Bronze mettle; Meet the artist combining her two loves... horses and sculpture.
IF you are a talented artist and a frustrated rider who is short of a bob or two, then why not make a horse for yourself?
Denise Dutton of Leek in Staffordshire did just that, casting in bronze an on-loan horse called Lady at the Castle Fine Art Foundry in Oswestry.
By her own admission, her art is better than her riding. An elfin 41 years, her equine skills owe more to Thelwell than Stubbs.
She said: 'My riding instructor despairs. I take so much delight in the movement of the horse that I entirely forget to do the next thing she asks.'
Denise has been drawing horses for as long as she can remember. She studied at the Sir Henry Dalton School for Sculpture in Staffordshire but her preoccupation for drawing horses meant her academic career did not take off.
She admits she is a nuisance at horse events and posh polo matches in particular, trying to video the movements of the ponies or draw them in action.
Denise believes the secret of her equine art is to convey the movement of the horse right through the piece.
Often this means slightly exaggerating a pose to communicate the subject's energy and vitality.
If her casting of Lady was an indulgence, her commercial work certainly is not. Her latest commission is the equine icon Amberly House, winner of last year's Grand National, which she isto produce at life size. Another project was to sculpt her own version of the Banbury Horse, derived from the nursery rhyme 'Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross'. Resplendent at fully 19hh, it was completed last April last, complete with its own Fine Lady.
Despite her twin passions, Denise is the first to admit her riding and sculpture do not always mix in real life A broken wrist sustained while riding Lady held up work on a prestigious project for three months. Sikh leaders at Thetford's Maharajah Duleep Singh Centenary Trust had commissioned her to produce a life-size cast of the last king of the Sikh empire on his horse.
She made up for lost time by working night and day from portraits of the Maharajah by Prince Albert and a painting by German artist Winterhalter.
Chris Butler, director of Castle Fine Art Foundry, once found her sleeping slumped over the halffinished statue in her studio.
Denise eventually completed the work in five months. Prince Andrew performed the unveiling ceremony in front of a line-up of Sikh guests at Wentworth Golf Club in 1997.
Thanks to the Castle partnership, Denise has shown her pieces at Woburn Abbey, Manchester Art Fair, Cheltenham races, the Great Yorkshire Show and Burleigh.
The foundry casts her works in resin to save the large transport costs involved in shipping heavy bronze.
Mr Butler, with whom Denise had worked for over 10 years, said his foundry's relationship with sculptors was based on trust.
He said: 'Placing your work in the hands of people who will transform it into bronze, is never easy.
'You've invested a lot of time and energy in your project, and you hope that the casting process will fully realise your vision.'
Denise is now hunting for suitable exhibition space to mount a longer show. If you can help, contact Denise at denisejdutton@ hotmail.com
Sculptress Denise Dutton's preoccupation with horses hindered her academic progress, but has translated; into beautifully detailed professional work