Coral Rose may be brand new to the world of country sports, but her art suggests the opposite. And that is down to the fact that she has well and truly immersed herself in this way of life, says Will Pocklington.
How well do you remember your first brush with country sports? Everyone has their story. Some can recount theirs with gripping clarity and detail; others look back on a medley of blurred details Ð new faces, animals, kit, sounds and smells.
Regardless of our own recollections, though, hearing those belonging to another person somehow reminds us why the hook is set so firmly from the outset. In this respect, artist Coral Rose's story is as remarkable as it is refreshing. Indeed her memories are as vivid as they are engrossing to listen to. But then perhaps that's not so surprising - it is just five years since Coral was struggling to hold back tears whilst pulling on a pair of men's breeks and buttoning up a baggy checked shirt, readying herself for what would be her first ever taste of shooting or hunting of any kind.
"My [now] fiancé Dave had been trying to explain to me what a field trial is, but I just couldn't get my head around it," she recounts to me over coffee. "So he suggested I join him on one. I turned up at his place on the morning, ready and set in my skinny jeans and sleeveless shirt. He took one look at me and said, "no way".
"Before I knew it we were there, parked on the moor, and I was looking down at my new outfit from Dave's wardrobe. I could have cried. I just didn't want to get out of the car. Then more people turned up and they were all dressed the same. I remember wondering whether it was some sort of weird cult."
Happily, Coral did eventually pluck up the courage to get out of the car, enjoyed the day immensely, realised the other people there were actually quite normal, and hasn't looked back since. It makes for an intriguing story from a self-confessed former 'townie'.
"Growing up, I lived in a bit of bubble," she admits. "You could say my family, and many of my friends, were quite anti. They just didn't like the idea of it [fishing, shooting and hunting]. Even Bambi was banned in our house for its fieldsports content, and African wildlife documentaries on TV never made it beyond the first hint of tooth-and-claw action."
Then, just five years ago, Coral met the aforementioned David Barrett, a countryman through and through and under agent at the Dawnay Estates in North Yorkshire. And so commenced a new chapter in Coral's life - one of wellies, dogs, wildlife, discovery and realisation; a chapter that doesn't look to be coming to a close any time soon. "The countryside and the country way of life has literally turned me upside down and inside out as a person," she admits. And I believe her. It's hard not to after laying eyes on her art, all of which is inspired by the ingredients of that alluring concoction you were thinking about just a minute ago. It is clear that, despite this world being so new to her, she gets it, she understands it.
And that's because she is living it; before long, pheasant and venison was finding its way back to the Rose household just outside Doncaster Town, as Coral tried to demonstrate the link between shooting and food and illustrate the whys and hows of the new world she found herself immersed in. "It's not always easy to change long-held perceptions, though," she laughs.
Yup, Dave's done a sterling job - that field trial was just the start. Coral has since joined him on shoot days, been duck flighting, pigeon decoying, even deer stalking; the whole shebang.
"I remember well my first time on an actual shoot day," Coral continues. "It was a real eye-opener for me. Before seeing it first-hand I imagined birds exploding in the sky, blood everywhere. But in reality there's no mess, very little blood, and the birds are hardly damaged."
It's been a steep learning curve, for sure, but one brimming with new experiences. "I particularly enjoy duck flighting, and just recently shot my first greylag goose and mallard. It was dusk, and we were hunkered down on a hedge line with Dave's labrador beside us. The sound of approaching geese is so exciting when all else is quiet."
Coral's first deer stalking trip left a similar impression, albeit a more emotional one where the act of taking a life felt that bit more raw. "I'd shot pigeons and partridges before then," she describes, "but this was different. I admit that, walking up to the lifeless deer, a beautiful roebuck, I cried. It wasn't regret that I felt, though; the emotions are difficult to explain. But I soon pulled myself together and helped prepare the deer for the freezer. We are still eating the venison now."
