Two English women artists – unconnected to each other – have become hugely popular by painting cows. Jennifer Hogwood is quite outside the usual art-school/art-world bubble. Banksy may paint subversive monkeys and rats, and Damien Hirst has an obsession with dead insects, but these women have struck a cord with their charming cows.

By word-of-mouth, and by harnessing the power of Facebook, they’ve built up a huge following who can’t get enough of their gentle, humorous bovine portraits.

Hogwood favours the long-haired Highland cow, Shotton paints the black and white Fresian. Both have created an imaginary world in which cow are the main characters – sometimes sporting hats or flowers in their hair or posing for the pictures.

Both started their careers by accident after moving house:

Caroline Shotton has said “My children are probably my biggest source of inspiration – I wanted to paint something happy for my child’s bedroom wall and a character that would make him smile and keep him company. This led to a colourful composition featuring a quirky cow and the rest is history!”
She grew up on the edges of London, but near enough to the home counties to love farm-life and the outdoors. After studying at the prestigious Central Saint Martins, she began a series replicating famous paintings, such as Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, or Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring as cows. The public were quick to discover her work, and she soon found acclaim.

Self-taught Jennifer Hogwood was born in rural Berfordshire, and grew up surrounded by rolling fields full of cows and horses. She’d always loved painting – right from childhood – so when she couldn’t afford to buy any pictures for her new house, she set out to paint some. That was the start of her unique practice, and she now has her own studio in a former milking parlour in Wiltshire, surrounded by cow fields.

She uses a soft, signature shade of mid warm brown for each animal and takes great care to paint their distinctive shaggy mains. Her endearing images are full of a sense of rural charm and unhurried animal innocence.

Other artists who are building up reputations in this unexpected new genre are Wayne Dowden, James Bartholomew and Caroline Walker.