Rutland Pride


Exton Artist Penny Richardson

From your beloved pet or a family member, to your favourite Rutland landscape, no commission is too challenging to inspire Penny Richardson, the Exton-based artist who works alongside husband John to create portraiture and so much more…

Penny Richardson, Exton Artist.
Penny Richardson, Exton Artist.

It’s A Paradox, isn’t it. These days we all have reasonable quality cameras in our pockets, built right in to our smartphones. We take more photographs than ever before and yet – despite our prolific tendencies as shutterbugs – most of those languish on our devices, never to see the light of day.

Perhaps we’ve become complacent as to the  power that a really striking image can have, the memory it can evoke or the emotion that it can convey… at least, until we’re presented with a picture too beautiful to ignore or one of somebody too precious to us to overlook.

Nobody knows that better than Exton artist Penny Richardson. Growing up in Rutland, and schooled at Morcott Hall School for Girls, Penny remembers her art teacher John Walton fondly, as an artist in his own right as well as somebody who fostered her prodigious talent.

“He then encouraged me to go on to A-Levels on the next leg of my scholastic journey, which would be at the Rutland Sixth Form College in Oakham.”

“When I’d completed my A-Levels I successfully applied to the Leicestershire-based Loughborough College of Art and Design. I studied life drawing, sculpture in clay, photography, plus 3D work that helped to direct me onto the path I am still on today.”

Penny worked for a couple of years on the family farm whilst pursuing her painting, quickly picking up commissions.

A few years later she married John who today is an exceptional picture framing expert and photographer. It’s a skill set which segues nicely with Penny’s work, as he can frame her images and he also manages her website too, and brings to the partnership all sorts of IT, printing and other technical skills.

“Growing up on the farm was wonderful, and it allowed me to see animals going about their daily business, which actually gave me quite a keen eye for anatomy too.”

When Penny and John first married in 1989, the family had five dogs, plus a clowder of farm cats. Today they have five (“beautiful!”) children and three grandchildren who they’re immensely proud of, as well as the family pets, Meg & Chutney. Regular dog walks around their village, Exton, provides constant inspiration right through the seasons, and some of Penny’s work has seen her paint their own street in the snow, as well as local landmarks like Exton’s Fort Henry and Normanton Church. However, Penny’s preferred subjects and the ones she’s most frequently called on to paint are dogs, horses and cats.

 “I have painted people, of course, but pets are by far the most popular subjects,” says Penny. “I think it’s because young human beings change as they’re growing up, whereas our pets look the same throughout their adult lives. And perhaps it’s because pets, sadly, aren’t with us for as long. We love them and want to remember them.”

About half of Penny’s commissions are of dogs, and she most commonly works from a photograph, even one taken on one of those camera phones. Even if the quality of the photo isn’t terribly good, Penny can still use it as source material. However, if a client is really struggling, the fact that John is a photographer can come in handy.

“I’m a mixed media artist, and tend to let the breed of animal dictate whether I work in gouache, watercolour or oils.”

“My own opinion is that longer coats look better in oils whilst shorter coats are more suited to gouache, and for the latter I use watercolour board, but for oils and acrylics I paint onto canvas.”

Alongside dogs, horses are a common commission, and one where attention to anatomy is even more important. Her cat portraits too, are adorable, and capture the marble-like eyes of an alert feline. People and landscapes are a less common commission but you may soon see more of them.

John is a keen runner and a member of his local triathlon club. His previous adventures have included the 66-mile Rutland Round and a 160-mile trip around Rutland’s 50 parishes. Back in January 2021, a nasty case of Covid saw him hospitalised for six weeks, but despite doctors’ warnings that he wouldn’t be able to run again, John has focused on becoming well enough to take up walking and running again, and has enjoyed a summer out in the fresh air.

One of the advantage is being able to go out for walks with the dogs and to enjoy the area’s scenery. He and Penny have also been visiting local villages and hope to create a collection of work based on the area’s most beautiful churches… although commissions are always coming in, which necessitates this project being put on the back burner.

“Especially around Christmas I’m always very busy, and I think there’s a balance to be achieved between helping as many people to capture beautiful portraits of their pets as possible, but not treating a commission like something to be rushed. I can turn around work in as little as a week around Christmas but I like to quote two weeks.”

“It’s incredibly rewarding to immortalise somebody’s dog, their horse or their cat. We know how precious ours are to us, and when you get the sparkle in their eye, or the glossy highlights of their coat just right, it feels wonderful!”

Penny Richardson is an Exton-based artist who specialises in pet portraits and landscapes, prices from £250/8×10 original, with bespoke framing available courtesy of John. Turnaround is around two weeks, for examples of her work see or call 07884 198748. Prints are also available of Penny’s Rutland scenes from £65, including Hambleton, Normanton Church, Exton’s Fort Henry and her Battle of Britain aeroplanes over Rutland series.

Penny Richardson's work,
Penny Richardson’s work,