Article: The Magic in the Equine Art of Vanessa Whittell
The Magic in the Equine Art of Vanessa Whittell
Known for her exceptional ability to capture the essence of horses within every canvas, Vanessa Whittell has painted a niche for herself in the world of equine art. Each piece tells a story, translating the unique connection we have with our equine partners into art. Vanessa invited me into her home, where I listened to her stories and immersed myself in the process of her equine art.
A commissioned piece waiting to be sent off to it's new home.
The Journey Begins
Born in the UK and raised in prominent horse communities throughout Canada, Vanessa has been surrounded by the world of horses since the age of three.
Throughout her life, Vanessa has participated in Pony Club, the hunter/jumpers, 3-day eventing, and now dressage along with working equitation.
Vanessa competing her newest mount, Catalina TF (lovingly known as Dee).
Vanessa has always been an artist. Leading up to her current career, Vanessa attended Kwantlen University’s Fine Art & Visual Design programs after which she worked as an illustrator. As her career developed, she moved into the direction of graphics and marketing.
Vanessa paints every discipline from dressage to western, as well as portraits that truly represent your horse.
Truth be told, becoming a full time painter was a bit of an accident. After a fall from her horse sidelined her from work and riding for a few months, the most natural course of action for Vanessa was to stay home and paint that most familiar element in her life: horses. She was driven to find her purpose, and painting her equine companions was the closest thing she could do to riding.
The Essence of Equine Art
What sets Vanessa apart is her ability to not just paint horses, but to capture their spirit, power, and the feeling we get from riding, to just being around them. Vanessa explains that painting allows her more freedom to capture how she feels being with her horses, and the feeling she gets from riding, more than photography does.
Mediums and Techniques
I had the opportunity to be welcomed into her studio, where I learned more about the painting process: Vanessa uses a diverse range of mediums and techniques to bring her visions, as well as her client's visions, to life. Her primary medium is acrylic, yet she is often experimenting with other mediums, such as charcoal, ink, and oil paint.
Some glimpses into Vanessa's studio, where there are tons of reference photos, models, and works-in-progress.
Each piece reflects her skills in the craft, as Vanessa emphasizes the importance of "learning and expanding, always". Painting is a skill that you have to practice, "just like riding". Vanessa spends about 25 hours a week painting, doing commission work but also her own pieces.
Initially, her pieces start oﬀ as a digital rendering: a useful skill honed in her previous career. It's this design and editing step that allows Vanessa to improve and develop her reference images. Colour and tonal adjustments are made, and composition issues are worked through. Edits range from a change in the rider's hand position to changing tack, to simply perking a horse's ears. It's these steps that set her paintings apart.
From inspiration to final results, the process is truly fascinating.
One of Vanessa’s strengths is her focus on the tonal range within her paintings. This allows her paintings to look great in both strong bright light and dim light. Sometimes dim light is actually where people live, as they're at home in the evening. She’s a strong believer that her art has to look good in all different lighting situations.
Connection with the Equestrian Community
Vanessa has fostered a deep connection with the equestrian community. Her work has been showcased in various equestrian events and exhibitions, most recently, in the Hampton Classic Horse Show, where she was the 2023 poster artist.
Vanessa has also presented paintings to Carl Hester, Charlotte Dujardin, Laura Graves, Juan Manual Munoz Diaz, and many other international riders, in recognition of their clinics and positive contribution they have made to the dressage community within B.C.
Vanessa painted and presented the Living Legacy Award painting to recognize Leslie Reid's contribution to the B.C. dressage community by awarding dressage excellence achieved in the province.
Leslie Reid with the Living Legacy Painting, which is awarded to a rider with top scores at the FEI Level. A bronze plaque displayed on the painting, which hangs in the High Point Clubhouse, in Langley, B.C.
Vanessa has also graciously donated pieces of her artwork for charity, such as to the Horse Council B.C.'s Animal Disaster Relief Fund. Vanessa's art has become a bridge that connects people with the awe-inspiring beauty of horses.
The painting donated to HCBC's Animal Disaster Fund to raise money to help supply volunteers and supplies that used to house and aid displaced horses and other livestock.
Thank so much to Vanessa for the opportunity to learn more about you and your beautiful art!
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