How equine inspirations
give paintings with Punch
Farming and the countryside are the inspiration for many artists and farmers and their wives are often artists too – this week our pages have become a farm art gallery
EAST Anglian-based artist Tricia Osborne has become as passionate about heavy horses as the people who breed and work them. She delights in listening to what heavy horsemen have to say, eager to learn about conformation, harness and the right way to put it on, and to gather as much as possible about what it is like to work with the animals.
She enjoys plodding around ploughing matches and having the differences between a good furrow and a bad furrow explained to her, and is happy to have people draw attention to detail – such as chains or ropes in the wrong place – in her pictures. Tricia works hard to achieve technical accuracy to please the enthusiasts and at the same time produce a work with appeal for those who just want a nice picture.
Her interest in heavy horses began just two years ago when she came across the Suffolk Punches at Peter Crockfords Stags Holt Farm and Stud in March, Cambs, which is open to the public in summer months.
At that time she had been concentrating on abstracted works, scenic mixtures of sculpture and painting. She was, she says, interpreting deep and meaningful things, emotive ideas: "Depressive, in a word," she adds. "I thought there had got to be something else. I was looking for something and found it in the Suffolk horses.
"You can go somewhere and think, Yes, I am supposed to be here," she says. This was the sensation she experienced when she came across Stags Holt.
"Suffolks have an absolutely tremendous colour," says Tricia who prefers to picture horses in their natural state or working harness rather than decked out for show.
She is aware of the time and effort and energy that enthusiasts expend on their animals but is still conscious of the fact that the relationship is not quite the same as that which people of an older generation had with their horses. For them horses were a necessary part of their lives, a force upon which they depended and one they had grown up with and absorbed knowledge of as a matter of course.
"I would like to think that in future horses will have a real job to do again," says Tricia who is constantly observing, fascinated by the way in which things interact, curious to know more about things and about people and, through her art, take a little chunk of their lives.
* Other breeds
Though Suffolk Punches are her first equine love, she is interested in other heavy breeds too and even ponies. At the Shire Horse Societys shows its the farriery competitions that draw her attention. Again its the working scene, the interaction that she sees and the picture that she produced as a result of her observations, The Farrier Competition was one of two she had accepted for this summers Society of Equestrian Artists exhibition at Christies in London.
The other was the only picture in the exhibition which did not feature an equine of some kind: The Old Harness Room, which offers a glimpse into the backroom world of the heavy horse.
Tricia did a foundation course in Cambridge, completed her studies at the Farnham College of Art in Surrey, and then worked for 12 years as a graphic artist tackling any job that came into a commercial art studio before branching out on her own.
* Pastel medium
She chooses to work in pastels now, a medium which will not allow her to make mistakes and spends 50-60 hours on a picture.
Her work is displayed in the Spencer Colman gallery in Stamford, Lincs and at the Thatched Cottage gallery in Wisbech, Cambs. It is also on view in Peterborough through the Cambridge Open Studio organisation and one of her paintings is to appear on a British Horse Society greetings card.
She also takes commissions for portraits of man or beast. "But I would like to get more into sculpture," says Tricia, who was working on her first horse sculpture, when Farmlife visited her – a sculpture of a Suffolk Punch, of course.
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This fine wood sculpture is dedicated "To the farmers who feed the world." Carved by Wendell Olson of Bird Island, Minnesota, USA, it stands in the Minnesota State Fairground. A handsome salute to farmers, it was donated by the Enestvedt Seed Company of Sacred Heart, Minnesota.
Tricia planned to incorporate a human figure in this Suffolk Punch sculpture she had begun but was still uncertain where to place it.
Three of Tricia Osbornes pastel pictures:…and George Protests (above) The Watchers (top) and The Farrier