chuffed to be asked. 

The horse was Carnacrack (or 'Crackle' to his friends). He'd been owned and trained all his racing career by friends of mine, Sandy Forster and Clive Storey, and was only ever ridden by Clive. He was bred in the Scottish Borders and was by the prodigious local stallion Le Coq D'Or out of a mare by another weel kent name from Scottish racing pedigrees, New Brig.

Crackle was a horse I'd followed throughout his career running at the Northern tracks, and was such an honest consistent jumper with the biggest heart. He always looked a picture in the paddock and was just a pleasure to watch. 
When he was retired from racing, he ending up in the care of Irene Thomson, and was loved and cherished by the Thomson family until the day he left for those big green pastures up there in the sky.

When Irene's husband, Beamer, contacted me to commission me, it was a bit tricky in the early stages. Keeping the portrait a surprise involved secret emails, secret phone calls, secret photograph finding and adding to the mix Beamer's slightly challenged internet skills, I was despairing that I would be able to do Crackle justice. After much skulduggery, the picture was finished and the portrait handed over in secret rendezvous in a garden centre car park south of Edinburgh! 

Thankfully, Irene was really pleased with the picture - but bear with me, there's a reason I'm blogging this now! 

Yesterday, Sun 18th October, at Kelso races, Irene sponsored a race in memory of Crackle, the 'Carnacrack Handicap Hurdle'. She'd asked if I minded her using a photo of the portrait for the racecard sponsorship. I of course agreed without hesitation. I was so pleased and flattered that she wanted to use the picture!

 It's been beautifully done, with such a lovely piece written underneath. I got such a big lump in my throat when I saw it.

Don't Irene's words just sum it up about these beautiful horses? 

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

A Funny Thing Happened …….

Yesterday, I received the loveliest message from a client, Val, who collected the portrait of Princess Rosie a couple of weeks ago and had finally hung her on the wall. 

Rosie - still with us - has been somewhat challenging to photograph, totally unfazed by everything, and looked at us as if we were daft trying to get her to put her ears up. 

She's quite grey now, but the flow of the drawing let me easily give her some of previous colour back, and it was lovely to do a less than conventional expression for a change! (As a bonus, it's actually two portraits in one, as if you look closely you can see Mr Rosie's silhouette in the reflection in the eye!)

This is the photograph I worked from.

So, to the point - the message. Val has very kindly allowed me to use it on the Testimonials page.

**Jenny's portrait of Rosie (a difficult subject as it took a year and near enough 200 photos plus an assignation in a carpark to get a usable photo) is perfect! When I saw it I was reduced to tears, but in a good way as it is really her looking out at me. We brought her home and hung her on the wall next to her beloved Sammy (he was also painted by Jenny) who went over Rainbow Bridge three years ago. This may sound spooky but I swear this is true - her expression changed from the "whatever" look she had in the photo/portrait to one of contentment that she is reunited with him again.**

I was blown away by what she said, not only because it was incredibly kind and flattering, but also because it shook me slightly. 

I work in such detail, that I necessarily immerse myself into the work. I do sort of disappear from what goes on around me and am guided by the feel of the personality I'm portraying. 

When I am working from photos of animals that I have never seen, and are no longer with us, I have no personal point of reference to know when I catch the moment of character, or the soul. But often one final touch of colour or line as I work seems to surge a huge emotional response in me. That's when I know to stop messing with it. I accept that as part of what I do, and don't really dwell on it.

I'm mildly spooked, but also pleased that it seems to have gone further than me in this case. I hope Sammy's happy too! 


Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Last Week at Logis de Puygaty

Such stunning scenery on the way to the networking expo! I love this amazing fortress at Villebois Lavalette - one day I must find time to stop and explore. 

So, the week was spent inventing some form of easily portable stands to hang the mirrors and pictures on. I hit on the idea of using peeled, narrow fence posts chopped into rough-hewn ladder shapes, splashed with a bit of paint. A  sort of shabby chic idea I thought would be in keeping with the barn space, and quick and easy to make. 
Feeling pleased with my cunning plan, I failed to factor in the level of sanding needed to prevent lacerated flesh and massive splinters in my hands. 

That hitch overcome, they looked pretty good on the day, although were virtually totally hidden once the portraits were on them! At least they were stable enough to hold the mirrors - result! 

The entire day was a great success, the place was buzzing and I hardly had a minute to stop, so unfortunately there's a dearth of photographs. The idea to keep the stands upmarket worked really well, and the afternoon tea-cakes were delightful, rivalled only by the fabulous spread early evening for aperos. 

As the sun began to set, we dismantled the stands to the vocals of the most amazing singer - her voice was crystal and gold, and it was a perfect ending to a fabulous day. 

The venue was just magnificent, and the secret location for the next event in the Spring will be equally impressive. 

Happy days!