Jennifer Bell

Early days
Jenny BellI was pony mad from the age of 4, and the only thing I cared about was ponies. Because I never had my own pony to ride, that meant I spent a LOT of time drawing.... I didn’t have a very good relationship with my art teacher at school, and when I went to art college it was clear that painting horses was disapproved of...but I kept drawing (in secret.) Then I went into advertising, (forgot the fine art and learned graphics) and amazingly - and a bit by accident - ended up as a freelance artist, writing pony books (‘Annie learns to ride’ etc) and illustrating for other people (books with Carolyn Henderson about riding, and lots of pony novels!) In between, I’d got married, had 2 kids, qualified as a riding instructor (BHSAI) and become a successful mural painter."

Mural "For painted illustrations I use a combination of poster paint, gouache and watercolour...a combination of opaque and transparent colours. For big murals I use a lot of Dulux tester pots! (Plus 'Flashe' paint for details, which is like emulsion but has more intense colour, and transparent washes of acrylics for subtle touches at the end.) I don’t draw on the walls first, but go straight in and sketch with paint. It dries fast and I can paint over it if it doesn’t work. I like to get the overall design right first, just blocking the main components in, and only start using local colour once the shapes are right.

Book coverWhen I’m drawing line illustrations I like 2B and 4B pencils, soft and black, but they sharpen up well for detail. I draw fast, and I get through a lot of pencils!” If I was doing a very ‘finished’ realistic drawing I’d need to start with HB - on a smooth cartridge or ‘art’ paper because it picks up all the detail - and work through the softer pencils; B, 2B and 4B when I need the darker shades. It’s like painting with different sorts of grey.

The best advice I’ve ever been given?
...All the times people have said... "Have more confidence in yourself!"Drawing

The worst advice..
Someone once said...”Give up the writing, you’re no good at it...”

Top tips
  • Keep learning; if you want to try different materials (pastels, watercolours, oils etc) find out how other people use them, and learn the basic techniques from experts...and then use them in your own original way. Look at videos and books. Some artists have ‘open studio’ days where they demonstrate what they do.
  • Keep focussed; if you really want to draw horses and ponies well, study all the associated topics too - horse anatomy, how to ride, tack and harness - and learn how to draw people too!
  • Keep doing it. Practice does pay off!
You can visit Jennifer here:

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