Commissioning a portrait of your favourite horse is a wonderful way of honouring your equine partner and of gaining a beautiful piece of original artwork at the same time. Equestrian art has been shown to hold its value, so if you choose your equine artist carefully your portrait will also be an investment, not that you'll ever want to part with it of course!
The first step is to choose your equine artist. There are a wide range of styles and media out there. Some artists favour a very natural almost photographic style, while others interpret moods and feelings with a freer style. Look at several portfolios before deciding, and go with your gut feel and what you like.
Commissioning a portrait of a specific horse is different from just buying an equestrian painting. First of all you want to know that the artist you're thinking of is experienced in portraiture. A good portrait will capture those little details that make your horse unique: the expression in the eye, the prick of the ears, the arch of the neck.
Ideally your artist should be able to meet your horse before starting the painting. While a good photograph can also be an effective starting point, there is nothing to beat spending some time with a horse, observing his or her individual characteristics and seeing him from all angles, perhaps taking a series of photographs to work with. So if at all possible choose an artist from your area, so that you don't have to add huge travel costs to the commission.
A portrait can be done without meeting the horse if circumstances dictate. Perhaps this portrait is to be a memorial of a dear friend that is no longer with you. In this case look out the best photos you have. Provide the artist with pictures taken from several different angles, in motion and still, close up and full length. The more detail you can provide, the better chance the artist has of creating a life-like portrait.
Discuss all aspects of the painting with the artist and get a price quoted on that. Prices will depend on the size of the canvas, the medium used (oil paint, acrylics, mixed media, watercolour and so on), the framing requirements and the complexity of the subject. Do you want a head and shoulders portrait or a full length portrait of your horse in motion? Do you want a realistic background of the stables or a familiar landscape, or a creative swirl of colour and mood? Some of these things will depend on the signature style of the equestrian artist that you've chosen.
Once all has been discussed and agreed, leave the rest up to your chosen equine artist and then enjoy the completed portrait on your walls ever after.
Kit Heathcock, freelance writer, is writing for Rachel Dubber, a well-known equine artist and photographer, with a lifelong passion for horses. She creates a wide range of stunning horse art, photography and sculpture. Currently based in Cape Town, South Africa she portrays the individuality of each equestrian subject, both for portrait commissions and for her own art.