Ainslie Gilles-Patel: The HeArt of Horses
For Ainslie Gilles-Patel, horses have always been more than just animals. They have been her friends, guardians, and saviours - symbolising trust, strength, and hope. They, says the vivacious Adelaidean, have nudged her into the enchanting world of art. And, she reciprocated by immortalising them through her drawings and photography. Ainslie is one of the few combined equine artist/photographers in Adelaide. Her work is a tribute to the animal that not only fuelled her creativity but also helped her through depression.
“When I was 14, I got a point and shoot camera from my parents as a Christmas gift. My horse, who lived on my aunt’s farm about seven hours drive from Sydney, was the obvious first subject. I would spend hours photographing her from different angles, trying to capture something different and artistic with each photo,” says Ainslie who was born and raised in Sydney.
Being a complete amateur in photography, Ainslie’s first photos were technically quite poor, even though she thought they were fabulous! “But, we live and learn from our mistakes. I practised non-stop on almost every animal. I would point my little camera at my dog, cats, birds, and horses. I would analyse each photo and decide what was needed to make the photo better, and how to improve going forward. Then, I would go out and practise again,” she states. This was before she went digital, “I would go through endless rolls of film,” she adds.
Becoming an equine artist and photographer:
In 2001, Ainslie took her photography skills to the next level when she bought herself an SLR with a telephoto lens. “I started going to local horse shows to photograph the events. This gave me a headstart and helped me understand the important intricacies of action photography. I learnt how to photograph different events such as show-jumping, cross-country, Dressage and different breeds and meet the specific needs of my clients,” says Ainslie who uses a Canon 80D.
Ainslie dabbles in more artistic directions for private photo shoots. “At events, there are specific rules that I must follow. Sometimes, given the nature of the show, I would be limited with how and where I photograph – leaving very little room for experimentation. But I never give up trying! You will see me on my knees and even my stomach to get a good shot, especially if the horse in question is a tiny breed like a Miniature Pony,” explains Ainslie. At private shoots though, she enjoys enough liberties that enable her to create pictures that are both beautiful and unique. “My ‘arty’ shoots usually get more recognition than the more formal portrait ones,” says the Mawson Lakes resident.
After moving to Adelaide, Ainslie has covered numerous local horse shows, giving her an opportunity to take pictures of various breeds of horses. “Knowledge of different horse breeds is imperative for me, as it enables me to employ the right techniques to photograph various breeds. My favourite breed is the Arabian – I have been in love with it since I was 13. To photograph them – given their fine bone and natural beauty – I can sit low and get an angle that would make for a great picture. I am also fond of other breeds such as the Andalusian and Welsh Pony,” she adds.
The artist also uses her craft to create awareness about Horse rescue centres. “I take pictures for free for the rescue centre, Windamere Horse Haven in Monarto and will be photographing at Freedom Hill Sanctuary in Woodside soon too. My volunteering helps these wonderful organisations to have professional photos for their website and social media pages. This helps them have high-quality pictures for sponsorship bids, donations, and re-homing the horses,” she says. Ainslie also recently created an original piece of art to help raise funds through auction for her first cousin who suffers from MS and needs treatment in Russia.
Born to draw:
At the tender age of 15, Ainslie knew she was born to draw. A good friend at school gave her a collection of old Arabian horse magazines and within one of these was a ‘Letter to the Editor’ from a girl in Queensland who loved to draw the Arabian horse. There was a PO box address supplied and even though the magazine was very old, Ainslie wrote a handwritten letter to this girl called Tammy.
A few weeks passed and a letter arrived from Tammy! The rest is history and over twenty years of letter writing and friendship- Tammy helped, guided and mentored Ainslie on how to draw realistically using graphite pencil. Ainslie knew this was what she was good at, made her happy and fulfilled her. She became dedicated and to this day, must draw every single day.
Ainslie uses all sorts of art media; charcoal, pastel, mixed and wet media, and has developed, over time, her own unique artistic style that is expressive, and emotive. She creates original art in a bid to keep her work collectable and valuable to each of her buyers, and sells her work both domestically and internationally.
Ainslie was featured in “Artist’s Palette” magazine, No. 150 last year. She held her first exhibition in April with a new group in Adelaide called The Art Network. Her unique work has seen Ainslie be selected for this year’s Royal Adelaide Art competition. Her drawing his called Aubergine Arabian II.
The 37-year-old has plans to explore people portraiture but is adamant she will never give up photographing horses. “I have horses in my blood. They have been my therapy, and have given me immense happiness. I could never leave them,” says the horse lover.
Ainslie Gilles-Patel was born and raised in Sydney and moved to Adelaide two years ago. When she is not drawing in her home studio or out photographing horses, Ainslie loves to travel to the countryside and beach or take long walks with her husband Parth. She is also a writer, loves to horse-ride and travel, is a gym junkie, foodie, and music lover.
See more of Ainslie’s work on her website or Follow her on FB and Instagram: