IMG_9634 Jenn Marshall cover
 

Jennifer Marshall

Equine Artist

Jennifer grew up in country New South Wales where she developed a great love and appreciation of the Australian bush and rural life. Her first passion was for horses and this drove her to study and draw them from a very early age.  She was within the top 10 art students in the 1973 New South Wales Higher School Certificate in NSW, but chose to do a Dip.Ed. in General Primary Teaching at Northern Rivers College of Advanced Education in Lismore, (now the Southern Cross University) rather than go to art school in Sydney. “I did not want to be forced to paint what was to me meaningless abstract art.”  During this time Jennifer was selling works in local galleries under her maiden name of Jowett.

From 1977 until 1987 Jennifer lived in several different central New South Wales locations, exhibiting her work in local galleries and country New South Wales exhibitions, and winning numerous awards, including Peoples Popular Choice Awards. From 1988 until 2006 Jennifer lived in the Mackay region, again exhibiting locally and winning many awards including Open, Representational, Traditional, Pastel, Portrait, and Peoples Popular Choice Awards.

Jennifer was accepted as a “Master Pastellist” by the Pastel Society of Australia in 1994, and in that year and in 1995 she tutored pastel classes at James Cook University’s Mackay Campus.  Jennifer actually painted in Acrylics until she discovered Pastels in 1985, and watercolours in 1984.  Much of her work is now produced in pastels, and she is considered to be one of the very best in this field within Australia.

In 2002 Jennifer married fellow artist Ron Marshall with whom she had won the Mackay Airport Mural Competition in 1996. (These murals now hang at Mackay Tourism Information Centre.) Ron and Jennifer had always painted similar subjects…early Australian history, landscapes, seascapes and working horses.

Jennifer also paints portraits…of horses, dogs and people, in acrylic and more recently, a mixed technique of acrylic and oils, as well as her beloved soft pastels. She and Ron now produce high quality Giclée prints of many of their original paintings.  These Giclée prints sell around the world and have sustained their art careers over recent years.  Even the Calgary Stampede have her Giclée reproductions on display in Canada.

It is only at Morpeth Gallery where you can invest in her original art works.  Jennifer and her husband Ron now work together on painting projects, sharing their passion for Australian Horses and their history.  Jennifer Marshall is a rare creature these days: an equine illustrator of historic subjects.  Dedicated to her portrayals of different moments in Australian history, Jennifer uses her inspiration, a wealth of true incredible stories from her countries colourful past.

This kind of illustration is exacting; accuracy is paramount.  This pursuit requires a passion to learn that particular event in history inside out.  Jennifer has done this and in doing so has become, in addition to being an artist, part storyteller, part patriot, and part detective.

“Good historic illustration is always interesting and informative.  But when it is great, it is enchanting, it absorbs you.”

American magazine ‘Art Horse’ featured Jennifer in a 12 page feature in its bi-annual magazine in 2011.  L Raff interviewed Jennifer on how her art career unfolded, and here is some of what she said:

Jennifer came from a large family, but she avoided kids at school.  “At primary school I was a real loner”, she says, “the other kids no doubt thought I was mad, lost in my own little world, pretending to be a horse or with a horse!  However I became very much in demand for drawing all sorts of things, such as birthday cards for the other kids in our little school.”

“Being unable to say ‘No’, I got thoroughly sick of drawing what everyone else wanted and told them they’d have to pay me, she remembers.  “There was nothing entrepreneurial about this at all…I honestly thought they would go away and leave me alone.  Instead of deterrent it seemed to make them worse, and thank goodness decimal currency had just come in. I could do my 2 and 5 and 10 times tables…they brought their 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents and…even 50 cents depending on what it was they wanted…and my bank account started growing.

At 10 years old my great uncle Perce who, unknown to me, was an amateur water-colourist, left me his watercolour paints in his will, and this was when I first started to paint.  I sold my first paintings to school kids, their parents and even the builder working on the school teachers residence next door,” she says.  “And all I had wanted was some peace to dream of horses!”

At about this time, Jennifer says she got to ride for the first time at a school fair pony ride, paying a few coins to be led around on tango, a pony club veteran, but Jennifer’s eyes were on another horse – tall, black & handsome, ridden by Jack, a ‘wild man’ local with a rough reputation.  She gathered the courage to ask him for a ride on the horse and he accepted.  Jennifer rode Jack’s horse all afternoon.

