Oil Painting | Painting Series | Portrait Painting

Animals share with us the privilege of having a soul.
— Pythagoras

Oil Painting | Painting Series | Portrait Painting

I have spent all summer and the last few months working on lots of little composition ideas for paintings. I have been experimenting with different styles and mediums. I have also been trying out quite a few different techniques. Some things have worked really well and other things have not worked so well. My own personal challenge is to not beat myself up when things do not look great, I have to keep telling myself that it is all part of the creative process and you have to keep working through it to achieve something great. 

I have a long-running fascination with spirit animals. Spirit animals can also be known as power animals or totem animals. Spirit animals are believed to exist across many different cultures and tribes mainly coming from the ancient belief of "Animism" which means everything has a soul and that humans are connected to it. Even animate objects such as rocks or perhaps a river has a soul. Animism, Spirit animals and totemism beliefs have been believed by (just to name a few) the Native Americans, Buddist, Pagans, Shinto, Aborigines and Kpelle people spanning back thousands of years.

I believe that we are spiritually connected to animals. I am an animal person through and through.

This stems right back to my childhood. When I was a child all I ever wished for was that I would turn into a horse and could just gallop away. I didn't really have many friends when I was quite young as I was sent to a really snobby private girls school and I just didn't fit in. The girls were a clique and into clothes and fashion and I was into drawing and horses. I was lucky enough to have grown up with horses and it was the connection with which I formed with these animals which kept me going. 

School life was pretty miserable for me, the only class I ever looked forward to was art where I could just spend hours drawing or painting. All I ever wanted to paint was horses, something which I have never grown out of. Getting through the rest of the school day was tough but then I could go for a ride on my horse after school and suddenly I felt connected to something again. Where I grew up is really close to a beautiful stately home called Harewood House. The livery yard where we kept our horses are part of the Harewood Estate and is called Wikefield farm and it truly is the most beautiful countryside. I could take the horse out for hours riding through woodlands, across fields and have a never-ending backdrop of dramatic Yorkshire scenery. 

I used to love riding out on my own. There is no doubt that to be a good rider you have to build up a spiritual connection with the horse. Horses run on emotions and are very forgiving. You have to form a bond and a trust with each other. I always found this quite easy, it was an animal which I felt understood me straight away. I got on best with the difficult crazy horses, I love jumping and I am quite a fast rider so I never used to fight them I would just let them go and trust they would look after me (which mostly they did).

I have lived in London for over 13 years. I don't really ride anymore due to the difficulties and expense of keeping a horse living in the city. My life has shifted and changed so much over the years and 4 years ago I bought a dog which is a whippet called Pegasus which filled a massive void of not having an animal to connect with.

If you have ever had a close relationship with a dog or a horse you realise just how connected they are to you. I can only explain it as a spiritual connection. These animals know you better than any other living being. It is with our own animals that we can let our guard down and be who we really are. They accept us, protect us and just let us be. They also keep us going, if I am every really down I still have to go to the park to walk the dog, make sure she is OK and feed her. They know when you're sad and they come and give you a cuddle. Pegasus even has a sixth sense when we are going out, or about to come home or if we are talking about plans that involve her. We need animals just as much as they need us and we seem to forget that we are actually animals ourselves. We get so involved with our own pretensions of being human that I think we miss the point into what life is actually about, and animals ground us back towards this.

Going one step further, with a spirit animal. I feel that we all hold powers of traits of an animal in which we are spiritually connected too. I have always felt connected to horses even when I am living in a city with no contact with them at all, their soul always seems to be with me. I feel they are our protectors. 

The series of oil paintings I am about to embark on are all about females with their protective spirit animals. The animal holds key traits into their personality and key insights into what they are needing in their life. Through this series, I am going to exploring our relationship with animals and how different people connect with different creatures. 

Caroline