We were staying in one of the historic houses in the centre of Middleham, the old School House, directly opposite Middleham Castle.
My route took me right through the Yorkshire Dales and it was the perfect way to enjoy a breath-taking part of the country. Ridiculous, though it is only a couple of hours away, I have never been to this part of the world and it was all I could do to keep my eyes on the road. Rolling hills, stone walls, big skies, scudding clouds revealing patches of vivid yellows and greens as the sun broke through and screeeeeeeeeeeech!!!! Sheep in the middle of the road nonchalantly munching the grass on the verge, and BIIIIIIIIBBBBBB!!!! Suicidal pheasants leaping out and narrowly missing death by Hyundai!
Anyway I arrived somewhat frazzled ready for what lay in store and eagerly anticipated the next days painting.
The week had been organised by the extremely talented award winning Jane Braithwaite S.E.A and tutored by Malcolm Coward HSEA. I can’t deny I was a little nervous, having heard about Malcolm’s dry ‘wit’ and inability to lie when critiquing but I was here to learn so a big slice of artistic advice served up with a dash of honesty was what I had signed up for!
Joining me were all my horse artist heroes, Sian Wynn S.E.A, A.F.A.S, Jennifer Bell S.E.A, Glynis Mills H.S.E.A, Debbie Dunbar S.E.A. so to say I felt a little intimidated being amongst such pedigree is an understatement! I needn’t have worried. I find all artists tend to support one another and generous with their advice and positivity and this was no exception.
We arrived at our venue for the next few days, Mark Johnstons yard which was just outside the village of Middleham, though he also had yards in the village as well. It is an incredible testament to his hard work and shrewd business practice and I really don’t think I have ever seen so many stables in one yard before.
3 and a half days of intensive observational painting with stunning horses being held by generous and welcoming grooms and yard staff.
The horses were all impeccably behaved and we were treated to a bay, piebald, dapple grey, chestnut all with pedigree and personalities of their own. As we painted the jockeys rode past on their way to the gallops so it was a visual treat rarely encountered and I just hope the photo’s I took are good enough to use as reference for future paintings.
As I painted I found that the ‘off days’ I sometimes experience in my studio, are Just as likely to happen even when the subject is stood right in front of you AND you have a legendary equestrian artist advising you as you go! I started off ok with an urge to get better but just seemed to get worse! Frustrating when you can’t see what is in front of your nose.
Malcolm helpfully painted a carrot onto my last effort which was when I knew there was no point in trying to continue carving through the many layers of paint and turpentine to rectify my many shortcomings. That said it was all done with humour and I had great fun amongst a bunch of like-minded people who I admire and hold up in high esteem. A great experience and perfect way to learn from established and professional artists.
I will definitely be saving up for the next adventure and thank all of my fellow horse artist friends for their company, support and advice and Mark Johnston Racing for being such gracious hosts and their generosity in allowing us to use their facilities and services of their staff.