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Newmarket: Artist Darren Bird dreams of becoming the Giles of the horse racing world

13:00 01 May 2014

Frankie Dettori

Frankie Dettori

Passion, wit and a blossoming talent have led to Suffolk artist Darren Bird catching the eye of the racing world. On the eve of the first exhibition of his work he told Colin Adwent how he is following his dream.

Davy Russell aboard this year's Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere, with trainer Jim CullotyDavy Russell aboard this year's Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere, with trainer Jim Culloty

A dash of fun, a splash of colour, and lashings of talent have opened the door to the racing world for a self-taught Suffolk artist.

Now Darren Bird’s dream of becoming the Giles of horse racing could be brought one step closer with the first major exhibition of his work this weekend.

The Ipswich father-of-three will be showcasing his cartoons and watercolours on Guineas weekend at the Heath Court Hotel in Newmarket on Saturday and Sunday.

A lifelong passion for racing twinned with the power of social media has seen the graphic artist branch out into a brave new world.

Artist Darren Bird (centre) with jockey Barry Geraghty (right) and Channel 4 presenter Nick Luck with the Gold Cup at Cheltenham

Artist Darren Bird (centre) with jockey Barry Geraghty (right) and Channel 4 presenter Nick Luck with the Gold Cup at Cheltenham

To date his extremely popular “caricature-style” drawings of jockeys and trainers, as well as paintings, have given him exposure on national and international TV.

What started with Darren Tweeting a cartoon in to a live show featuring ex-jockeys Luke Harvey and Jason Weaver on the At The Races show has evolved into a growing recognition of his talent by leading figures within the racing industry.

To date Darren’s work has been sought after by Richard Hannon, Mick Fitzgerald and other household names as he has gained acceptance within the sport.

Former Champion Jumps Trainer Nicky Henderson bought one of Darren’s pieces featuring his top two-miler Sprinter Sacre for £1,200 at a charity auction to raise money for Starlight. The charity helps grant wishes for serious or terminally-ill children. He has raised more than £4,000 for the cause through his work.

Robert Thornton on Katchit. Robert Thornton on Katchit.

As demand for his eye for detail and keen wit continue to grow the modest 42-year-old from east Ipswich is hoping his burgeoning career will continue in an upward curve.

Already this year he has appeared as a guest on all the Cheltenham Festival Morning Line programmes on Channel 4.

When he goes to the racecourse he is greeted by some of the leading lights in the weighing room as well as top trainers.

Over the years Darren has developed a style of his own, inspired by the iconic Suffolk cartoonist Giles.

“It has been very encouraging that my work is being recognised and seen as good enough to be out there.

“The confidence it has given me so far has meant I can open my work up. It’s extremely fulfilling to do something for myself and be proud of the achievement.

“I would like to thank my family and Twitter followers for the fantastic support which has enabled me to do this.

“On a visit to Huntingdon racecourse they said I had become a racing celebrity which was very humbling.

“It would be great to become racing’s Giles. I grew up copying Giles as a kid and that’s where the humour in my work comes from.

“This has been a hobby and a passion of mine for so long. I have always said it would be a dream to do it on a full-time basis.

“What I like is the fun part of living the dream where you can actually touch doing what you would want to be doing as a career.

“I would like to get my work out there to as wide an audience as possible.

“A lot of the artwork in the exhibition is pieces which I have never had the confidence to put up previously.

“If this exhibition is a success it could be the springboard that launches me up a level and turns my passion into a profession.”

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