By Karen Carruth

It’s a niche product on the face of it, tractors painted on slate, but they are extremely popular, and the demand is ongoing for Victoria Grant, the Duns artist who finds herself the go-to artist for this specialised art.

Victoria now spends her days painting a huge range of tractors, lorries, cars and occasionally livestock and pets, but tractors is her bread and butter. Commissions come in constantly now, and she has perfected her style over the last few years, and the addition of slate certainly seems to have struck a cord with tractor lovers.

“I get commissions for all sorts of tractors, often they are gifts for birthdays, anniversaries and at Christmas my order books are full by August,” says Victoria when I meet her at her home, where she has based her business.

Working around a young family, Victoria from Whitsome, near Duns, has been working full time on her artwork since 2016, and as often happens, she discovered this talent by accident.

Completely self-taught, she started experimenting with art when her first son was born, back in 2013. “I was always arty, my mum is also a fantastic artist, but she has just never had the time to do anything with it.”

It wasn’t until her second son was born in 2015, that Victoria started doing her art full time. It started with her partner, who works at a farm, and loves tractors, she says, mentioning that he fancied having a one of his tractors drawn, and Victoria offered to give it a go.

“I don’t think he was sure, I think he thought that I would make a mess of it. However, I found an old roof slate in the back garden and I decided to paint on that as it was something a little different.” It turned out really well, and both Victoria and her partner were really pleased with it.

Boosted by her first attempt, Victoria did a few more, and sold them on ebay, just for few pounds, but she says she was just so pleased that someone had seen her work and decided to buy it.

“I was overwhelmed that someone wanted it, I then sold a few more, none for a lot of money, but it did make me think about starting up a facebook page.”

Initially, she was worried about negative comments if she opened a page on facebook but, in fact, she found that all feedback was really positive. And now that she has her work on social media, her business has really taken off.

“I did think that paintings tractors would just last for maybe 30 or so commissions, but I think now I might have painted more than 400.”

She can see the change in her style as she has become more experienced, and she has abandoned painting in oil and finds that acrylic lets her get the piece finished quicker.

Just about all her work is now commissions, and she tells me that she now knows that lots of her clients are real tractor enthusiasts, and often they are collectors of anything related to their favoured tractor make.

Victoria works in a small space at home, and she doesn’t need a lot of space as she only paints originals, there’s no need to be storing stock or prints, as she posts out her work as soon as it is finished.

There are a couple of slates in her workspace that vary from the usual four wheels. She has a few impressive pieces featuring some livestock, one is a fantastic depiction of a Clydesdale horse, and she has had commissions for dogs which she enjoys doing.

Victoria continues: “I do enjoy painting, though when I first started I found that I had to be in the right frame of mind to do them, but now I am at my desk at 9am and work all day, it just comes naturally.”

On her desk she has two jars of water to clean her brushes. One is a clean jar, the other has a healthy layer of paint all over it. “I use one to wipe the paint off my brush and the other, clean one, to wash the paint off completely. I’ve never cleaned the first jar and the paint has layered up, I feel like I am keeping the essence of every painting I’ve ever done. I would be devastated if I ever broke it,” she says.

Also on her desk is, what looks like a cotton cloth that her brushes sit on while she work. What they are, is actually some old cotton vests and t-shirts that her little boys have grown out of. She is quite attached to these little items that give her comfort as she works, and she thought she could reuse them.

Her order book is pretty full, but she has blocked off three weeks in April to do a lambing. Victoria’s mum grew up on a farm, she says she just really enjoys getting out and getting involved, doing night lambings, of all things.

She has painted a few cows in her time, but at the moment tractors seem to be what she known for and she is enjoying having the flexibility to work around having two little lads that demand a lot of her time.

Her work comes in an A4 sized slate, and she charges just £70 for a commission with no background, and £80 if a background is required. The slate comes with a metal wall hanging set. For a commission, Victoria needs a clear photograph emailed to her.