As excitement builds around the globe for this weekend’s royal wedding, one Dubbo woman has literally had a brush with Prince Harry – and she says it is a signature moment in her life.
Amber Martin won her own local fame a few years ago when she began painting using shoe polish and she made a name for herself across the world.
Last April she received an email from a Cape Town, South Africa businessman asking her to paint a very large mural of a polo scene.
“At that stage I had no idea what I was painting. In fact, it was weeks before I received the actual reference photographs to paint from before I realised that it was Prince Harry and the famous Ralph Lauren model/professional polo player and Sentebale Ambassador, Nacho Figueras,” Amber told Dubbo Photo News.
“I was jumping for joy, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I realised who it was.
“Especially also that the painting would be hung in such a prestigious residence as the Estate,” she said.
The painting is a massive three by two metres and took eight months to complete and used seventeen tubes of paint and more than 50 brushes.
Home to the famous Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, the Val de Vie is a luxury lifestyle and residential estate and is situated in the Pearl Valley between the picturesque Drakenstein mountains.
It features jogging trails, vineyards and fishing spots along the Berg River, as well as exquisite event facilities and outstanding restaurants that host numerous events. The Val de Vie residents are provided with an ultra luxurious setting.
It turns out one of Amber’s friends in the UK had recommended her for the commission.
“Being an Equine/Polo artist and having a keen interest in the sport of Polo has had its benefits. Over the past few years I have been painting my favourite polo players to help raise funds for Equine Encounters Australia, which uses Equine Assisted therapies for military veterans suffering from PTSD and related mental illnesses,” Amber said.
“This stemmed from my previous work as an accredited War Artist for the Royal Australian Engineers.
“Word of mouth has travelled amongst the polo communities across the globe which now has inspired my own small business called A Brush with Horses,” she said.
Given Prince Harry’s philanthropy activities include founding the Invictus Games for damaged veterans, it’s no surprise Amber’s work and the philosophy behind her artworks captured the attention of the right people in this case.
“It is my understanding that the developer had been told not only of the association between the polo community and my equine art, but also about the painting I had done of our Australian Invictus Team which had been gifted to Prince Harry in late 2016,” Amber said.
In 2015, the Val de Vie Estate hosted Prince Harry’s own charity event, the Royal Salute Sentebale Cup, so the estate wanted a very large painting done to commemorate the special event, depicting the two major players in action along with scenes from the Val de Vie estate including the massive Drakenstein Mountains which serve as the backdrop.
“Finding out that (the painting) was of Prince Harry and Nacho Figueras was one thing, but it was also extra special to me to know that it was a depiction of the Sentebale Cup, Prince Harry’s own charity which supports children suffering and living with HIV,” Amber said.
“The Sentebale Royal Salute Polo games which are hosted by various countries around the world help raise funds towards these programs and bring awareness of this vulnerable generation affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“The Sentebale Charity was founded by Prince Harry and Prince Seeiso in 2006 and it supports the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people who are living with HIV in Lesotho and Botswana – the care and education programs provide the tools and knowledge so that they can live long, happy, healthy lives,” she said.
On top of all that, Amber says her service in the Australian Army has given her a special bond with contemporary veterans and the trials they face readjusting to civilian life after being discharged from the service – she’s a huge fan of Prince Harry’s work in that area.
“I highly respect him as a veteran and as a human being. He’s ex-military and his compassion for helping other veterans suffering from PTSD, or mental illness, or the wounded has been a big ‘tick’ from me,” Amber said.
“He is true to his word and true to his charitable causes. I’ve never met him personally, but it would be a great honour.
“Through the Invictus Games, veterans and serving members have been inspired to set new life goals and encourage each other. The Games give them a sense of self-worth and meaning,” she said.