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Jeremy’s fine art sail

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Jeremy Houghton's father wasn't too happy when he told him he planned to become an artist. His exact words were: “Don't be stupid! Get a real job!”

But the choice paid off for the 41-year-old Brit. He's painted everyone from royalty to Olympians and is the artist-in-residence for Land Rover BAR, the British America's Cup team led by Sir Ben Ainslie.

He'll be here in 2017 for the Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series and plans a preliminary trip in May.

“When I come to Bermuda I plan to continue recording the LRBAR team journey,” he said. “I've never been to Bermuda so it's going to be very exciting. I think we're going to see some very interesting final races.

“Ben Ainslie was the greatest-ever Olympic yachtsman. Last year he turned around Team Oracle's performance at the America's Cup. When it comes to competitive sailing, there is no one out there who has more experience with big races, so it will be interesting to see if he can do that again.” Mr Houghton spends a week every month with the team as they train in the Solent, the channel between the Isle of Wight and the British mainland.

His first day out last month was an almost spiritual experience. “I was on the chase boat,” he said. “This is the rigid inflatable boat that follows behind the sailing boat. The team coach was on it. Conditions were perfect with a decent breeze.

“On this day the team was interested in sailing hard and fast. They were letting the boat get on exactly the right angle to the wind. Once it caught the wind it was lifting out of the water. It was like flying. It was incredibly exciting to watch.”

He doesn't just try to capture the action of the sailing team, but also the roughly 100 people who help get the boat in the water. He photographs the action and paints later. “You couldn't paint on the water,” he said. “Everything gets very, very wet. I have to put plastic bags around my camera equipment.”

The other challenge is that everything on a racing yacht is fast.

“There is so much to see,” he said. “Later, I have to choose the important bits to paint. You have to find a focus and eliminate unnecessary details. The more you eliminate the more you represent the movement of the yacht.”

He describes sailing yachts as the “jet fighters of the sailing world”.

“It is very exciting to be on a racing yacht. The crew has had a couple of wipeouts, but never with me on board.”

His America's Cup paintings will raise money for 1851 Trust, a charity that helps introduces sailing to children worldwide.

Mr Houghton came to art by a circuitous path. At his father's insistence, he studied law in university. He graduated in 1996 and moved to France, to study art but left that programme after he was hired as an art teacher in Cape Town, South Africa.

“After a few years, I decided to come back to England and live life on my own terms,” he said.

His big break as an artist came in 2009 when he was selected as artist-in-residence for the 500th anniversary of Her Majesty's Body Guard of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms. With it came a commission to paint Queen Elizabeth II in St James's Palace.

“This opened up a lot of doors for me,” he said.

He was named the official artist for the London 2012 Olympic Games and in 2013 and 2014 was artist-in-residence at Prince Charles's residence, Highgrove House, and for the Queen at Windsor Castle.

“Painting a picture and being in residence are very different things,” he said.

“As artist-in-residence I did my own thing. I tried to capture the essence of the house and painted scenes that people wouldn't normally recognise.

“Windsor is a well-known place, but not many people get to go to see what happens within the castle walls.”

He doesn't ask people to stop and pose, because he wants them to forget he is there. “At Windsor Castle I felt the heartbeat of the place was in The Mews, the horse stables. The horses play such an important part with the private and public life of the royals, that I thought it would be interesting way to tell this story.”

As for his disapproving father, he's come around. “He loves to pop into my studio and see what I'm working on,” said Mr Houghton. “I have a big barn that I paint in and my parents live nearby. I think my dad is quietly pleased and proud.”

Mr Houghton and his wife Jessica have two daughters, Honey, five, and Martha, four.

Portrait of an artist: Jeremy Houghton spends a week each month with the British America's Cup team, led by Sir Ben Ainslie, to capture the action. (Photograph supplied)
The deep sea: Jeremy has said he finds painting the British America's Cup team an almost spiritual experience. (Photograph supplied)
Water works: one of the America's Cup paintings by artist-in-residence Jeremy Houghton. (Photograph supplied)
America's Cup artist Jeremy Houghton with some of his work. (Photograph supplied)
Capturing the essence: above, Stable Mates by artist Jeremy Houghton, pictured below, with more of his work

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Published February 15, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated February 15, 2016 at 6:02 am)

Jeremy’s fine art sail

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