You may have a piece of her art hanging on your wall or a race program with her artwork on the cover, but this month Michelle Hogan -- AKA the “Harness Artist” -- who is known industry-wide for her pen & ink stipple designs, has made an appearance in Standardbred Canada’s Heart of Harness Racing calendar for her camera work.
The photo is a perfect fit leading into the long weekend, showing the celebration between Sports Obsession and caretaker Gloria Stevenson in the winner’s circle after winning the 2019 Battle of Waterloo at Grand River Raceway.
“I have very little photography experience actually, and am entirely self-taught in that regard,” explained Michelle. “For my art I strive to work from my own photos whenever possible, and in order to produce good artwork I first need good photos to reference. If you see me at the track, I will always have a camera in my hands to collect reference images.
“Lately I've been trying to show more of the human connections through my art, and with that in mind, I was at Grand River Raceway for Industry Day last year. I was there by myself, just clicking away! I was shooting in the final turn, and had to run to get to the finish line in time to catch the emotions of the winner returning to the winner’s circle. It was worth it to catch that moment between groom and horse. Our grooms love the horses in their care so deeply, and it is evident in her face. It was a winning shot for sure.”
The connection between caretaker and horse is something that Michelle is all too familiar with as she has been involved in racing for most of her life. She has worn many hats in the industry, and spent a good number of years as a groom.
“I first became involved in racing as a teenager, working as a groom for Sandra Houghton at Flamboro Downs. I worked for Obeyd Ranch first as a groom, then as Farm Manager and Assistant Trainer. There I looked after horses such as stallion Carlsbad Cam. Following that I worked for Jeff Houghton, racing all over Ontario. For several years I worked as a veterinary assistant before moving to the Bruce Peninsula with my now husband, Tim.”
Michelle with her 28-year-old retired Standardbred Conrad Seelster
Now that she is removed from the hands-on racing scene, she stays connected to the industry through her art. It was recently revealed that Michelle is the official Artist of the Dream of Glory at Hanover Raceway and also designed and created the cover artwork for the program. Along with that, Hogan has generously agreed to provide the winner of this year's Dream of Glory a custom race portrait to commemorate their win.
“It will be very different this year with only 100 fans in attendance but still promises to be a great day of racing and I am looking forward to being a part of it!”