Location: Yorkshire, England
As most equine artists do, Ruth Buchanan has been drawing and painting horses as long as she can remember. Ruth was born in London and raised in Northampton. She is now based in Yorkshire since completing her bachelor’s degree and has been working in the realm of art as a professional artist since 2001. I like how she blends realism and abstract together, with the sharply defined horse/rider being the main focus and the colorful abstract background, bringing in warmth and color.
With her art in galleries across London and Europe, her art has been in exhibits at international horse events and in “private collections of notable names in the arts and equestrian spheres both at home and abroad.”
Ruth is an A Panel Member of the International Watercolor Society in England, Signature Member of The Institute of Equine Artists, a member of the Association of Animal Artists, Associate of The Society of Equestrian Artists, and is a Professional Associate Member of the Society of All Artists with teaching accreditation and expertise in art.
TFS: How long have you been around horses? Did you always want a career with them?
RB: Despite a totally un-horsey family (and un-arty too) I was determined to be around horses since about the age of six. I did take a 10 year break from horses from 2nd year of university and during my early career as a Graphic Designer and Illustrator, but then I returned to riding and drawing horses, and have done ever since. I wanted an art career, if that could involve horses in any way, then that was a bonus!
TFS: Have you ever created art for a poster for a horse show?
RB: Not specifically, but I have had paintings used on horse show programme covers.
TFS: Any upcoming art shows/exhibits?
Fabriano in Acquarello (International Watercolour Society), Fabriano, Italy. April.
Association of Animal Artists Anniversary Exhibition, Cheshire, UK. 8th April to 15th May
Bramham Horse Trials, West Yorkshire, UK. 9th to 12th June
The Art Show at The Great Yorkshire Show, UK. 12th to 14th July
Gold Cup Polo Final, Cowdray Park, UK. 17th July
Under 18s Eventing National Championships, Frickley Park, UK. 28th to 31st July
The Horse In Art Exhibition, Newmarket, UK. September
Thoresby Gallery (association show), Nottingham, UK. October/November
Open Studio, Yorkshire, UK. November
The exhibitions are on my website here and it’s updated as further shows /exhibits and dates are confirmed.
TFS: Where can people go to see your art?
RB: See my answer to previous question, plus:
Decoporium, Thorpe Arch, UK
The Marylebone Gallery, London, UK
Website at http://www.ruthbuchanan.com
Published work (prints and cards online shop) at www.atlasart.co.uk
TFS: Can you tell us more about your style?
RB: I work mainly in watercolour, but have also produced work in oils, charcoal and pastels (soft stick).
My style is basically realism, but is becoming looser and more painterly. My work is underpinned by strong drawing, composition, and knowledge of anatomy and biomechanics. I am enjoying experimenting with mark-making and abstract backgrounds, especially in watercolour where the paint can discover its own paths. I am developing how those things can help convey the tone, atmosphere or emotion of the painting. My style has been described (not by me) as ‘contemporary realism’, ‘contemporary traditional’, and ‘fluidity with finesse’. I don’t really think about style, I just paint what I see and feel.
TFS: Do you ever paint live? Or do you stick to using reference photos?
RB: I mostly start with drawing from life in my sketchbooks, but I also take my own reference photos. I then use those photos and what I have seen that still sits in my head to help refine the drawings and compositions in the studio and to add detail to my paintings, often using multiple reference images for one piece of artwork. I have always done architectural and cityscape painting from life, but have also started to do more equestrian and landscape painting from life when I have the time. I attend weekly life drawing and portrait sessions where I am drawing and painting from live human subjects.
TFS: Are there any artists/people that inspire you with your art, or that you admire for something?
RB: Wow, where do I start! With other artists I suppose. I love the work and teachings of watercolourists Joseph Zbukvic, Thomas Schaller, David Curtis, Chien Chung Wei and Liu Yi. I often look at the work of Rosa Bonheure, Lucy Kemp Welch, Edgar Degas, Horst Janssen, Marc Chagall, Franz Marc and for drawing The Hokusai Manga (Katsushika Hokusai), and Käthe-Kollwitz. There are many more, but those are the ones I come back to time and again.
I have made some good artist friends from all over the world on social media, we help, advise, critique, ‘take the mickey out of’ and ‘arse-kick’ each other!
My life drawing friend and mentor, artist Andrés Jaroslavsky is amazing and has helped and pushed me a lot – he doesn’t let me get away with anything which we all need sometimes.
