Friday, April 25, 2014

Palomino Painting; Glory's New Background

Today Glory got a new background and some refinements. 

I’m not yet sure if maybe the background isn’t a little too dark. I’ll let it sit for a few days and then decide whether to leave it or repaint it. The eye also got some “refinement” that didn’t turn out as expected so I’ll be working on it again. 

Next up is painting the mane and forelock and then she will be pretty much done. 

This is a better, more true photo than the last one even though the background is a bit more green. 

Your comments on the background would be welcome. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

"Twilight Reverie" Horse Painting - Part 2

oil painting on canvas, outlines painted

Another quick blog post for today. 

Yesterday, I finally put the first paint to canvas on the horse painting, “Twilight Reverie”, after tweaking the drawing some more. Fearing that the pencil lines would be obliterated by the solvent in the paints, I painted over all the lines on the canvas. Choosing a thinned down color that is close to that of the horse, I started out using a small round brush but quickly switched to a tiny flat. Either I just haven’t gotten the hang of using rounds or I don’t have any with good points. 

At any rate, the painted lines now give a hint of where I’m going with this painting and completely change the look of the canvas. After letting the paint dry thoroughly for a few days, I’ll lay in the first layer of color. Since time is short for getting this painting done, I’m choosing to bypass my usual grisaille underpainting and go directly to color. That shouldn’t be a problem if I stay alert and observant. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Palomino Painting; Glory's New Eye

"Tribute To Glory" oil painting on canvas

It’s been a little while since I last worked on Glory. In fact, it’s been so long since I started it that it almost qualifies as an Oldie But Goody - except for the not-being-finished part. 

The last time I worked on Glory back in February, I created a new, larger eye and painted the eyeball a plain gold color. It’s been more than a little unsettling to look at her like that, like some undead creature, so today when I finished working on the big Twilight painting and didn’t want to stop, I decided to give Glory a proper eye. 

This is the result. When the paint is dry, I’ll give her some eye lashes. She looks much better with a larger eye. Here’s the old eye version. 
First eye unfinished

I plan to work on Glory again tomorrow and hope to get her pretty close to being done. All that remains is to repaint the background, repaint the mane and forelock and do some touchups. 

It feels mighty good to be painting again. Thank goodness I can still sit at the easel even with the broken leg. Dropping things is a problem, though, and sometimes I have to wait for my husband to get home to retrieve them for me. Molly Kitty is no good at all at Fetch. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

New Painting; "Twilight Reverie" - Part 1

Reference photo for oil painting, "Twilight Reverie"
Beginning a new painting is always an exciting time. The new work is full of promise and anticipation, and that is what I’m feeling as I begin this new large painting. In this case, it’s taken over a year of rumination in my mind since first being Wowed by the reference photo. The catalyst to finally get started was the possibility of a museum show later this year. They want large paintings, and I have none to submit.


For us realist artists, there are two ways to begin a new work of art: get the idea first and then look for photo references to help create it, or find a photo that inspires you and create a composition based on it. There is a third, of course, which is to get the idea and create the art using no references at all but the artist’s imagination and knowledge of the subject. The third option is not yet within my scope for large works of art; sketches yes, but not major paintings or drawings.


In this case, as soon as I saw the photograph, it really grabbed me emotionally and artistically. It was late September of 2012, my horse was very ill, and I had just turned him out after medicating him. He stood on the hill behind the barn in the early morning light, looking for his herd mates. The backlight on his form was beautiful, and the expression on his face was that of wondering uncertainty. Given his age (he was 27 then) and his health, it seemed the perfect image to convey his circumstance while at the same time portraying a universal theme of facing the unknown.
composition thumbnails for painting


Over the months I considered many options for creating this painting. First was what background to use: the one in the photo or some other pasture scene from my references? Coming a close second was whether the format would be horizontal or vertical. The longer I mulled over the choices, the more my artistic gut told me to stick with the photograph background and use a vertical format. Right from the start, I wanted this to be a rather large (for me) painting and for the horse to dominate the canvas. When it came down to the feeling I wanted to convey, the dark background was the best option for letting the horse stand out in the dramatic light of a waning day. I had already decided to change morning light to evening light to fit the theme better.