So what about the art? Well, that started with a woodcock. Coral takes up the story: "It was the first time I'd joined Dave on the syndicate shoot his dad runs near Pocklington. He walked over to me with a woodcock that had been shot and showed me where the pin feather was located on the elbow of the wing. He'd mentioned previously, upon learning about my interest in art, how some people use them to paint. "Why don't you try it?" he asked. So I did." The result was a piece Coral still fondly regards as her favourite; a brace of flying woodcock that sold at a local fair in Rosedale for more than she could have imagined.
"I wasn't trying to prove anything with that piece, it wasn't a commission, and originally it wasn't intended for the market. I had time and I just wanted to experiment," she tells me. "After seeing this, Dave encouraged me to start painting dogs for people to bring in a bit of extra money. We hadn't been living together long and I was more or less a housewife then. But that's how it started."
Interestingly, Coral's background as an artist is not typical of those who feature in these pages, either. She didn't go to art school, but rather studied art at A-level and every now and again found herself clutching a paintbrush away from the classroom. But what she lacked back then was a real focus on a particular subject or medium. "The pet portraits changed my outlook," she admits. "More and more people were commissioning me to paint their dogs or horses, so I had to start taking things more seriously."
Her portfolio has since grown in all directions as she experiments with a glut of talent and the inspiration now threaded into her very way of life. But she still considers herself very new to the whole journey. "I haven't found where I am with it yet. You can master mediums, and master skills, but unless you've got your own spin on things, it's going to be a challenge," she says.
Which takes us back to when the artistic dream was very much in its infancy, and, more specifically, Coral's first experience of what was then the CLA Game Fair. "I had no idea of the scale of the shooting industry or the extent of marketable shooting services and products out there," she exclaims in disbelief. "The first time I saw a pigeon flapper outside one of the stands, I nearly died!"
But it was Artists Row that stopped Coral in her tracks. "It was the first time I'd seen many people's work, and after walking up and down the row at least four times, I'd almost talked myself into never painting again. I just thought I'd never reach that standard. I was blown away! It also showed me what an artist can be, though, which was exciting. Big work, on grand scales, and the chance to be part of quite an incredible community. So I was inspired in equal measure."
Indeed, that same community has been integral to Coral's development. She's the first to acknowledge it. The likes of Andrew Ellis, Jonathan Pointer and Alan Hunt have all offered their advice and support. She's learning from the best. "I've learned that art is about so much more than copying a photograph," she continues. "A lot of people do that now, but it's very different to going out there and doing your own research." Something which Coral is eager to do more of, adamant that it will bring new ideas to the fore. "Everything in art has been done 10 times over, so I think it's about finding something that little bit different," she admits. "I want to be known as an artist rather than a girl who paints people's dogs. I want to forge my own style."
With an emphasis on experimenting and trying new things, you'd almost be forgiven for thinking Coral sits comfortably in the new age of young artists promoting their vibrant and modern work through lively social media accounts. Yet she has strong views on the way the market appears to be heading. "Customers seem to be moving away from traditional, old school art and going for the inky, modern, bright pieces. I think this is a reflection of changing interior design in people's homes, and the upsurge in the use of social media where bolder pieces stand out. Some of the more traditional artists are being over-shadowed," Coral explains. "But I think that's such a shame.
"I think there are lots of fads and phases in art, and a lot of work that won't be passed down to children and grandchildren. I want to do more than that. I want my work to be respected and collected." Take a look at Coral's work online and you'll instantly get a feel for her sentiment and her attitude, and I have no doubt that you will come to the same conclusion that I did, that she is well on her way to achieving that aim.
Coral's art is more 'lifestyle journal' than in-your-face 'buy my work now'. It's ferrets, dog walks, home-grown veg and log burners; paintings that instantly strike a chord with the hunter deep within you. And it is this, in my opinion, that makes her story - and her art - so refreshing. Somehow, despite this world being so new and alien to her, she just gets it.