I am also very lucky to have two artist friends who live pretty near me: Julie Cross and Michelle Clarke-Stables. I have undertaken work and workshops with each of them and we challenge each other to try new things. All three of us are exhibiting together for the first time this year, so that will be interesting. Michelle and I also go ‘gallery hopping’ together: we choose a city and go look at art in Galleries, exhibitions and museums for the day. We work in very different styles and subject matter, but it is amazing how often we agree on the same artwork as the most inspirational of the day.
I recently lost my main mentor, Watercolourist Les Packham. He supported, inspired and encouraged my work, and was the one that pushed me to do demonstrations. His widow, Judy, is still a good friend, very knowledgeable about the art world and great fun!
Aside from that I am very inspired by music and have certain artists, songs and albums that help me lose myself when I am painting.
Then of course there are the horses and riders that inspire me to paint them and my ‘Buchanimals’ who are my daily companions, inspiration and models.
TFS: Any wise words for other artists?
RB: Understand that to work as an artist also means understanding and being prepared to work at the business side of it too.
With regards to the actual art, try not to measure yourself against or copy (either subject or style of) other artists. Do your own thing, keep on going even when it is all going wrong and remember the key is patience, persistence and practice.
Also keep a sketchbook.
TFS: What are the ways you find most useful for promoting your art?
RB: In my experience, what works for one does not necessarily work for another. What I do believe in though is taking up opportunities and promoting myself in a professional manner. Marketing and promotion works on layering levels. People need to see an artist’s work in more than one place and/or platform. It is easy to ask the simple question “where did you see my work?” Often in conversations that develop past the one word answer I find that people have seen my work in more than one place, online and/or in print, sometimes for a period of years before they approach me. Remember: patience and persistence.
TFS: Is there a medium that you have not worked in but would like to?
RB: Probably, but I’m sure I will get to it in due course.
TFS: If there something that you would like to paint but haven’t?
RB: Well, maybe the Belgian sea fishing horses, or horseback archery or Laytown races. There are certainly PLACES I would like to paint and haven’t done yet. Vienna, Venice, Budapest, Prague, New Zealand spring to mind, but I am open to most things. I am still so inspired by what is around me day to day, that I haven’t got to it . . . yet.
TFS: Have you given any workshops/classes?
RB: I have taught some drawing workshops and done some demonstrations and have a waiting list of people for more. I am hoping to set some more workshop dates end of 2016/start of 2017, if I can firm up a venue and free up some time.
TFS: Do you ever use your horses as models?
RB: Yes, and the other horses at the yard, and friend’s horses, and the ones I drive past regularly.
TFS: Can you tell us about your horses? Do you compete?
RB: We have two, but they are both old boys now (23 and 27). We bought them both in the same year and have had them for 19 years. My horse, Atlas, is a 16.2hh skewbald TB x Dutch Sport Horse and has always been a bit tricky, but was very bold and talented when he was younger. He evented and then did dressage, though I always preferred the background work and the schooling than the actual competing. I don’t really have the time to ride enough to compete now, and he has age and miles related issues.
Our other horse, Boris, is 16.3hh and was imported from Russia as a 2 year old. He was very poor when we bought him but turned into a very handsome liver chestnut in the tall cob stamp. He is a real gentleman and schoolmaster, though he can be a cheeky one! He is the horse that you can put a complete beginner or a two year old on and let them ride by themselves and they will be completely safe with him looking after them (we know, we have done both), or you can put an experienced rider on and he will see what he can get away with or just check to see if they are paying attention. If they are worthy then in his day he would safely jump hedges, ditches, gates or go in the school and work laterals and changes, then give you a cuddle in the stable afterwards. They may not be perfect horses, but they have been the perfect horses for us.
TFS: Do you have any works in progress?
RB: I currently have 4 commissions on in the studio at various stages and am fully booked with commission until May 2017. I also have 6 of my own paintings on the go, again at various stages, though this is not so usual with my own work, but I have show and other deadlines approaching rapidly.
I have a weekly blog at www.collectivemarks.blogspot.com that I started at the end of last year. The post are not about me (I have a monthly newsletter for that, which people can subscribe to at www.ruthbuchanan.com) but about my thoughts on art and being an artist. I also have some guest bloggers lined up for late in the year when I am busy at shows.
Thank you, Ruth, for letting me share your fabulous equine art with my readers!