Why draught horses?

Updated: Jan 25, 2019


Welcome to the first post of my new blog, in which I want to introduce my first two major paintings for 2019 (pictured right, and bottom of page). But first, why do I paint draught horses?

'The Joy of Shared Effort', Kathy Ellem, 2019, 20"x16", oil on linen.

One of the most common comments I get in the gallery is: 'Gee — someone likes their horses!’ These days, my usual response is, ‘I didn’t choose them; they chose me.’  More particularly, on a technical level I really enjoy the challenge of capturing the personality of each horse. Without knowing anything about horse anatomy, when I paint them, I simply follow shapes of shadow and light. Initially, all of the horses’ ‘tack’ (leather bridles and harnesses, chains and so on) daunted me, but now I'm a little bored without them.

On another level, I love what draught horses seem to represent: Strength, calm power, solid beauty, and hard work. I sometimes wonder if, these days, we’re creating a society unwilling to put in any extra effort or physical challenge, when we’ve come to expect that things will just be handed to us. Something about these draught horses, particularly when seen ‘working’, symbolically honours the hard work and effort of past generations in bringing us to where we are now.


Regarding these new paintings, 'We've Got This' and 'The Joy of Shared Effort' (both 2019, 20" x 16"), I’m constantly drawn back to images I took at the Moora Working Horse Field Day, Easter (2016). The camaraderie and friendship that is apparent, and the sense of family and nurturing, grabs my imagination every time. The big challenge in these paintings was to express as much joy and appreciation as I usually do, but on a much smaller scale. Ordinarily I detest painting small-scale, but I thoroughly enjoyed these paintings, and am hoping they will gain me entry into the 'Small Works, Great Wonders' exhibition at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma USA.


'We've Got This', Kathy Ellem, 2019, 20x16 inches, oil on linen.

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COPYRIGHT © 2019 KATHY ELLEM

You can see Kathy's work in person by appointment at her Beechworth art gallery at 45 Ford Street, Beechworth, Victoria, Australia.

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