Today I am absolutely thrilled to interview Jo Titman, the creator of the wonderful Tails of Whoa horse cartoons. Check out the links at the bottom of the post - they are simply brilliant!.
Have you always enjoyed drawing?
I have always enjoyed drawing, it is in the core of my soul I reckon. I would spend hours in my room drawing and making 'stuff' as a child. I did lots of little cartoons then as well, although, I never thought I was any good so didn't pursue it as a career until much later. I will never forget being told by my Mother that “No one makes any money doing Art”. I was encouraged to pursue a more academic route and failed miserably at it! I had basically given up until I had my son, found myself on my own when he was two and I took some watercolour classes for the sake of my sanity! My teacher told me I should be doing Art, he told me about a part time Foundation course at a local college. I was in my thirties and a single parent when I did my degree after that. I also lost my Mum to cancer during this time and she told me that her biggest regret was having not encouraged me to go to Art College. But I got there in the end and when my son was old enough did my teacher training and I am now a full time Art Teacher in a Secondary School teaching 12-16 year olds.
Tails of Whoa is a great name. What gave you the idea?
'Tails of Whoa', just like my cartoons just came to me, it arrived from nowhere, I didn't even think about it. Things just arrive if you let them.
How would you like it to develop further?
I'm not sure how I feel about developing it further, I don’t plan and I don't do well creatively if under pressure, so there is an element of reluctance to push in any one direction. I don’t want it to become something I have to do, I don’t function well like that. I am so far right brain, planning just isn’t part of the equation! I sometimes wonder how I ever manage to get to work on time.
Have you always loved horses?
I can’t ever remember not loving horses. Every Christmas and Birthday I hoped for a pony of my own, it was never to be. We lived in a town, had no money and no horses nearby. Riding lessons once a week was all my parents could afford but it was never really the riding that interested me, for me it was ALL about the relationship. I needed to be with the horses but didn’t like the whole riding school thing, it just didn’t feel right to me. I wanted my own.
Where do you get your ideas from?
It all started when at the age of 49 I got my first horse. He needed me and I needed him. He had a bad tendon injury and his owner couldn’t afford to keep a horse she couldn’t ride so I took him. It didn’t matter to me whether I ever rode him or not. I managed to keep him for 4 years, he is still mine, but after an expensive vet bill following a nasty injury in the field he is now with a friend who can afford the time and care I can’t. It was my journey with him that started it all. I seriously needed some help with him and found a lovely couple who moved their business 'Holistic Equitation’ into the area. They came to see him and when they discovered I was an Art Teacher we struck up a deal, I couldn’t afford lessons so I agreed to do some huge horse pictures for their ménage in return for lessons and help. I had no idea whether I could do it or not but was willing to give it a go to help Del. These are the first ever horse pictures I did. They are 4ft x 2ft6, Acrylic and Conte crayon on board. It has all kind of grown from there. I was bereft when I had to rehome Del, I cried solidly for three weeks but I knew it was the best for him, he is very happy where he is, it is much nicer than the old yard, he is enjoying his retirement but would have him back in a flash if I didn’t work full time and could afford to keep him. Words cannot express just how special he is to me.
The cartoons came about after Del became very attached to a mare, he became very herd bound at that time and this was the very first cartoon I did as a result of his expression whenever she went out.
Horse welfare is and always has been uppermost in my mind especially after having met Del, he was an ex National Hunt Racehorse and then Hunted and saw the damage this had done to him. After joining many welfare groups including ‘Anti Rolkur’ I was inspired to do the ‘Blue Tongue’ cartoons during this year’s Olympics. It has all taken off since then. As I did more I decided to separate them from my other FB Art page ‘Lost Perspective’ and set up ‘Tails of Whoa’ in October this year. I am amazed at the popularity of them and it spurs me on to do more. The ideas come to me as a result of my own experiences at the yard, I just do them for fun as they come to mind. I didn’t plan any of it, it just happens and I actually can’t help myself! Even though I don’t see Del very often as he is an hours drive away, I go to the old yard at least twice a week just to sniff a horse and take my little dog Twiglet who virtually grew up there. I watch and in watching and seeing the ideas flood in, the ‘Tis the Season to be Muddy’ one came about after seeing Paddy a little grey covered in mud after a jolly good roll.
I have to ask about The Stool of Contemplation. Tell us more….
Ah yes, this is where all my ideas come to me in a flash, I sometimes sit there laughing to myself as I think about them, good job I live on my own! It is in my kitchen and have to confess that this is where I sit to have a cuppa and a fag! I don’t smoke anywhere else in the house, I have two parrots as well as the dog and a chameleon called Gherkin so spare them the smoke. So, this is where I sit and contemplate life, a few moments of calm and tranquillity after a hard day or week at work. It is in those moments that I get the ideas or work on ones I have already had. It doesn’t happen anywhere else so reckon it’s a magical place to be. Doing nothing is highly under rated in our fast paced lives. Del also taught me a lot about this.
Which projects are you working on right now?
I have been very busy doing portrait commissions, dogs, cats, people and horses for Christmas and have another four to do after Christmas. I am desperate to finish the first oil painting I have done in 20 years, I started it as a personal challenge as I have never considered myself a painter, I hope to get some more of this done in between commissions. I am also working on a fox, just for me. I joined a group called ‘Equine Artists’ last year and seeing the amazing work on there kicked me into action, I love a challenge. I have agreed to do some cartoons for free for a couple of horse charities so will be working on them after Christmas. I also have another huge one to do for Holistic which I promised them ages ago, I have really enjoyed doing the big ones and just do these for the love of it now. Having them up on their ménage wall is an amazing place to exhibit my work.
How can we buy your work?
Hopefully I am getting to that, whether it is that comment from my Mother which still hangs over me, I never set out to make money from any of it. It was needs must for the big horse pictures and the cartoons started just for fun. The portraits came about just for friends and to see if I could do it. I hadn’t done a pastel portrait before so again that was just a personal challenge. I had no intention of selling ‘Tis the Season’ as a Christmas Card but did so due to popular demand, I could barely afford the printing costs so it was a bit of a gamble. I also saw it as a way to help horses as 10% of anything I made is going to H.O.P.E the Dartmoor Horse Charity. It has all really taken off now and have had my first cartoon commission. It is very difficult balancing my passion with work, teaching is very demanding and I usually come home exhausted. Thank heavens for the school holidays!
I am considering doing more items for sale but have to weigh up the time and financial risk. My son, thankfully, rustled up my web site just so I could sell the cards but hope to offer prints and possibly more ‘Tails of Whoa’ items. I will certainly be doing more cards and a calendar next year. A lot will depend on how much of a following I have and demand, small runs on printing isn’t cheap. I would love to do a book of cartoons but we shall see. I will always be donating to one horse charity or another though. In an ideal world I would give up full time work and devote my time to what I love best. Any new developments will be posted on my page and of course I am open to suggestions.
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