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A Model Business

Updated: May 3

A veterinary nurse who painted toy horses as a study aid has seen her hobby grow into a business attracting orders from all over the world.

Genevieve Tomlinson, 28, started painting miniatures during the first year of her Master’s degree while revising equine anatomy.

After posting her work on Facebook, she was inundated with orders from as far afield as Australia and America.

“I shared a photo of a model on a vet nurse page and it blew up from there,” Genevieve said. “I started getting commissions and when I put the same photo on an equine biomechanics group I received 400 likes in a day, followed by a huge list of orders.

“My first order was actually from a massage therapist in Denmark and I get a lot interest from Australia and USA, all of which means I can now fund the last year of my Master’s degree.”

Genevieve, from Exeter, finds most of her models on eBay and offers a range of illustrations from superficial musculature, deep musculature, skeleton and dermatomal. Due to customer demand she has also branched out, offering painted models of dogs and even cattle.

“I will paint whatever I can find,” Genevieve laughed. “I did a cow for a vet student and then a woman in America contacted me who does therapy on cattle, and she wanted a sheep, a cow and a pig. The sheep was most challenging because I had to find a model that didn’t come with a wool effect.”

Genevieve originally began painting models in the first year of her MSc Veterinary Physiotherapy degree at Harper Adams University to help her learn the 3D locations of equine anatomy.

“It really helped because the illustrations in books can be difficult to relate to real animals.”

Raised on the Dartmoor border it was perhaps inevitable that Genevieve would develop a passion for animals, and horses in particular, but she also became intrigued by anatomy during her school years.

“As I grew up, I developed an interest in how the body works and became fascinated by rehabilitation, which is why I became a vet nurse. Doing a job that combines my interest in the workings of the body with my favourite animals is perfect,” she said.

“Then, after I painted some horses as a revision aid – using my boyfriend Toby’s paints – I thought it might possibly interest some people, which is why I posted the photos on Facebook. I never expected it to take off like it did. I now have a small business from something that was essentially a hobby.

“A lot of my customers are students themselves or tutors. I also do a few dogs, but the horses are the most popular models because equine owners tend to be more interested in the workings of their horses.

“When I paint, I aim to work as accurately as possible, depending on the proportions of the model in front of me, but it has been a system of trial and error and I now know not to paint a Barbie horse!”

Genevieve currently has 84 orders to get through and offers a number of sizes with prices starting from £75 for a 10x20cm desktop model.

“Earlier this year I had a request for a life-size model from a customer in Ireland, but it sadly fell through because the cheapest option to get it to her was actually to send it with real horses in a transport lorry, and that was still pretty expensive.”


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