During my Artweeks show in May 2018, I was asked by Jenny in my village if I would do a commission of Starjac, a racehorse belonging to a syndicate she and her husband Peter were part of. The painting would be a big birthday surprise for Peter, and would be due at the beginning of December. It was all to be kept quiet and I wasn’t allowed to discuss it with anyone. I met Jenny at home to decide what size and medium she had in mind, and to show her examples of some of my equine paintings. We then organised to meet at her home when Peter was out, to see where the painting would hang, once done and framed. Jenny decided the painting should be done in oil.
Starjac was young (a four year old), and at the time, had only run one race so I was slightly apprehensive about having enough pictures of him to create a decent composition, but nonetheless I was keen to give it a go.
Jenny and I met Starjac one very sunny September morning at Cropredy Lawn, a beautiful racing yard just outside Banbury in Oxfordshire run by Paul Webber and his wife Ku. Starjac was stunning, a lovely warm face, very leggy and obviously aware of his own beauty! His colouring was grey, rose grey, dapple grey with a hint of chestnut pushing through depending on the light, and he had lovely dark mane to match his glossy hooves.
Paul gave us a grand tour in his Land Rover of the yard and it’s beautiful surroundings with views over Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire. We saw the horses being trained on the gallops and being schooled untacked over jumps in the loose jumping lane. Gail, Starjac’s groom, paraded him on the grass outside the stables, so that I could watch him move, and try and get as many photographs of him as possible, especially of his grey coat against the green grass.
The commission would be of Starjac racing, preferably jumping so I needed as many images of him as possible, as racing photographs are often quite difficult to decipher due to the speed and the other horses present in the frame.
Suzanne in the office went to fetch the jockey’s racing silks so that I could take pictures of the star and the colours outside, in the same light. I had as much information as I needed to take back to the studio; now all I needed were pictures of Starjac racing. He was due to run in his first hurdle race at Uttoxeter at the beginning of October when hopefully he would do well, and I would get sent some decent photos to start working from.
In the next post, I will show how the sketches and painting develop as Starjac takes part in more and more races.