Ainslie Gilles – Horse Artist & Photographer Interview

Ainslie1. Your name & where you are
Ainslie Gilles. I am also known through my art and photography as “AinslieG”.

I was born and continue to live in Sydney, Australia, in a quiet, leafy-green suburb, central to most horsy and arty things around and just out of Sydney.

2. Website & places you can find my work
My official websites are: &
Both my art and photography can be found quite a bit on the Internet, including:
FineArtAmerica: Ainslie Gilles
Red Bubble: AinslieG
Webshots: AinslieG
Fotocommunity: AinslieG
iDrawandPaint: Ainslie Gilles
Wetcanvas and more.

3. Tell us a little about you, what is your background?
Of course; as a child I loved to draw and be creative- most children do, but by the age of 14, I met the Arabian horse at 12/13 and Tammy, (see Question 11) at age 14 and the two seemingly brought out the artist within me. I decided at this tender age to devote myself to my art- to have the focus, drive and ambition to be the best artist I can be.

I am mostly self taught, but invite and welcome critique: I am always learning and improving!

I have been incredibly lucky in that my family have supported and encouraged my passions, (including horses of my own) through all the years. I have also been surrounded by the most beautiful and special animals, (family dogs, cats, rabbits, etc. some whom have been rescued) since literally a baby. I have a deep love and respect for all animals.

I am naturally very creative, adventurous and curious and so have traveled around the world; tried my hand at many things, always pushing myself to do better and am always amazed by and in awe of, Mother Nature!

Reach For The Star

4. How old are you and how long have you been an artist?
I am 29 and have been seriously creating my art since I was 14, so that means it’s been fifteen years for me now and what a privilege it is! I will never stop creating my art.

5. Are you a hobby or a professional artist?
I consider myself a professional artist, as I have and do sell my art, plus I accept commissions. Also, not only am I a national artist within Australia, but I am now an international artist too.

6. When did you first start drawing horses?
Very young: I have some drawings from Primary (Elementary) School of horses that my parents have kept- at the various ages of six, eight, ten etc.

I guess being around horses from a baby and all the way through childhood influences what you draw!

7. Is there a breed you favor as a subject?
Yes! The Arabian horse is my life and love; passion and obsession! Of course; I do not believe in restricting myself to just this breed, but certainly they are my reason for being.

I have pastelled a Haflinger, (a breed that I adore!) and have created works for the Shetland Society, plus Thoroughbreds and an Australian Riding Pony. I have yet to draw a Friesian or Andalusian; both breeds that I admire and are certainly goals for future artworks, but truthfully; when I look at an Arabian, I get a creative feeling like no other!

Into The Light

8. How did the Arabian horse become so important to you & your art?
As a child, I followed and read up on all the horse breeds of the world, through numerous horse books given to me as the standard birthday and Christmas presents, so I was always aware of the Arabian horse. In high school I was introduced to the Arabian horse in the flesh and “one look and I was hooked”-type thing happened!

The year I started High School, I met a girl who’s older sister had an Anglo-Arabian mare, who I thought, as a 12/13 year old, was just about the most beautiful creature I had ever seen! I attended the 1993 Australian Arabian Championships and walking around the grounds, seeing other partbred and purebred Arabians, was the pivotal moment for me: I knew the Arabian breed was “my breed”- heart and soul. And so it began- learning all I could about them; their history, bloodlines/families, what each country was breeding etc. Then in 1995, I met Tammy, (again, see Question 11) and literally at the same time, I started my journey with a gorgeous purebred Arabian gelding called Zenith! I was in heaven- not only was I learning all about the Arabian and drawing them too, but I now had the privilege of being with Zen everyday, after school and on weekends and holidays! He taught me a lot about the breed and why so many of us fall in love with them.

9. What is your main style as an artist?
I call my art ‘contemporary realistic interpretations’, in that I strive for correct equine anatomy, but I am freer in my style and techniques with my chosen medium(s).

