The next stage – working from a black and white photocopy of my painting of Meghan, I masked off different sections in quite a random way.  This is a simple composition so the options were limited.  I did two stages, trying for a richer and more abstract mixed media in the second stage.



I have spent some years now in learning how to create a figurative illusion of reality.  But I want to go deeper and explore the links between the subject and my inner self.  At the moment I am making a series of oil paintings depicting the Clydesdale horses that share my work space in the upper Forth Valley, Scotland.  I have got to know them all in various degrees and feel a strong attachment to some of them.  That give me the basic drive and motivation.

Now I am “unpicking” the images to explore shape, colour, texture and feeling in the hope to learning more about them and making much freer works.  It is very difficult to dissociate from the methods and energy and meaning involved in making the figurative work.

Here are some of the first pieces I did after the painting, thinking about the main shapes and colours.  In my next post I will show how I developed this project towards a final painting.





A study of a bucking Clydesdale yearling became a challenge, as I moved from quick studies of movement to an analysis of the underlying anatomy.  I at last realised that for me it is essential to understand my subject at that level if I am to translate it into a drawing or painting.  To know what underlies the appearance makes it simple to convey it in paint, with ll the complexities of colour.  For years I have been trying to focus on capturing the rounded surface shapes and their volumes in tone and/or in colour.. But  once I know the structure, that is not as issue.

In 1965 young sculptor Eva Hesse wrote to conceptual artist Sol Lewitt complaining of creative block.  This is what he told her:

“Just stop thinking, worrying, looking over your shoulder wondering, doubting, fearing, hurting, hoping for some easy way out…stop bitching, moaning, groaning, honing, boning, horse-shitting, hair-splitting and nit picking.. don’t worry about cool, make your own uncool.  Stop worrying about big deep things.  You are not responsible for the world – you are not responsible for the world – you are only responsible for your work – so DO IT”.  And she did.


“We need animals.  Animals don’t need us, but we need them.  We constantly look for any kind of connection we can possibly get to them”

Britta Jaschinski, photographer.  

My own creative inspiration is the horse, and this exhibition of paintings is based mainly on the equine groupings that I observe near my home in rural Scotland. I try not to project my own needs and emotions on the animals I love.  I want instead to focus on the intimate and private communication between horses that exists quite independently of the human world    I am fascinated by this communication, and these paintings show some of that language of hierarchy and devotion that I observe on my daily walks.  

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Here are paintings  of the Konik breed of wild horses at Wicken Fen Nature Reserve in Norfolk.  I spotted a clip on a tv programme about re-wilding.  I loved the proud and natural way the horses were bonding with each other, and I quickly grabbed my phone to take a few snaps.  The four paintings are inspired by these photos.  In the first two the mares are lying down and seem to be communing with each other and with their foals in the evening light.   I made two versions, the full scale ones are 600 x 420 mm (acrylic on canvas) and the larger cropped versions are also acrylic but on sheets of plywood (760 x 610 mm)


In the second two paintings the light seemed much more blue and I wanted to express that dramatic effect.  I became fascinated by the shapes and so painted the horses in almost flat colour particularly in the larger paintings.  Throughout this project, including the three previous paintings projects, I have started to become bolder and more confident about working abstractly and on a larger scale.


My third subject is a wonderful Australian warmblood stallion.  He is a muse for me.  This time I am working in oil paint.  I have made three studies with oil on canvas, and also tried to abstract the feeling and colours from each one, using acrylic paint on paper.   At the moment the top pair work best.  I am still experimenting with the drawing for the middle one, and the bottom works well as a painting and sort of for the drawing.  It is difficult to know what I am trying to convey with the paint drawings – is it the movement depicted with colour marks, or is it simply abstract shapes based on the colours used in the studies?  Or something else?  I am not yet sure.   I Like the fragmented look of the middle one.  I studied cubism for a bit and understood that more.


Looking at Picasso Cubist period.  Here is a sketch copy of one of his portraits.

A great day at Leith School of Art, Edinburgh in the “Paint the Dance” course taught by  Mira Koche with fabulous dancer Sky and a dedicated group of fellow artists.

Here is the piece I like the best.  It started as a series of sketches in red ink of the moving figure and then later in the day I returned to it and painted into it.


I am returning once more to this theme after a year (see blog dated 10th October 2020), as I work on paintings that form part of my Edinburgn exhibition scheduled for July 2022.

I am now looking at the subject in a different way, more abstractly, and/or an expression of atmosphere.   That atmosphere, the horses so still in the damp green field, was what drew me to the subject.  I want to do more than literally translate the photo into paint.  Here are some of the sketches, very early stages.  I like the final bright green one best, also I also like the black and white one.


Today I decided to work on fairly large sheets of ply (760 x 610 mm) which I had in the workshop.  This is the same size as the more colourful version below, so it will be a set of three paintings!   I used the black and white sketch to make a larger version and tried to get the same runny properties (below top right).  I am not sure if it is successful, the drawing might be wrong, but I quite like it.  I might have another look at it in my next studio session.

I worked very fast on that one, and also on the green one (below right).  It was great to be working on a larger scale.  I think the green one has worked well.  It is so simple and child like but I feel it contains the attitudes of the two ponies and satisfies what I wanted to say.



This is the second thread on this theme.  It is on board and quite large, and has been in progress for quite a time, years in fact.  I decided to place it on an abstract background from another painting.  It is still unfinished (below left), but I think this could be the solution for the subject in this thread.  When I returned next day I was not happy with it after all.  I was not convinced by the abstract background, and I think the assymetrical position of the horses was a problem, so I altered that and then decided that it looked very cliched.  Eventually it became a complete abstract (below right) which still suggests horses.  So far I feel happy about this.  I would like to work more in this way.  Arrived at studio next day and was not happy with it.  I added a lot of pink paint and then the right hand horse started to emerge.  Let’s see what it looks like tomorrow.  I like the strong shapes and colours now.  I made it darker and emphasized the white horse.


Later I scrubbed all of this out and am returning to original photo (cropped) with understanding that the key to this is not a focus on the horses so much as the whole context.


Above (left) is a photograph of the pony cob family in a field near me.  I pass them often in my walks and have a collection of photos.  In this post I describe how I developed the photograph into a more finished art work (right)

The challenge was not to copy the photo exactly but to really grasp the main shapes of the bodies and the markings.   Here are a few of the first drawings I made.

I then explored the shapes with different media  to see if I wanted to make this into an abstract painting



It was still difficult to get this simple enough, and looking at the drawing (above) with the yellow ground I decided I wanted to focus more on the softness of the horse’s hair and nose, at least for the one in the foreground (below).  I also wanted to bring some colour into it.  I definitely like this combination and the composition, but I still felt that I needed to do more with the horses in the background as I had not really understood either them or the nose.  So I did more  and also introduced a feeling of space by varying the tone of the ground.



This does work because I have grasped the stance of the two background horses and solved the problem of the overall composition better.  Most importantly, I am satisfied that I have understood the subject sufficiently to work from memory if I wish to.  Also, with time, I might simply work on one of the abstract pieces in itself, having left the original associations behind.  Also I might return to the figurative work after putting it aside for a while.

Painting #2

Now a week or so later I am going to do another of these paintings and hopefully do a series of three.  I started the second one, very similar to the first but with the emphasis on the young horses rather than the mare, and it feels much more straightforward because of my previous work.   Fingers crossed.  Quite nice to be back on figurative ground again after the abstract ones.   I move between the two approaches, different kinds of energy.  Then I moved to a more abstract approach based on one of the drawings. Here are the second, third, fourth and then another drawing.