A Chat with Wildlife and Equine Artist Graham Kearney

Recently I had the opportunity to chat with well-known Equine and Wildlife Artist Graham Kearney.  I confess to being more than a little starstruck as I have been following his career for close on 7 or 8 years and have always been in awe of his work.

Equine Art
Horse sketch

Graham says painting is like breathing and explains that it has never not been a part of his life.  He started at a very young age and by the age of 15 started dabbling in pastels – a medium he still does 70% of his work in.  Largely self-taught, he joined the odd lesson here and there but admits it was mostly to connect with other artists.  His studio has been his teacher, developing his own techniques through many hours spent painting and he admits that he has thrown away a fair amount of paintings in the process!

His passion for his art really resonates in his words and while he describes himself as more of an introvert and preferring to avoid the limelight, he believes the progress in his art has strengthened his confidence and assisted in building his interpersonal skills.  Graham admits to appreciating criticism as it allows him to grow as an artist.  His name is synonymous with Equine Art, with well-known South African and International horses featuring in his portfolio.  I asked him how he broke into this market and had to smile at his answer.  Years ago, on a visit to a farm with the aim of doing some wildlife paintings, the owner showed him her Arabian horses and suggested he paint one.  He explains that it’s a very special breed and that painting them means you have to be really familiar with them.  With the guidance of his client he managed to paint his first ever Arabian horse.  He laughs as he admits that they intrigued him and he therefor kept on trying, but would constantly be told that he wasn’t getting the horses right.  His perseverance and hard work paid off.  Facebook was quite a new platform at the time, but posting his work soon generated more interest.  It took time to gain the trust of the horse-riding fraternity, but now Graham Kearney is a household name.

Equine Artist
Graham Kearney sketching a horse

His skill and talent did not go unnoticed – through friends he was introduced to a couple staying in Dubai and with their help exhibited at the Dubai International Horse Fest in 2016.  Graham admits it’s a very different culture, but a shared passion for horses assisted in building some strong bonds and he considers himself extremely blessed for the opportunity.  He recently visited Dubai once more to exhibit.

The challenge of painting new subjects and trying new things excites Graham.  To him the end result is the driving force and he enjoys the expression of a client when they see their completed portrait for the first time.  Graham confesses to feeling depressed when he can’t paint for a few days, and is thankful for the exciting lifestyle and meeting new interesting people through his work.  More than anything else the growth in his work makes him get up and spend the hours necessary to finish the paintings.

I asked Graham what he views as the biggest challenge as an artist and business owner.  His answer was short and sweet: time.  He laughed as he mentioned most people were saying January is the longest month of the year, while he wonders where the month went to!  Some days he spends as much as 16 hours painting!  I can absolutely relate to this as I often wonder where a day has disappeared to!

Wild dog sketch

I just had to pry a little and enquire about his have-to-have art supplies and his answer actually really surprised me.  While he values his pastel pencils and reiterates that artist-grade supplies are vital, he actually views a good quality camera and computer as paramount in his work.  Graham uses only his own images as references and to achieve the amount of realism and detail that his paintings require, he depends on his extensive knowledge of photography.  He also explained that having good quality photos to market your art is very important as a poor photo with sub-par colour can really hurt your business.  I admit I felt chastised – while I also have a photography background I have been very lazy to pull out my own camera to photograph my work!  In the end he did admit that he loves his Rembrandt soft pastels, and also loves working with his Caran D’Ache pastel pencils!  Recently Graham was appointed as an official Royal Talens Brand Ambassador as well.

It is both refreshing and inspiring to speak to someone so down-to-earth and still so in love with his life and being an artist.  He strikes me as a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of person and I hope to exchange some more ideas soon!  Graham’s passion is contagious and after our chat I couldn’t wait to pick up my own pencils – and my proper camera!

Thank you for agreeing to chat to us Graham, I remain a huge fan and shamelessly stalk your Facebook page!

For more information on his work, visit and follow Graham Kearney on the links below:

Facebook: Graham Kearney Artist | Instagram: @graham_kearney_artist_studio | Website: www.grahamkearneyartist.co.za

Wildlife Artist
Eagle sketch

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