I do not feel the need to draw in every vein or hair; every detail that could smother the artwork- I want my art to be expressive, textural and allow my personality and sense of humor to come through. I do not want to reproduce a photograph- I am a photographer, so I can take a good photo!


I am also fascinated no-end by light/shadow and this can be seen in most of my work. I actually try and choose reference photos with this in mind; to create an artwork that focuses on the strong contrast of light/shadow. I think this also creates a very distinctive style for me as an artist too- without this ever being a goal. It has just evolved and seems to be another way I like to explore my sensitive eye for light.

I like to say my art ‘breathes’: allowing marks to be left; mistakes to show, allowing the medium’s qualities as is, (for example, the unevenness of charcoal on the sanded pastel paper and by not blending pastel) and by not allowing the artwork to be perfect- there is no such thing anyway- but I want it to look the way it was created- by my hands.

10. You work with several different mediums, what are these and do you have a favorite?
The mediums I most work in are pastel, charcoal, graphite, colored pencil and ink. I also work in mixed media, in which I combine all the aforementioned into the one artwork. I have worked in the past with oil, acrylic and watercolor paints, but dry media is my preference and favorite and out of the dry media; pastel and charcoal are top on my list.

Shy Girl

11. Who/what are your main influences/inspirations?
My dearest friend and fellow Arabian horse artist, Tammy Rattray is my first and foremost influence. I first met Tammy at the age of 14, through writing to her after having seen her ‘Letter to the Editor’ in an old Arabian horse magazine I was given. We have been writing ever since and are now life-long friends. From the very beginning of our communication, Tammy has always encouraged and supported me and my art; from my first drawings, (which are very amateurish!) to this day.

I am also influenced by many varied artists, both past and present. I am always looking at other artist’s work; not to copy, but to open my mind and eyes to various styles, techniques and ways of looking at my subject, (the horse). It fascinates me how each artist interprets their subject… that is why there is no such thing as right or wrong in the art world!

Last, but certainly not least, is music. My art is hugely influenced by music and music is a huge part of my life and I really feel empty without it playing- in the car, at work, out exercising- no matter where I am, (I am even listening to iTunes on my laptop whilst I type in my answers to these questions)! I have a huge collection and my mood dictates which music to play. I love anything from Opera to Modern Pop, Rock and everything in between! I also love instrumental and meditation-type. Music energizes my creative side and I am always highly inspired and motivated by it. I find that the music I am listening to whilst working on an artwork actually finds itself coming through, as what I am feeling is drawn on the paper! I play music loudly- to consume me and get lost in it.

Soft Touch

12. You are also a photographer, how & why did you move into photography alongside you art?
As a naturally creative person, I am constantly seeking out beauty; the interesting and unusual with my eye and have a fascination with light/shadow, (the technical term for this is ‘Chiaroscuro’). I believe this has led me to photography. I received my first ‘point and shoot’ camera from my parents at a young age and it went from there. As I discovered and developed a greater passion for photography, I knew this is what I loved doing also.

For me, my camera in my hands is an extension of my eye- but I get to click the shutter and have it frozen in time! To be able to express what and how I see things through my artistic eyes is very exciting and feels like home.

To have an Arabian stallion dance in front of you; a new born foal’s whiskers fill the frame or a sunset landscape before you; images like these transcend the ordinary into extraordinary; and for me, I want to live a life less ordinary and capture all that is the essence of life.

13. Do you find it advantageous to your art to also be a photographer?
Yes, I do. For many artists, we work off reference photos. Obviously, the better quality the reference photo is; the better the artwork could be. To be able to take my own high quality photos is definitely an advantage.

14. Do you allow other artists to use your photos as well, and if so why?
Yes, but with conditions. I always ask anybody wishing to use my photos to contact me first -as a courtesy- and to make sure the artist credits me as the photographer for the reference photo used. I do not charge for the use of a photo(s). It is also always much appreciated if an active link to my photography website is provided too.

