FLY has been seeing lots of social media activity from a brilliant Ontario-based artist, Michelle Hogan, whose focus is the harness racing community – her horse portraits are incredibly detailed and full of emotion…so FLY reached out for a quick chat with the artist herself….
Michelle, you’ve worked with harness-racing horses as a trainer, owner and breeder – what inspired you to start such a unique career? Growing up, I was your typical horse-crazy kid, without a horse. During the summer before I entered high school, it was time to find my first job, and I went straight to Flamboro Downs, which was only a short drive from home. All I knew was that I wanted to work with horses. I had my first job as a groom within days and never looked back!
Your portraits of harness racing horses and drivers are so detailed & intricate – how long have you been observing these horses from an artist’s perspective? As long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in art. Art and horses have always been the two constants in my life. Because of this, I have always observed them with an artist’s eye. I was photographing and drawing all the horses I cared for from the moment I stepped into my first role as a groom. You work in pen and ink instead of watercolours or acrylics – do you find you get better definition in your work? Most true cinephiles say B&W movies offer greater “texture” to the stories – perhaps the same could be said for your work, yes? Absolutely! One of the things I love about ink is how much detail I can include in my drawings. I use fine-tipped pens, some of the smallest on the market.Did you study art at school or college or are you self-taught? When I was 10 years old, my parents enrolled me in a local adult art group/class. As the only child in the group, I learned so much from both the teacher and the other members. I learned to paint with watercolours and fine tune my drawing skills. I was taught how to see as an artist. Aside from this, I took art through high school. Again, my teachers were fantastic and supportive of my interests. It was there that I learned techniques in pen and ink.
Commissioned works are an important revenue stream for any artist – do you go out to clients’ stables or racetracks for photographing or interviewing the owners, drivers, the horses before starting each portrait? What is your process? Most often I work from photographs provided by the client, with photographer’s permission. However, for my work with Hanover Raceway, I attend the events we are partnered on and take my own photographs to work from. This way I can control the lighting and composition of the photographs to reflect what I prefer to work from in a reference image.For those of us who can’t afford originals, do you also offer prints of your work? Yes, prints are available through my website. I also offer cards, mugs, and a variety of other printed merchandise.
You work at and with the Hanover Raceway – is this where you started your career as a trainer/breeder? And they obviously enjoy having you and your work on site. Are there other tracks that you love to visit? My involvement in harness racing began at Flamboro Downs in Dundas, Ontario. The horses in my care would often race at other Ontario tracks, including Hanover Raceway, and Hanover quickly became a favourite. I also love to visit Clinton Raceway (Clinton, Ontario) and Grand River Raceway (Elora, Ontario). The fan experience at these tracks is top notch, and you can get close to the action. What’s coming up for you over the remainder of the year? Any art shows or exhibitions where we can find you? My work is currently included in the Owen Sound Art Banner exhibit, and my banner can be found hanging outside the Owen Sound Tourist Information building along the harbour. And on September 10th there will be a showing of my work at Hanover Raceway during the races.Michelle continues…Having been directly involved in the harness racing industry for most of my life, the horses and the people are like family to me. It is important to me to give back in any way that I can. I strive to draw new interest and fans to the sport of harness racing through my art. I support aftercare for our horses through the Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society and industry charities such as Harness The Hope.
2022 is my third season as the Official Artist of Hanover Raceway. Winners of the Dream of Glory Trot and the Balanced Image Trot receive custom portraits of their horse. I also partner with Hanover on other projects throughout the season, such as Bob McClure Day, Trevor Henry Day, and the Ontario Women’s Driving Championship. Merchandise such as cards and mugs can be purchased at the Hanover Raceway program booth and Race Office. My studio serves many purposes. It is where I work, but it is also a source of inspiration and education. Visitors to my studio can see, feel, and experience a little piece of harness racing. I keep a collection of authentic racing equipment, memorabilia, and artwork on display.Thank you, Michelle, FLY is now a fan of harness racing as well as your beautiful artwork. And if you would like to learn more about this unique artist, please visit Michelle’s website and follow her on social media: https://harnessartist.com/
Facebook.com/HarnessArtist and Instagram & Twitter: @harnessartist