The inspiration and story of Aonbarr
This image I created, in charcoal and wash on paper, has taken me by surprise by its popularity, and many have asked how I come up with the idea for a new work, what sets the ‘spark’ for a fresh series of paintings.
Unicorns and Kelpies
I had been watching ‘Into the West’ a tearjerker of an Irish film, about a magical horse called Tir na nog, who transforms the lives of some kids in Dublin slums, but when I did some more research I found that Tir na nOg is the Irish name for the Land of Youth, or utopia, and the magic horse was called Aonbarr or Embarr, he had the ability to cross water and could carry the chosen over the sea to Tir na nOg.
I stumbled across the work of Emily Hancock, a very talented photographer who allowed me to use one of her images as the basis for Aonbarr. I wanted to capture that ethereal touch about him, a bit water kelpie, a touch of wildness. I did not however want to veer into the saccharine world of ‘magical unicorns with golden hooves and glittering manes’. It’s a fine line….
To sell or not to sell?
I know when I a painting is going to be successful when I find myself really wanting to keep it. I framed Aonbarr up, and hung it in our sitting room, but within a couple of hours of publishing it on Facebook it had been snapped up, followed by several more enquiries! Fortunately I have had him photographed, so have a Limited Edition of 250 Giclee Prints available. They are produced by a Fine Art Guild printer, in three sizes starting from £45. I now have the largest size framed in my bedroom!
I have always loved painting horses, but in truth, have found equine work very hard to sell, I think those involved in equine life are drawn to a specific animal or rider, and so do not want to purchase a work which depicts an unknown horse or jockey. I wanted to create work that appealed to everybody, even those with no interest in riding, something more generic than a ‘racing’ or ‘polo’ painting. There is a struggle sometimes between painting subjects that you want to depict versus work that will sell, and I’m pleased that this series has encompassed both sides. I am now working with a local Andalusian stallion as a model and am hoping to have maybe half a dozen more equine works along a similar vein. You can see their progress in more detail on my FaceBook page