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Had it not been for a fruitless, last-minute scramble for a suitable birthday present, resulting in a hastily sketched portrait, Emily Johnson might never have become an artist at all. She hadn’t painted since school, and even then, only for her studies; she was happily embedded in a new, farming life in rural Gloucestershire.


Yet here she is, about to embark on her first season as Cheltenham Racecourse’s official Artist in Residence. A passing glance at one of her pieces is enough to understand why.



Emily welcomes new paths and takes the passage of life as she finds it. A scientist by training, she is the daughter of a designer, who had always encouraged an academic route, while her much-loved, ‘fat cob’, Molly, pulled her ever further into the world of horses. Through both equine science and Molly, she found her clan in Gloucestershire, and through them her passion for a rural life, full of animals, fresh air, and hard graft. Thoughts of art were far behind her. 


Still, life, as always, finds a way to bring us all back to ourselves. Thanks to a quirk of fate, Emily found herself sketching in every moment of her free time from her farm work. It gradually took over her life, and she was finally able, and ready, to call herself a qualified, fine artist.


Since then, a veritable lifetime has passed, and Emily is now one of the finest artists of her generation. Her art is testament to both her passion and her education. Her clinical eye sees much that others wouldn’t notice, and her paintings quietly whisper of muscles and sinews that could only be recognised with a profound understanding of equine anatomy.


Emily is deeply humble. She knows that she wouldn’t be where she is today without the love and support of her family in Sussex and her farming family in Gloucestershire. She openly acknowledges that a struggling artist would have gone nowhere without bed, board, and a space to explore her gift. But, just like Molly thundering along behind the string each morning, Emily is completely unstoppable. She might not have been bred for this particular race, but with the right yard, the right partner and her own, unique talent, she’s winning it all the same.


Just like a cob on the gallops, Emily has embraced being an outsider in every aspect of her life. She is a first-generation horsewoman, farmer, and fine artist. As a result, she has retained a childlike curiosity that is infectious, and she does not hesitate to explore every corner, every angle, and every new path in pursuit of her art. Her ‘first-day’ viewpoint and her inquisitive nature mean that she is fascinated by things that others would consider mundane, and rediscovers things that have been long forgotten. Brought to life anew in every piece, her art speaks of a world relived, to be enjoyed all over again.

As Artist in Residence, Emily has an access all areas pass. She will be just as likely to be sketching horses at rest in the stable yard as taking rapid speed reference photographs from the vet’s car. She will be found somewhere on the racecourse at every meeting throughout the season; sometimes exploring hidden corners, and sometimes giving public demonstrations. 


Equally happy painting from commissioned briefs and from her own, vast inspiration, Emily will be available to talk about her work throughout each day and will showcase select pieces which are offered for sale.

Well, the ‘what’ is the most important part of the whole story. Emily’s residency is another way that Cheltenham is supporting WellChild. Her many months of observation, immersion and exploration will culminate in one, singular, unique piece that will be auctioned in aid of WellChild. Work that she sells through the racecourse will also contribute to the overall donation, so she is committed to selling as much as she can.


And when Emily Johnson sets her mind to something, you can bet she will achieve it, with clear air to burn.


To view Emily's website, click here.

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