A Day at the Races

2009Article posted by Gilly

Because I love painting horses, it was suggested to me that I produce a series of paintings related to horse-racing. Good idea! Which, of course, necessitated a day at the races!

However, being well aware of copyright and privacy concerns these days, I decided I would do the right thing and contact the relevant racing authority to explain that I wanted to take photographs at the track. I was advised to make myself known at the stewards’ office and they would let me know where I could and could not take my photos. So off I trundled to the racetrack, with a good friend and my SLR camera with it’s excellent telephoto lens, and explained my purpose again at the office. I was taken under the wing of a very pleasant gentleman who could not have been more helpful. He took me into the mounting ring where I gained fabulous shots of the horses being paraded, the jockeys in their colourful silks, and the owners’ giving their last-minute instructions. I wanted a lot of candid shots, nothing posed or artificial. I was introduced to the on-course commentator and official photographer (didn’t want to step on his toes!), and an ex-jockey who also paints, so we had a lot to talk about. I was permitted to take some photos in the weighing-in room and to sit on the steps of the stewards’ tower to gain shots of the horses racing down the track. I took lots of crowd photos and also the bookies, although they’re now all electronic and not as atmospheric as the old-time bookies out in the open air. My friend knew a couple of the trainers who permitted us into the stable yard where I photographed the horses in their stalls and being cooled down and hosed down after the races.

Probably the most exciting part of the day was when we were invited out to the starting gate on the far side of the track and I was able to stand close to the starter and take shots of the horses and jockeys leaping out of the gate at the start of the race. The whole atmosphere of the sounds and the speed and the colour is still with me.

I took six rolls of film and every shot has come out brilliantly. I have enough ideas and references for a lifetime of paintings!!! My first is drawn up and ready to go. Naturally, I’ve chosen the most difficult image - the horses thrusting out of the starting gate. All those legs!!! But I’m eager to begin.

I cannot thank those lovely people at the racetrack enough. They gave me a fabulous day and I feel very privileged to have gained their support. I hope my paintings live up to expectations.

Before I can begin, ‘though, I’m currently producing a pastel related to mustering up north. Since I began horse-riding again a few months ago (haven’t ridden in 15 years although once owned four horses of my own), I’ve met some more great people and one of them was recently mustering for a few weeks. She took some wonderful photos for me of the riders and the cattle and the beautiful red country up there, so I promised her a painting in return. It’s coming along well but I now have eleven cows to paint!

I hadn’t done any pastels for a while, but having sold a couple of paintings lately at Wanneroo Art Society exhibition, one a pastel, I realised I didn’t have any for the upcoming Pastel Society exhibition this weekend (7/8/9 August at Sorrento Surf Life Saving Club), so I painted three pastels and suddenly revived my love of the medium. So there will be more pastels forthcoming! Pastel Society have a website if you’re interested - I think it’s, but your server should be able to find it for you. There are some fantastic artists there (including moi!). I helped hang the exhibition yesterday and am in awe of the talent. Check them out.


>Louise Burke | August 10, 2009

Gilly - Our beloved Rocky passed way last week but he is imortalised in the painting you did of him.  It has been a very sad week for our family but we have the beautiful painting on the wall to remind us of him.  You did a fantastic job in caputring ‘Rocky’ in a way we will always remember him.  Thank you Gilly.

Carol Canfield, Eagan Minnesota USA | November 27, 2009


It is just wonderful to see some of your paintings.  I have tried acrylic painting, but what I envisioned did not look very realistic.  It is harder than it looks. You have a gift!

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