Internationally acclaimed animal portrait artist Ann Seward has portraits and wildlife prints hanging in homes worldwide.
Painting came naturally to Ann. In1974 her first attempt at portrait painting was triggered by a need to fill a gap on her cottage wall, and so she borrowed her father's watercolour box. The resulting painting of a stallion was quickly purchased by a friend, as was the painting she did to replace this.
A love of animals and the countryside gave her an intimate knowledge and perception, which proved invaluable as her artistic skills developed. Soon Ann was accepting commissions for horses, dogs and other animals. Invited to show at the Game Fair at Bowood in 1979, Ann secured enough commissions here for her give up work with the family firm and launch a full time career as an animal portraitist.
Since I can remember I have always had an affinity with animals and the countryside. I am never alone as my constant companions are my dogs – always a couple of English Pointers. I have kept and bred horses for the last forty-seven years and during the last fourteen years have bred and organically reared rare breed sheep and a couple of Dexter steers, and so I have an empathy with and understanding of many animals.
Each portrait presents a new challenge in which I become completely absorbed. Whilst painting from the photographs which I have taken, I actually use my photographic memory to recall the animals which I met previously, to help me to project their character and soul into the portrait. It gives me enormous satisfaction to portray each and every animal to the best of my ability and to immortalise it forever. This is endorsed by the emotions displayed on receipt of my portraits.
Many of my commissions are given as presents and I get great pleasure in the cloak and dagger meetings with the subjects, and helping to keep the secret and surprise.
Personally meeting each subject, wherever possible, I spend some time discussing the portrait and its framing with you. I take notes on colouring, markings, blemishes, etc. followed by a set of photographs. Having the unique ability of recognising the animals' characters, I am able to project them into my detailed watercolour portraits.
However, if a personal meeting is not possible, I am able to work from a set of good photographs, thus enabling me to ascertain the detail and character to project into the portrait.
By building up thousands of fine brushstrokes, I capture the tactile depth of the coat and individual features, making each and every portrait an authentic, accurate and totally lifelike evocation of the subject, appearing alive to you.
Each portrait takes up to three weeks to complete.
Although my home, a seventeenth century cottage built by the Huguenots, is situated in the centre of Bradford-on-Avon, my garden in which my studio is located is very quiet and peaceful. All I can hear at this moment in time are the birds singing, even though 100 yards away the town centre is alive with shoppers and tourists. It is an amazingly peaceful environment in which to work.
In 2005 I purchased an additional garden from my neighbour. This I designed to be as open as possible to enable me to see and photograph my visiting canine subjects. It is also long enough to be able to photograph subjects retrieving a dummy, which I later replace with a pheasant or like, in the pencil remarques.
I open my gardens each year, as part of the ‘Secret Gardens of Bradford-on-Avon’. I have in excess of 200 people visiting each time, who are amazed at the peaceful tranquillity and size of my gardens behind the seventeenth century street façade.