I am a firm believer in “pay it forward”/Karma. I have photographers who allow me the privilege of using their photos; so I in turn allow artist’s wishing to use mine.

Stallion of Sylan

15. Do you have an animal that is the muse behind your work?
Yes, the Egyptian Arabian horse. For those who aren’t aware; the Arabian horse is made up of various bloodlines and within each bloodline are various strains and families. To keep it simple though, the main bloodlines are: Egyptian, Polish, Crabbet, Spanish and Russian.

Since I first learnt about the Arabian horse, my heart has always been with the Egyptian… the original Arabian from the desert; it’s Homeland.

I love the qualities of the Egyptian bloodlines, most noted for the huge, expressive eyes; large, elastic nostrils, (designed to take in large amounts of air) small tippy ears; short head; compact, smooth body and topline. They also posses fine, silk-like skin, (the darker pigment to help against the sun’s damaging UV rays) and endurance; strong bone and stamina needed for the desert conditions. This, for me, along with their incredible, natural beauty; intelligence and companionship sums up my ideal Arabian type in my mind and for my art.

16. Do you have secret rituals you do to help get into the zone for your art?
What a great question! Yes, I do and for me, it is cleaning… yes, cleaning! I am a natural neat freak anyway, so to prepare myself to sit down at my drawing board and work on my art for a number of hours, I have to have a clean work space/studio. I find that this mentally prepares me and weirdly enough; is almost therapeutic! I also find a good, long walk or meditation is wonderful; to clear my mind and ‘reset’ it in Art Mode.

Play Time!

17. Is there a particular place that brings you inspiration?
Yes, my studio for the past 15 years. I cannot concentrate in any other place. My studio is my space; it has a huge amount of positive and creative energy and this is what I need to create my art. It is almost a scared place for me and I am very picky about who is allowed in there! It is kept as I leave it and is a very quiet place, mentally speaking, but certainly not physically… my music is always playing!

I am also deeply inspired when I visit Arabian horse studs, shows and/or other artist’s studios/art galleries/art shows etc. I come away from these visits feeling refueled, energized and ready to go!

18. How long does a piece of artwork take you?
My artworks are quite intricate and although not photo-realistic, (which simply isn’t my style or what I want to achieve in my work) still seem to take me a long time to finish! I also work part-time for a specialist surgeon, so my art does get put to the side the days I am at work, so usually a 9”x12”-sized artwork could take me a month or so to complete. Saying that, I did a pastel artwork, roughly 11”x14” in size, in three days, (see Question 24)!

19. How often do you draw, and are there times when you don’t want to?
I have to create every single day and have been for the past 15 years!

It is not a matter of waking up and thinking I’ll do some art today; it is so ingrained in me that I wake up knowing I have to draw! That isn’t to say I don’t take breaks. I have and do.

I think as an artist, you need to realize when you need a break; to step back and give yourself that time to refuel and become excited and ready to continue with your art again. If I am feeling at all negative towards my art- I stop and do not start again until I know I am ready, whether this means a few hours, days, weeks or even months.

Night Run

20. What effects do you think the internet has had on art in general?
The Internet has been in existence for many years now- so all this time has allowed millions and millions of artist’s to showcase their art to the world, with more joining everyday. It is overwhelming the sheer number of equine artist’s on the Net! If you think about it too much- it could stop you from trying, but I firmly believe that if you are skilled at your craft; you have your own unique style and you dedicate and work hard at your craft- you can and will succeed, no matter how many other artists are out there.

