catherin river and kitCatherin McMillan has over a dozen years’ experience as a professional portrait artist of both four legged and human subjects.  She has exhibited throughout Australia as well as exhibiting in the USA as part of an Australian/ American joint exhibition. A winner of numerous awards her work can be found in private collections throughout Australia as well as Internationally..  She is the owner of Animal Art House portraits.


We’ve all seen portraits of famous horses, be it a poster print or a portrait of a famous race horse (perhaps you saw an image or two of Black Caviar).  Ever thought about commissioning a portrait of your own horse or pony???   ..

Well this time around, I thought it a good idea to give you some hints and tips on how you can commission your own equine portrait. It will immortalise your champion for ever more and creating your own special family heirloom. It can be for a current equine pal or a past favourite..

 Where to begin..

Realism image - "Ziggy" - commissioned

Realism image – “Ziggy” – commission



The best place to begin is in the styles of art work you are creating.. There are a few styles both current and past which the art patron (you.. yes you) can choose from. Any artist worth their salt will make it easy for you and help with the process.






Impressionism- Klara & Wilson - commission

Impressionism- Klara & Wilson – commission



Portraits come in many forms from realism (looks like what it is) to impressionism (give you the impression of what it is) and the more colourful modern pop art style of work (Pop art is bright with limited number of colours similar to advertising poster of the ’70 & 80.)







Pop Art- "Buddy"- available

Pop Art- “Buddy”- available


These are but a few of the styles available. My particular favourite for drawing up my pony pals is realism. My motto is if it looks like it will blink at you, then that’s about right for me.

Its important to consider not only the style of work you like, but also the medium you prefer..  Your portrait will definitely outlast its subject and therefore it is worth your time to consider what will please you for the many years it will last.



Pastel – Majestic available

Pastel – Majestic available


What are mediums, well in this case it is not a way to contact your past champion in the horsey spirit world, it is in fact what the image is made up from.

A quick breakdown.. Pastels are a drawing medium, a bit like crayons for adults. Very life like and accurate but made from powdered pigment. If you use the correct ones they last for centuries.




The Brumby Whisperer -Sold

The Brumby Whisperer -Sold


Watercolours are as the name implies colour mixed with water. Many clear or semi clear layers are used to make up the image. Delicate and refined is how best to classify them.



Oils - Phar Lap artist Stuart Reid 1931

Oils – Phar Lap artist Stuart Reid 1931


Oils, tradition pigment colour in an oil base. They take ages to dry and heaps of work to complete. They can be used for either impressionistic or realistic works, depending on the techniques used.



Acrylic on canvas – Obsidian SOLD

Acrylic on canvas – Obsidian SOLD



A more modern medium is acrylic which can mimic oils and also provide ultra bright modern styles on canvas.






So now what to consider…


Coloured pencil - wolf study Sold

Coloured pencil – wolf study Sold


Do you like the softer look of pastels, traditional watercolours or oils? Perhaps you prefer the relatively modern acrylics on canvas???  Coloured pencil or even black and white charcoal or pastels..





Black and white- Poetry in Motion II available

Black and white- Poetry in Motion II available



A good starting point is asking others who may have previously commissioned a portrait. Take a look at their work… does it speak to you???? (In this case “speak to you” means catch your eye or make you want to look at the work and it definitely has nothing to do with horsey mediums I mentioned before!)

You can also go for a quick trip to a gallery, small commercial galleries are fairly common and of course every major town and city has a gallery somewhere, try the local council or if you are in a capital city try the state art galleries.  They just might inspire you!



Choose an artist who’s work best represents what your patronly passion desires, both in style and medium..

Of course you can visit a number of artists websites (like mine and choose the one that best represents what you have in mind.. Don’t be afraid to ask questions..  All good Artists love questions; it allows us to discuss our passion for art and for those of us that do equine portraits our favourite subject horse’s ☺

Some artists like myself work in a number of mediums for me its pastels, acrylics, watercolours and pen and wash.. Whilst the creator of the work is the same the mediums themselves give each piece a unique look and feel.


Next Time: What I as an artist can work from, and No the horse don’t need to sit for the portrait!