Artist Nick Archer has won prestigious awards and commissions – and his paintings of racehorses are beautiful. Eclipse asked him to tell us more about his work…
When did you start drawing racehorses and why?
I first started painting racehorses after a trip to Royal Ascot. I had previously been working on a series of paintings on various sports themes and I had also just had an exhibition called ‘Forever England’ which focused on all things English – for good and for bad! The subject of these paintings had varied from the Royal procession of the Queen’s coronation, to funfair rides at Blackpool pleasure beach. All the paintings had a sense of colour and glamour, so when I visited Royal Ascot it seemed the natural progression to paint the colour and glamour of the racecourse.
Are horses or racing in the family?
My family have horses, and my sister Lauren is a serious British Events rider. My own interest has always been kept at a distance. I have always been far happier drawing the horse than riding it, but I guess being around horses does give me some understanding when it comes to making the paintings.
When you are developing a new work, where do you look for inspiration?
The starting point for the paintings tend to be photographs. It is important to me that the sense of movement, power and energy are brought across in the paintings, and the photograph can often help suggest this in the first place. The medium of oil paint is also important. This is because oil paint dries very slowly and to achieve the sense of movement I drag a brush through the wet paint to create the blurring that suggests movement. This can only be done with slow drying oils.
Are your works of particular horses and races?
The paintings are usually of specific horses and races, although I have changed the colours of the riders at times. If there is a race I want to paint but I wasn’t there, I often record it on the TV and do the paintings from the stills, but ideally I would take the photographs myself. I am interested in doing commissions, but it is the movement and the sense of occasion that I am interested in as much as the horse itself so this would have to be part of any commission.
What is your usual working method for creating a painting?
My working method starts with the photograph or film still. The qualities of the photograph are very important. Things tend to work better on bright days, as colour is a very important part of the paintings. I also aim to do studies and sketches on site, just to capture something of the atmosphere. When I am happy with the reference material I start work on the painting in the studio. The paintings tend to be quite large; anything from 3x4ft to 5x6ft. There’s a lot of throwing around of paint to start with until the image seems to grow out of the paint, as things progress I start to blur the wet paint to get the sense of movement I have talked about.
What is important to you when you plan and create a painting?
The qualities I look to enhance in the paintings are colour and movement. More traditional qualities such as anatomy are not in the forefront of my mind, but I am aware when the anatomy starts to look wrong in a work and because I have spent a lot of time drawing I am usually able to find a way to make the anatomy work.
Has anyone famous bought any of your work?
Commissions have been painted for the Royal Family of Kuwait.
What has been the most exciting moment of your career?
The most exciting point in my career to-date was probably winning the Hunting Art prizes in 2002. Although this was not with a racing painting (it was a painting of a funfair ride) the qualities of movement and colour were the same to those in the racing paintings. The prize was helpful financially but was also very prestigious so helped my career greatly. Last year I also won the ING Fresh Eyes Award which gave me the weekend at the British Grand Prix with the internationally famous artist Sir Peter Blake. Sir Peter and myself were then asked to produce a series of paintings based on the Grand Prix.
Is there any particular horse or race that you would like to paint?
I have always wanted to do some paintings on the races between Denman and Kauto Star which caught the public’s imagination so much, but I have never seen either horse race so have yet to collect the reference material – so maybe this is one for the future.
What else do you paint apart from racehorses?
The subject matter of my paintings is very diverse, but my most recent paintings have been about childhood. I am now a parent and live in a rural location on the south coast so much of my work is informed by my experience of being a father and where I live, but the racing paintings are still central to that as I have a fascination with all things English and there can be nothing more English than a day at Royal Ascot which is where my experience in the racing world began.
Nick Archer can be contacted through Sarah Myerscough Fine Art, 15-16 Brooks Mews, London W1K 4DS (Tel: 020 7495 0069, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Nick Archer will be exhibiting at Sarah Myerscough Fine Art late March through April 2010, details to be confirmed (please see www.sarahmyerscough.com for further information).