Stubbs excelled in painting animals, especially horses. He painted portraits and often depicted specific horses with their aristocratic owners or grooms. He also produced open-air conversation pieces, informal group portraits usually of families. He was largely self-taught and experimented in a variety of media, becoming a skilled painter and engraver. Stubbs made detailed anatomical studies of horses which culminated in the publication of a series of outstanding prints in 1766. By then he had moved from the north of England to Lincolnshire and on to London. He was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1780.