I grew up hating hunting. I hated the idea of venturing into the wonders of nature with the intent of killing something. My father and my brother hunted birds- pheasants, partridge, ducks- and all I could see was the limp carcasses they’d bring home. Nature’s pieces of beauty displayed as food for the table. I refused to eat it. My mother was an avid foxhunter and she introduced me to the world of horses. Most of what she taught me was about caring for horses, appreciating all they have to offer and their willingness to carry us around. But every now and then she’d mention her days out foxhunting. I felt conflicted. My father and brother had Brittany Spaniels they trained to hunt, and they’d come home with stories of how Colonel pointed a grouse or Echo flushed a pheasant, and I could tell they were really enchanted by their dogs’ innate ability and desire to uncover a bird. Then they learned to work with the dogs, understanding their behavior and knowing when they were onto something. And I suppose the thing that I saw as a dead, pitiful bird was their reward for bonding with their dogs, appreciating nature and understanding the “circle of life”. My mother spoke similarly of foxhounds. She loved learning each one’s idiosyncrasies and how they worked together. It seemed the foxhunt was less about hunting the fox (of which she says they never caught anyway…) and more about appreciating nature. Sitting on a horse you need to trust and who trusts you in return, observing and guiding a group of hounds, as you travel across miles and miles of fields and woods. There’s a certain synergy at work. Hounds, horses and people, together, enjoying all nature has to offer. (I still like to think the fox gets away…)
It’s funny to me that I feel so compelled to paint scenes of this. I still don’t like the “idea” of hunting. But as the world turns to living life online and behind a desk, I want to celebrate the community of beings that are out there in the thick of nature- running though woods and across fields. The colors are magnificent- scarlet coats and bright bunches of hounds. The scenery begs to be painted- open fields, stone walls, hedges, distant villages. And the horses! They gallop and jump and stay clear of hounds… It’s all just too perfect for me not to paint!
In each painting I create I try to convey a sense of peace. I rarely paint the fox. If I do, he’s far away and clearly not in danger. My foxhounds are intent on their job- noses to the ground and neatly staying together. My horses are happy. Sometimes they are a little playful, but I don’t want to show any stress on their faces. The reins are loose (even though I often show them in double bridles, but that’s just because it’s what they used way back when and as long as you don’t yank on that curb rein, it’s no worse than a snaffle). My riders are in a state of weird bliss. The only expression they show is contentment. Sort of an, “I’ve got this,” look. And I try to make them look like they really appreciate their horses. Then I try to wrap them all up in a scene with a sense of peace and tranquility. I’ll put a quiet village or rolling hills in the background and pretty foliage in the foreground.
This latest painting is called “Village Meet”. It was a blast to paint, and when I stood back to look at it yesterday, I broke out laughing when I realized not one critter has a foot on the ground! What would Freud say about that?
The original is available and limited edition prints (canvas mounted on board) of the smaller scene are also available. Please use the contact form to inquire.