It was this experience that cemented in her a passion for horses, and she tried to be around them as often as possible.  She made friends (at age 11) with the owner of a nearby Arabian stud, and ‘borrowed’ a taffy coloured horse named Kasper.

“I spent hours grooming him, studying him and drawing him, and yes, riding him half an hour each day – ah the bliss! My math lessons were full of horse studies…”, she remembers.

At age 16, Jennifer’s family moved to a large banana plantation near Doon Doon and her new high school art teacher, Mr Bob Powter, became one of her most important artistic influences.  He was a potter, not a painter, but from him Jennifer learned the basics.

“One day he declared that my sky was too blue, that I’d painted a ‘Mediterranean sky, not an Australian sky with all its dust…’  Now the world I lived in was a green world, I knew nothing of the dusty dry outback then, and I certainly wasn’t painting it!  Indignant, I grabbed my painting in one hand and his hand with the other and led him outside and held my painting up to the sky – the real sky was bluer than my painted sky!  He said nothing, but smiled as we returned to the classroom, no doubt delighted that I had plucked up the courage to defend myself and amused at the look of triumph on my face!”

When Jennifer finished school, her mentor gave her an artist’s palette and told her, ‘You can draw and never forget it!’  She hasn’t.  During study for her DipEd Jennifer was also a member of the Lismore Symphony Orchestra, and bought her own violin.  She also saved enough money in her first year Kindergarten teaching to buy her first horse, named Ben.  She kept him until his death at age 20.

The next 18 years were spent teaching, looking after four children in her first marriage and accepting portrait commissions to support her family.  A move to Mackay around 1990 gave Jennifer the opportunity to open a small gallery & exhibit locally, winning many awards.  She also tutored art classes at James Cook University and produced two videos (now DVD’s), ‘How to Draw Horses’ and ‘Painting Clydesdales in Pastel’.

In 1996 another artistic opportunity presented itself when a friend suggested that she enter the Mackay Airport Mural Competition.  A set of four paintings on panels, two of them enormous, were required.  Having never painted on a large scale Jennifer rejected the idea, until she bumped into Ron Marshall at a local gallery and showed him the entry form.

Ron was an ex-sign painter, who knew how to paint big.  He had evolved into a landscape painter, who specialised in historical images that included equines.  Ron agreed to enter the competition, providing Jennifer would co-paint the entry.  They won, and the paintings hung in the airport for two years, before relocating to the Mackay Tourism Information Centre.

It was a highlight in a year of personal lowlights for Jennifer, when she was diagnosed with severe osteoporosis and her marriage ended.  Her friendship with Ron endured and they married in 2002.  “You have no idea the delight it is to have someone who paints similar subjects in a similar way, as your closest dearest friend,” Jennifer says.

Now living near the Queensland/New South Wales border, Jennifer and Ron are never short of inspiration for paintings. In 2005 an interest in the Australian Light Horse and the stories of the horses and the Light Horsemen touched Jennifer deeply.  It led to a series of original artworks and reproductions.

There is no shortage of inspiration. Fortunately I enjoy painting in different mediums, and different subjects. Horses are a favorite subject -especially working horses. It was the stories of  the horses  and Light Horsemen that lead me to join Ron in Painting our Australian Light Horse series. These paintings really do take a lot of research, a lot of planning, a lot of time, and I find, a lot of emotional energy, but they are also extremely satisfying. I have a number of them in my head and in various stages of development, before they get to the painting stage.

On the other hand a quick flower study or a landscape can be so much less intense, simply joyful. I find the change of subject and a change of medium to be stimulating.  The trouble is not so much getting stale in the studio…it’s getting enough time in the studio so that I can paint what I want, that is more of a problem.

Jennifer says, “All my work starts with an idea.  We may attend a heavy horse demonstration, or Light Horse re-enactment with the intention of gathering possible subject matter, or just come across something interesting with camera in hand to quickly record what moves us…Having generated a picture in my mind, I go about searching through my many thousands of photos… Ron sometimes dresses up in Light Horse Uniform, or other clothes to pose for a photo shoot, to get the light right for a particular figure.”  Then Jennifer puts her paints to canvas. “I enjoy creating a picture that has never existed before, I love it when it just works.”

