The UK's only dedicated Gundog magazine
A closer look at the work of Keith Sykes and Coral Rose, two of the nation's most prominent gundog artists
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Yorkshire-based Coral has established an enviable reputation in recent years and her work is much sought after. When we asked her about depicting dogs specifically, she said: “Drawing gundogs – how I spend most of my days! I’ve always taken on pet portrait commissions and had a variety of requests over time but my gundog collection is definitely the largest. I think this is a reflection of my lifestyle, love for my four questionably-trained gundogs and my attendance at country fairs and shooting shows.”
Having spent her early years as a self confessed ‘townie’, the transition to sporting and wildlife artist was not an obvious one. She moved (somewhat reluctantly) to the North Yorkshire countryside and “swapped Louboutins for la Wellington boot”.
But the move provided new inspiration as Coral says: “I now find myself increasingly influenced by my beautiful surroundings in North Yorkshire. I don’t have to look much further than the window for the inspiration for my next painting. I enjoy working in different mediums; whether that be capturing the iridescent beauty of a cock pheasant plumage in acrylic, the flight of woodcock in watercolour, or your labrador retriever in pastel.
“Having a commission of your gundog is a very personal thing. When we spend day in, day out in the company of a dog we learn its individual character, like we would with a human. They are all so different and that is what I want to capture in a piece of art.
“I work from photographs to create my commissions. I welcome a selection, from beautifully crisp flawless portraits, to muddied up, puffed out, bramble covered retrieves. It’s great to receive a selection. I will then use these and either work from one stand out photograph or create a collage of different memories, depending on preference. Equally if that memory was unfortunately never captured on camera then I’m happy to discuss ideas and work closely to put together a commission that celebrates that moment. The beauty of art – you can make it up...”
Coral Rose Art
Lancashire born and based artist Keith Sykes has been portraying gundogs commercially for more than 40 years, but he enjoyed a variety of jobs in civil engineering, architectural design and estate project management for the NHS before becoming a full-time Animal Portrait Artist in 2009.
Keith’s finely detailed black and white portraits are all produced on scraperboard, the creative process being to scratch and hatch through the black inked surface of the hardened chalk background to create highlights and textures with tones of light and shade. This is achieved using various tools including sharpened needles and the process is very time consuming and unforgiving, but is the perfect medium for depicting hair. Keith says: “There are so few elements in monochrome that the light becomes even more important than it would with the advantage of using colour.”
Dog portrait commissions form the large majority of Keith’s daily work and most of those are sporting dogs. The subjects come in a variety of shapes and sizes, textures, colours and temperaments and it is essential that all these elements are reflected in an accurate likeness of the animal, whilst also capturing the unique character of the individual in a typical pose.
Consequently meeting and observing the dog in order to establish his or her personality is essential when considering the composition and expression to be captured. As part of the process Keith prefers to take his own reference photographs wherever possible. Keith’s portfolio also includes wildlife, often with a sporting slant. British wildlife and especially deer often feature in his exhibition/gallery work as well as an increasing number of wild boar. Following a recent inspirational safari to Kenya, more big game and African wildlife pictures will undoubtedly appear soon. From his late teens Keith has owned a number of gundogs and currently lives with a golden working cocker who (occasionally) answers to the name of Syd, and Gunner, a young black labrador. Keith is actively involved in many shooting sports and he and his two sons Jack and Tom have followed in Keith’s father’s footsteps in having a keen and active interest in Morecambe Bay Wildfowlers’ Association.
The UK's only dedicated Gun Dog magazine
How far would you go to collect a dog? Is an 800-mile round-trip excessive? Not for Will Hetherington as it turns out. Photograph: Harry Lessman
Michelle Oseman picks-up four or five days a week in the Cotswolds and here she shares some of her well-earned wisdom.
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