I am excited to share with you the life story of Jane Braithwaite, an equine artist living in England. I’ve decided to start doing an “Artist Stories” series, where artists write a few paragraphs about themselves and share their, thoughts, ideas, visions and past experiences in their own words. The first one in this series was about Mexican artist Sacha Phariss, and now we continue on this journey with Jane Braithwaite. Let me know your thoughts of this series in the comments on the Art Of The Horse Facebook page!
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‘If you want to paint, you need to treat it as a job’. That’s the best piece of advice I could have been given when I retired from primary school teaching in 2014. It came from John McCombs, whose evening figure painting and summer landscape classes I’d signed up for a few years previously and still attend. To this end, my day starts at 9.30am and usually finishes around 6pm and I love every minute!
I always knew I’d return to painting at some point and now I have time to fully focus on one of my earliest passions. I only ever really wanted to draw and paint horses which unfortunately wasn’t included in The Manchester College of Art Foundation Course curriculum in the early 70’s and so after a year, disillusioned, I moved to teacher training, realising that I needed a paying job if I was to keep my own horses.
As a child, I’d show jumped before moving on to Eventing. I was a working pupil and later a paying pupil with international trainer Captain Eddy Goldman. Around this time I was also helping a friend train his point to pointer. All this was fitted in around college lectures in Manchester. I evented throughout the 80’s before moving into dressage on my homebred horse Bertie. Although I have no horses these days and miss the smell and touch of them terribly, painting them keeps me in touch and gives some solace.
When I returned to my art in 2014, I lacked the confidence to dive straight in to equestrian art and instead concentrated on urban landscape, painting structures and people on rainy streets. Initially I was inspired by the likes of Ken Howard and American artist Jeremy Mann. Much to my surprise I was a category winner at a prestigious national exhibition that year with ‘His n Hers’, a painting of two bicycles on a wet Manchester street. This award spurred me on and gave me confidence in my ability and I then started to tackle the horses again.
In 2015, I submitted two paintings as a non member, to the Society of Equestrian Artists (SEA) exhibition and both were accepted, which further increased my confidence. In 2016 I became a ‘Friend’ of the SEA, Associate Member in 2017 and Full Member 2018. I’m now involved as a committee member and I’m busy organising educational workshops for the society in the North of England. These workshops the give opportunity to amateurs and professionals alike to work side by side, painting horses from life.
Few things stir the blood so much as the sight of a thoroughbred at full stretch, the rhythmic exhalation of breath through flared nostrils and the pounding of hooves on turf. The challenge of conveying power, athleticism, speed and intelligence is of paramount importance to me. There are so many things that I struggle with and problems I need to solve on the journey through the painting process and at times I’ll come close to ‘throwing in the towel’ but then something will suddenly ‘click’, usually as a result of getting angry with the painting and I know I’m back on track. It can be a painful process!
There are many artists whom I admire but the painting techniques and colour palettes of Sir Alfred Munnings and Malcolm Coward, along with the depth and textures achieved by American artist Jill Soukup all serve as an inspiration to me.
The gloopy, sticky consistency of oil paint, with its vivid colours rich finish will always be my first choice of medium. I’ve always enjoyed the bold marks charcoal allows me to make and recently, I’ve started experimenting with the use of acrylic alongside the charcoal. I’ve also dabbled with Watercolour but oil painting is so much more forgiving than this medium!
In 2018 I set myself another challenge and that was to become a member of Manchester Academy of Fine Arts (MAFA). I applied with a certain amount of trepidation, after all this was an ‘establishment’ organisation where equestrian art was of no interest whatsoever. To my astonishment I was accepted as an elected member. For a number of years, I’ve also exhibited with my local art group The Saddleworth Group of Artists and act as their Publicity Officer. I feel strongly that one should give back whenever possible, especially when art groups and art societies provide such wonderful platforms for artists to learn, exhibit and meet likeminded people.
As artists we lead a very insular existence. In my case, I spend the day in my studio (a glorified shed at the bottom of the garden) with Airedale Terrier Freddie. Here, I generally work from photographs which I or one of my photographer friends has taken. I prefer to have background noise in the form of either Radio 6 Music or sport of some sort on the TV (although I rarely actually look at it!). In this way I still feel connected to the outside world. I frequently paint ‘plein air’ and from a life model but this year, for the first time, I attended the SEA residential week at Porlock, Devon, which presented a whole new set of challenges – these equine models constantly move! Having overcome the initial frustration of the situation, I soon realised that the painting of a horse from life provides invaluable experience particularly when observing colour. The photograph never completely shows things like the actual colour of shadows and reflected light, etc. My recommendation to all Equestrian Artists would be to attend as many such workshops as they can in order to improve and develop powers of observation.
I have no particular target I wish to achieve with my art, other than to develop and become better at what I’m doing. I paint for myself because I enjoy the challenge and I’m always quite amazed that other people seem to appreciate my work and are willing to part with hard earned cash to buy it. I feel I’ve been waiting all my life to do what I’m doing!
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