Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Here's the Mystery Horse!

Bold Brigadier, watercolor, pencils and pastel with touches of white acrylic, on cotton rag paper. I used a deeper tan instead of my usual Rives BFK, because I felt this horse would look best on a slightly darker ground -- the better to make that beautiful blaze stand out. He may be the only one for whom I chose to leave the backdrop blank.  Oh, and there is a lot of violet, blue, brown/red, and even touches of green in the big black stallion. 


Center photo above, the portrait in progress. This was with the first layers of carbon pencil and watercolor. Last, my reference photo. Brigadier is no longer with us, sadly, and while I loved his sweet expression here, the photo ... you really can't see a lot of detail, and if you look at his ears you'll notice the camera distortion that made one of them much too large. I corrected that right away. The other thing I altered, you can't even tell: I made his neck thicker and more arched than it actually is in the photo. 

Yes, I know it looks exactly the same. But in order to get it to look exactly the same, I had to change it. I think it was another perspective/distortion problem, but when I drew it accurately to the photo it looked far too skinny. This kind of thing is pretty common when translating photos into art; the thing that looks fine in a photo can look very wrong as a drawing or painting. So artists learn not to let the photo be a tyrant, and to trust ourselves instead. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hutton, Pony the 28th

Portrait of Hutton, mixed pencils, pastels and watercolor, 10 x 10". 

Hutton took me back to being 12 years old and copying horses out of Arabian Horse World magazine. It was strange and wonderful and made me feel like a kid. Props to Hutton's person for sending me a great source photo with afternoon sunlight on his face. The light/shadow effects this creates go a long way toward an excellent portrait. 

First stages of the drawing, above, and below is my kitchen-table work station at the house in Fort Myers (for those just joining me, I'm visiting family for two weeks, and also working).

What you see in the first stage is a terra-cotta colored Pitt Pastel pencil -- light in tone and easy to erase. This means that my process, the whole thing where I have to adjust and correct and readjust and correct again, can disappear once I've got the drawing accurate. The grey of the muzzle and black on the eye are carbon pencil, my second step on this portrait.

Here's the next phase. Technically phase three; phase two was the addition of watercolor in the shadows. I used a lot of blue and some violet, since that's what I was seeing in the source photo. Once that was dry, I started putting in highlights. This is a faintly yellow off-white, by the way. You don't know it in the photo, but it isn't the pure white that will be the final highlight color on his coat. By layering like this, I get a strong feeling of solid form.

The shadowed areas in the finished work are done by layering greys, blues, a violet or two, and at least two shades of pink, one lighter/warmer and one darker/cooler. And then I used carbon pencil again for the flea-bitten speckles, and watercolor for the background as the last step. I adjust the background so that it will be darker against light areas of the horse, and lighter where the horse is in shadow. This is a common Artist Trick and if you start looking at a lot of paintings you'll see it over and over.

Friday, February 15, 2013

"Oh, Fudge!" Pony the 27th

Fudge has this beautiful, rich copper coat. Rendering that was a really fun challenge that required  layers of watercolor underneath about seven different colors of NuPastel and pastel pencils. Various reds, browns, a gold tone, and even a couple blues. No, really.

First stage, above, I've got the basics all drawn in, using a terra-cotta colored pastel pencil. These erase easily and are a good color that blends right into the coat color of just about any horse. 

A bit later, I've added watercolor and some shadow areas, which are a combo of watercolor and dark pastel and carbon pencils. The watercolor layers help me establish light/shadow and add a nice depth to the pencil and pastel work.

Above is just before I put the blue/gray/pink shadow line down the middle of Fudge's blaze, to indicate the shape of the nose bone. Generally I put shadows in first and then work over them with the lighter colors, saving the brightest highlights for last. That's how you get a strong sense of solid three-dimensional form in pastel or in oil paints. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Mystery Horse, #26

Mystery Horse is a secret, for now. He was commissioned as a gift for his owners, and thus I cannot reveal him until it won't ruin the surprise. I am, if you'll forgive the metaphor, chomping at the bit: he's gorgeous. And adorable. Which, given his size, "adorable" shouldn't be an option, but he is.

I will update with a new post when I am given the all-clear from the buyer.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Monty, Pony the 25th

The first thing I really noticed about Monty was those eeeearrrs. Big, broad, wide-set ears. I love them, both from a fun-to-look-at standpoint and because they always seem to come attached to great big lovable characters -- which, by all accounts, is just what Monty is. He might be a huckster, but he's the kind you can't help loving.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sir Lancelot, Pony the 24th

Lance suddenly left this world a few days ago, on the very night I was set to begin his portrait. I had been planning, really, to get out to the barn on a sunny afternoon (if we could get one where it wasn't also 0 degrees out, lately) and take some good photos of him ... and then, just like that, he was gone.

I didn't know Lance and I wish I had. By all accounts he was technically, in the put-a-monetary-value-on-him-for-insurance sense, not at all an unusual or remarkable horse. Not a champion show horse, or of spectacular breeding, or any of that. What he was, was much better: he was the horse who helped people learn to ride, or learn to ride again. The patient, kind-hearted guy you could put anyone on for lessons or therapy, the one who everyone loved. He was worth more than truckloads of ribbons or trophies.

Here's to Lancelot, and all the other very remarkable, unremarkable horses out there.