catherin river and kit

Catherin 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.


Some artists say that the hardest portrait to create is a self-portrait. I having not completed one of those as yet but it’s definitely on my bucket list.  However the next hardest to completed is a portrait of one someone close to you. For me that was one of my children and her first pony club mount Dusty.

My youngest daughter had been asking and asking (or should that be nagging??? ) for quite some time about a portrait.. Yes darling when I have a chance I’ll do a painting for you.  Famous last words.. Lol.  Well she didn’t give up asking so deciding to surprise her for her birthday I set about selecting which medium I would use for her portrait..

First gymkarna

First Gymkhana


I loved the idea of an acrylic on canvas as I could paint a rather large portrait and use her favourite colour as the background. With the medium sorted and the canvas purchased it was time to find that one special photograph to use as a reference for this very special memory piece.

Now which photo to use.. You always take what seems a million photos of your children and when they start competing you seem to take a million and one or should that be a million and two..



This portrait had to be an extra special piece as Dusty the appaloosa was getting on in yrs.   A grand old 25 at the time my daughter started to attend pony club with her..  The photo selected after much deliberation was of their first ribbon, a second place in the beginners riding class.

Creating a painting of someone you love and see every day is one of the hardest things in the world. Because you are very familiar with the subject you are even more super critical with your work.  You know every line every freckle and every hair on their heads..

Choosing a 3 foot by 4 foot canvas might seem an over kill in size but hey if you’re going to do a portrait of one of your children why not aim big …

Acrylics are such a lovely flowing medium they allowed me to subtly show the beautiful alabaster skin on my then 8 yr. old daughter…   they did however offer a big challenge on that roan coloured coat of Dusty the appie. All those small individual strokes of the hairs in her coat..

I chopped and changed the darks and lights on Dusty’s coat so often I thought I was going cross eyed at times… But it was worth it .. My daughter was ecstatic that she finally had a portrait of herself with her beloved Dusty..

Truly a special memory piece to be treasured into the future..

Now my daughter is 12 I have a request for a new portrait  one of her new competition horse Melody Pond either show jumping or competing in dressage.. A chestnut this time..phew.

She is hoping this time around it won’t take 2 yrs. to complete.



Catherin McMillan