Last year I was approached to paint a picture of ‘Glorious Goodwood’ in West Sussex, England. This being one of the UK’s premier rececourses. It was a large and complicated composition so I thought I would write a quick blog on my journey along the way.
The first step was to get to the race meeting on the big day and experience it for myself to get a feel of it all. Armed with sketchbook, camera and tie I spent all day with the client looking over the angles and views. Choosing the view didn’t take long, he knew what he wanted and it was the entire vista of the Goodwood paddock with both stands sitting in the background. Essentially the most complicated view on the whole site.
This was a particular knotty challenge as not only were there grand stands to paint, there were literally hundreds of people too, not to mention the horses. These had to be produced in my rather odd style though still maintaining the grace of a race horse. All this wrapped up in the pageant which is a British race meeting.
I spent the rest of the day drawing the race goers quaffing champagne, mixing and mingling, winning and losing.
I also spent a few hours drawing the paddock and stands. My old technical illustration training came in handy here when pulling in the complicated shapes of the roofs and architectural details.
I left the most worrying bit until last. The horses and jockeys. In the first drawings they just looked like big greyhounds with broken legs so it was a case of constant re-working over and over again. Eventually they started to look more horse-like and still within my style. The jockeys too were tricky at first. The saddles are designed to be used at 40 miles per hour so when the horses are walking the jockeys are forced to sit in a hunched awkward stoop with their legs bunched up. It took a fair bit of re-drawing to get this to work properly.
Once back in the studio I had to pull all the elements together and make them work in a composition and still maintaining the sense of party. This again was illusive and I had to visit Goodwood once more before I felt I had what I needed.
With the drawing finished I then began the final painting. So out with the oil paints and off I went. I just had to make sure I kept in mind the initial ideas of pageant and spectacle. At this final stage I was certainly grateful for the painstaking preparation and it allowed me to focus on just the painting. There was a bit of re-working done in developing the crowds in the background and getting the white railings to work smoothly though all in all it was fine.
Overall it was a big challenge and daunting at times, though great fun to do and thankfully a very happy client.