The future looks bright, with Jennifer continually adding to the Australian Light Horse series, ongoing until 2017 – the centenary of the Charge of Beersheba.  The originals will then go on special exhibition.  Until then, limited and open edition prints of the paintings will be available for collectors.  Jennifer says, “Although the setting is war, the paintings are about relationships.  Amid the ghastliness of a battle field, even there is found something so supremely beautiful – the wonderful, powerful, mysterious relationship between human and horse.”

The Light Horse

One of Jennifer’s specialties is the Light Horse where she researches the history of the event and then paints the scene as an original painting.  The accuracy in her scenes is amazing.

The Australian Light Horse owes their success to the Reserve or Citizen Force nature of their training.  Light Horsemen brought their civil skills to the defence of the nation.  Shooting and riding were skills most young men, especially those in rural areas learned in their childhood and early teens.  Australian horsemen in the Boer and First World wars were initially led by those who had added to their civil skills with part time military training.

The soldiers, and officers commissioned and non-commissioned developed in this way were quite different to those trained in armies dominated by permanent forces where authority was not to be questioned.  Having experienced civil as well as military leadership, and known the influence of an unforgiving land; Australian Light Horsemen demanded to be well led; and claimed their place in history as “equal to the best” mobile troops in the Great War.

At Federation, Australia was at war. 838 Officers 15,327 Other Ranks and 16,314 Horses saw service in the South African conflict by the time it concluded in 1903.  New South Wales had sent Lancers, Heavy Cavalry, Mounted Infantry, and Light Horse; other states had sent Mounted Infantry and Light Horse.  However, it was recognised in this conflict that horsemen exposed and at the gallop with short range “shock” weapons (swords and/or lances) were no match for rapid firing smokeless weapons particularly if channelled by obstacles into murderous killing zones.

Thus when “The Mounted Service Manual for Australian Light Horse and Mounted Infantry” was authorised for publication by Major General ETH Hutton, Commanding the military Forces of the Commonwealth of Australia in July 1902, Mounted Troops were divided into two categories:

Light Horse, required to:

  • Fight on foot in the offensive and defensive;
  • Perform duties classified as information gathering and denial, reconnaissance and screening; and
  • Afford “protection” from surprise for all bodies of troops both halted and on the march.

Mounted Infantry, were required to perform only the duties pertaining to infantry who are temporarily provided with increased means of mobility.

All Australian mounted units were Light Horse; there is no record of Mounted Infantry units being raised.  The proud colonial titles and traditions of the colonial units were from this point used for ceremonial only.  Light Horse units used horse-holders to enhance mobility, in order to engage the enemy; the light horsemen would dismount, handing their reins to one of their number who would move the horses out of the combat area.  A trained horse holder could handle up to five extra horses.

In 2017 the charge of the light brigade will be remembered with a touring exhibition around Australia consisting of paintings completed by Jennifer and her husband Ron.

The Capture of Beersheba 31 October 1917

The initial manoeuvres for the assault of the town having been made by Chauvel, it became apparent that the methodical progress shown hitherto would not result in the completion of the operation within the limits imposed by Allenby. A bold stroke was called for, so a direct mounted attack on the town was ordered and 4 ALH Brigade was called upon to perform this task.

Advancing two regiments up (4 LH and 12 LH), with one regiment in reserve (11 LH), the sub units extended in three lines with fifteen feet between individual horsemen. From the very commencement of the charge of 7,000 yards, the light horsemen were engaged by Turkish fire. With their long bayonet held as a sword, at full gallop the regiments bore down upon the enemy.

Such a sight proved too unnerving for the amazed Turks and, in the final stages of the assault, the enemy fire passed over the heads of the Australians. This was later found to be caused by the Turks’ failure to adjust the sights of their rifles and the Turkish gunners’ inability to correct their fire with sufficient speed to match the furious pace of the charge.

The first wave of horsemen rode over the trenches and galloped on to Beersheba itself. The subsequent waves dismounted and took the trenches at the point of the bayonet. Despite the hand to hand fighting in which the brigade was engaged at the trenches, only 64 casualties were sustained.

The dramatic success of the charge was, in fact, the success of the Light Horse characteristics. Their speed, determination and tremendous zest for the job, outweighed their limitations of protection and weapons.