By Shya Beth
Scarlett Charles. Photo by whitecatphotography
From the fast-paced and vibrant arena of international show jumping to the quiet, peaceful but no less vibrant hues of her art studio, up-and-coming show jumper Scarlett Charles has the best of both worlds. Coming from a legendary show jumping family in Hampshire, England, Scarlett has been around horses all her life—both inside the ring and outside of it, in the studio with her paints and brushes. Surrounded by the best of the best at her family’s home base, it’s no wonder her time in the stables has influenced her painting passions.
“I’ve lived in Hampshire my whole life at our family home, Heathcroft Farm,” Scarlett said. “I was brought up around horses with my siblings and I think we all aspire to be like our dad and are extremely grateful for all that he does for us.” Riding alongside her brother and sister, Harry and Sienna, all three take after their father, 2012 Olympic team gold medalist Peter Charles.
Pursuing Her Passions
Scarlett finds that riding and painting provide a balance to one another. From the constantly-on-the-move lifestyle of a show jumping athlete to the days spent exploring her creativity at home, Scarlett blends both together in a way that brings out her strengths and challenges her in different ways.
“As well as my love for horses, I’ve always had a love for art,” Scarlett said. “It’s something I love to do in my spare time to just unwind and take my mind off things. No one else in my family is into art, so I find it nice to have something that is mine to escape into. I always like everything to be perfect, and love how I can channel my high level of attention to detail into my art.”
Mostly self-taught, Scarlett took art classes in school but was never there a lot of the time due to being at horse shows. “Most of the time, I would sketch by myself in the back of the trailer when we were away at shows,” she said. “Learning from a lot of trial and error, I developed my own style through that process.”
A close friend and fellow artist, Jane Ashley Brian, welcomed Scarlett into the studio, where she learned several new techniques that she applied to her own paintings. “I always felt so inspired by Jane’s work, and feel so grateful to have met someone who really understood my level of detail and had a deep love for creating, like myself,” Scarlett said.
Always keeping a sketchbook close by, Scarlett uses it to keep track of ideas for new paintings. “I usually always bring a sketchbook with me and do little sketches of ideas I have when traveling and before I start any bigger paintings, to get a rough outline of what I intend to create before I start,” she explained. “I originally started with acrylics and watercolor, but since trying oil paint a few years ago, I will never go back. I love the finish and how you can keep working with it for a few days before it dries. Even though it can be more difficult than the other mediums, I’ve enjoyed teaching myself how to use it and feel I’ve developed a technique that really works for me. I really get a buzz when I can start to see the painting come to life; I do end up staying up all night sometimes when I’m really into it,” she admitted with a laugh. “The sheer enjoyment I get from it is why I love it so much.”
Currently, equine art takes up most of her painting time—a subject that lends itself well to the large size she paints. “I love to work on quite a large scale and plan to keep scaling up the size of my paintings, as I feel it makes them look more effective with the equine figure,” Scarlett said.
There was a brief time after Scarlett finished secondary school in 2019 that she contemplated pursuing something else besides art or horses. “I thought about university for a moment as I considered going into pharmaceuticals for a brief time; however, for me, riding was always going to be what I wanted to do,” she said. “I love that I can fit art alongside my riding. It can be so relaxing to just unwind in a painting after a long day at the stables!”
Setting Her Sights
Last summer, Scarlett was badly injured in a fall at a jumping event in Belgium, fracturing multiple vertebrae in her back as well as her neck and ribs. “I feel very fortunate it was not more serious,” Scarlett said. “I’ve had to take some time off to recover, but my plan is to keep building up my team of horses and work on producing horses to the upper levels of show jumping. I feel extremely fortunate to have my father’s wealth of knowledge on my side, and I feel so lucky to have an amazing team around me.”
Scarlett intends to continue painting in her new studio next to the barn and stables, something she appreciates as she can watch the training sessions from her studio window. “Once in a while when I’ve been away at shows, it can be hard to find the motivation to get back into painting,” she said. “But I always have something planned in the back of my mind about what I want to paint next, and that keeps me motivated to start painting when I get a chance. Usually as soon as I start, I’m away and won’t stop until it’s finished!”
For more information, follow Scarlett on Instagram @scarletts_art_collection
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