21. Has it had an effect on yours?
My word, yes! I have become an international artist thanks to the Net, so I can only speak highly of it! I get to communicate with so many artists from all over the world, on an almost daily basis, due to my art and photography. I also sell work and receive commissions, plus have many requests to use my photography for artworks by other artists etc. It is exciting and wished I’d had websites ten years a go! It has literally opened up my artistry to the entire world…

22. Which piece is your personal favorite?
There are many, but I guess, so far, my pastel of the Arabian stallion, “Gazal Al Shaqab” would be my favorite! I created his portrait to accompany an article I wrote for an international Arabian horse magazine. I had less than three days to do it and had the photographer of the reference photo I was using; the stud that bred and owns the stallion and the Editor of the magazine, all waiting with bated breath for the finished piece! I felt empowered, nervous but beyond thrilled to create such an important artwork at that time!

Gazal Al Shaqab

23. Would you ever sell it?
Yes. The original drawing is for sale on Many people ask me how I can sell my artworks after spending so much time creating them, and it’s true; it is sad to let them go, but it helps generate an income, plus knowing others enjoy my work is very satisfying and encouraging to us artist’s fragile ego! I also do wish for my art to become collector’s and investment pieces for the future and in order for this to come to fruition; I have to sell!

24. What else are you passionate about?
I think the question should be “What am I not passionate about?”! I am passionate about almost everything! I adore Mother Nature; her animals, landscapes, trees and flowers- all of it! I love reading, writing letters and poetry; traveling, gardening, walking/exercising and find the simplest of pleasures in things like going out to lunch at a lovely café; going for a drive in the country and wandering through antique stores or second-hand book stores; the beach/swimming and simply just laying in the sun with the breeze on my face.

I work with cancer patients and being around such really opens your eyes; makes ignorance and arrogance non-existent and allows you to appreciate the small things, like a hug; a kind word; the sun shining and makes me want to be the best human I can be.

We should all be trying for this every single day we are breathing.

25. If you weren’t an artist/photographer, what would you be?
If I had the talent, I would be a singer/songwriter. I have always loved music. I just can’t sing; have no idea how to write/read music and only very clumsily can I play the guitar and piano, if someone shows me how to first! But if I couldn’t be an artist and photographer, it would have to be the music…

I also love acting and did some as a child, but have yet to pursue it more as an adult.

26. Working on anything new?
I have been requested to draw the great *Tuhotmos (dec) by a lady in the US, who adored this Egyptian Arabian stallion. She e-mailed me through the photo she loves of him and so I will start his portrait soon.

I can always be found in my studio; music blaring, indulging in the one thing I am meant to do with this life of mine: draw.

27. What is your favorite art quote?
I have so many, but I believe in very much when Pablo Picasso quoted:

Door Step Blues

“Art washes from the soul, the dust of everyday life”

More to Come

Thanks to Ainslie for answering the interview and sharing her work. Be sure to check out her art website periodically for updates about her latest works.

Also stay tuned for more interviews with horse artists and photographers.
Are you a horse artist or do you know an equine artist you’d like to see featured? Add your name and website in the comments below or drop me a note to get involved.

6 Comments on “Ainslie Gilles – Horse Artist & Photographer Interview

  1. Ainslie Gilles

    I really wish to thank Paige for the marvellous opportunity to showcase some of my art and photography and in allowing me to speak freely!

    I just hope my words are of interest to others and hopefully, ignite and/or continue, the passion for not only art, but for the most wonderful creature to walk, trot and canter this planet: the horse!

  2. Tammy Rattray

    Well, my dear I am quite moved by your honesty. You are a kind soul and I am quite honoured to be called your friend and the original inspiration/motivator that started such a fantastic artist all those years ago. I am quite touched and this has actually inspired me to ‘try harder’ with my art.
    Thankyou for being you.

  3. Karen Hoffman

    Wonderful interview Ainslie, i`m so happy for you with your continued recognition, you deserve it, you are very very talented, a wonderful person, and a very good friend..


  4. emily

    Hello Ainslie
    My name is Emily Farr and im doing my HSC year 12 art at the moment in Forster NSW, and as part of my lead up i need to do an artist research that inspires me for my work, my artwork represents the beauty of the horse and their unique qualities that have helped shaped our society today. would you be able to answer a few questions for me?

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