(British, b. 1951)
I drew and painted from the age of about six onwards but at nine learnt to ride and simultaneously moved to a house alongside Battle Abbey where the East Sussex hounds met every Boxing Day. From these factors alone a passion developed as, although we had great-uncles and grandparents who enjoyed the sport, I was not born into a hunting family.
If only more children could know what it is to rise early with such purpose. To halter the much-loved pony in his wintry field, brush off the mud, saddle up and set off for the meet with hand-me-down boots proudly polished, Marmite sandwich in the pocket and motherís words of caution long-forgotten. For a child to experience the sights, sounds and sensations of a hunting day and then, after a heady cocktail of excitement mixed with a little fear, of exhilaration with achievement, to ride wearily but happily home and reward the four-legged companion with a feed and rub-down in his stable is pure joy. One which surpasses even Christmas itself.
Aside from the obvious pleasure of partnering a swift and powerful horse, my cherished recollections in old age will be of hearing the huntsmanís voice and horn deep in the covert, the first cry of hounds and the glimpse of a fox; then, at the end of the day, that rhythmic pattern of my horseís iron-shod hooves on the road home - otherwise silent except, perhaps, for rooks flying to roost or the late afternoon song of a robin as the first hint of frost chills the air.
It was the varying moods of the hunting day that I first wanted to portray in pictures; those which I now recognise as a unique combination of urgency with serenity, of the vibrant with the subtle, even something of the spiritual alongside everyday humour and conviviality. More than ever I strive now to capture all that for people to hang on their walls, so that treasured moments can be recalled on passing and sensed again.
From the age of twelve, reproductions of work by Lionel Edwards, Peter Beigel etc were studied in detail and practise-sketches of hunting scenes in pencil did much to alleviate the excruciating boredom of my convent school - although the nuns took a dim view. Gradually the life of a sporting artist became such an interesting and special one, mainly due to the support and generosity of others. I continue to feel truly delighted and grateful when someone wants to buy one of my pictures, but help came in equal measure from those offering the chance to witness their hounds and their country from the saddle. Horses have been lent in England, Scotland, Wales, France and America. Dear friends even presented the old mare shown in the photograph above, complete with tack, so that my eye could be kept in when The Ashford Valley hounds met close enough to our farm.
Best of all, the late Ronnie Wallace put a superb mount at my permanent disposal on Exmoor and over six seasons the happiest days of all ensued. It is impossible to describe the magic of that wild country in an area where hunting is life itself. Probably it was that legendary foxhunterís own dedication and achievement in his field which has given me extra determination to succeed with a subject that seems the hardest of all, although it is also fascinating as one finds new ways to master the moment, detail, light, colour and form which make up a hunting scene. He was a tremendous supporter but, in case oneís head should swell, always managed to point out a minor mistake! Now I just have to search for them more diligently myself.
Hunting is such a God-given part of life, for young and old, rich and poor alike, it is an elixir for our souls and we must never let it go.