Friday, 10 November 2017



I was asked to do a surprise portrait, as a birthday present, for the owner of the wonderful Ottimo. 
Ottimo, a son of the legendary Cape Cross, spent his racing career in Hong Kong winning over three million HKD, and is now retired to Australia. For anyone with an interest in racing reading this, his results are below. 

It's interesting seeing the difference in the layout and available information on the HKJC form, in comparison with the European databases which can be laborious and/or expensive. From my point of view, it was excellent to able to freely access his videos, and get a feel for him, as there were no individual photos that I could work solely from, although I used this one as my basis.

I know Hong Kong well, having spent some time there in the past. Going racing is an incredible experience, the buzz is enormous, and the atmosphere when a favourite wins is amazing. There's something about the lighting at an evening meeting at Happy Valley, it's much warmer (not just the weather!) than similar floodlit racing in the UK. I love the golds and reds that are thrown up, so I wanted to try and capture that emotion of colour and temperature, yet still allow Ottimo to shine through.

Working with coloured tack in a portrait offers some challenges harmonising the strength of the raw colour against the subtleties of the equine coat. I really liked the tones on his breastplate, and thought introducing that as part of the picture would balance both the intense red of the bridle and the big block areas of the neck. I'm really pleased how it's worked out and pulled the image together. 

Below is an example of how I work. I block in the big areas roughly, as on the left, then work in the detail to produce a much smoother finished piece, as on the right.

As ever, I feel very privileged to have been able to portray such a superb horse. Happy retirement, Ottimo!