The next choices were to decide what elements in the background to keep, what to eliminate or change and what needed to be added. Again, my artistic gut was telling me that the diagonal of the fence and light worked well in the composition. The horse standing on a hill overseeing his world and facing an uncertain future was also crucial to the story.
value study for painting


Usually my colors are on the bright side, but with this painting I want to use a limited palette of colors and keep them somewhat subdued and harmonious. The values will also be crucial to the success of the painting, so I spent an hour doing a small value sketch once the format for the painting was decided. I’m glad I did because it showed me that the dark mass of the trees and shaded area needed to be darker than I anticipated if I wanted the horse to stand out.


Finally I was ready to prepare a canvas for the painting, but what size to choose? Using two pieces of L shaped matboard, I played with various cropping options on the reference photo until I found one that worked. Next, I searched among my canvases on hand and found one that was close to the needed dimensions.


In order to determine canvas size, I used a proportion wheel which is a tool I was introduced to in art school and would never be without again. It allows you to figure out dimensions to either up or down size an image using either the larger or smaller size dimensions as a base. It will also tell you by what percentage to enlarge or reduce an image. In my case, I found, using the proportion wheel, that the only canvas on hand that would work was a 24x20 incher. By adjusting the cropping of the photograph a little, I was also able to reach a percentage of 200% to enlarge the image for the canvas. That would make creating a grid so much easier; one inch squares on the drawing would be 2 inch squares on the canvas. That meant no dealing with fractions of inches to drive me crazy.


Having selected the canvas, I toned it all over with a warm but soft yellow that will help to unify the image. Then it was set aside to dry.

drawing with grid over it


In order to get the image onto canvas, I used a two step process. First, I traced the photograph onto a piece of acetate with a technical drawing pen. Yes, I traced the photograph because time is short to get this painting done. Then I scanned that into the computer and enlarged the image and printed it out on a sheet of 13x19 paper, using the proportion wheel to determine the dimensions of this enlargement to allow for the 200% enlargement for canvas. Taping that to a piece of scrap matboard, I then taped another piece of acetate over the drawing and drew a grid over it in one inch squares using one of my big right triangles to be sure that all was squared up.

Having accomplished that, I next turned to the dry canvas and drew a grid of two inch squares onto it. The tricky thing I learned was that although the canvas is a “24x20” incher, it’s actual dimensions are about a quarter inch less than that in each dimension. So, figuring out which two sides were the most critical to the composition, I drew an X in that corner of the canvas and made all my measurements in each direction from there.
drawing on canvas with grid


Getting the image onto canvas is probably the most critical step in the process, and this is where I took a lot of time. Using the two grids, I first drew the outline of the horse onto canvas and then proceeded to refine it. Any tracing or drawing is going to have slight inaccuracies when enlarged, and this is where it is absolutely critical that an artist’s skills of observation and knowledge of the subject be very keen. I spent the most time refining the head since it is very important to the painting.

I don’t care what the “Tracing is cheating” art snobs say. If you don’t have those skills of really seeing and knowing your subject you won’t have a successful image from a tracing. It’s just a tool and a shortcut when time is critical.

grid erased
Okay, now with the image on canvas, I erased all the grid lines, leaving the drawing by itself. I still have a little bit of tweaking to do on the drawing, but it is ready for the next step; painting!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

New Horse Painting, "#64"

New Oil Painting of an Event Horse

It is Day 7 after surgery, and I’m itching to get some work done. Mobility is very limited - hopping around on one foot using a walker is very tiring I’ve discovered. The walker is my main mode of transportation since the wheelchair won’t fit most places in the house. 

I have two canvases toned and ready for drawings to be transferred to them. This is the second large image planned for one of the canvases. It’s an image I’ve long wanted to paint but haven’t because an artist friend painted a very similar image first several years ago, and I didn’t feel right about doing my version so soon after hers. But now the time is right. 

Shown is the outline drawing waiting to be gridded and then transferred to the canvas. The working title is “#64” until I can come up with a better one. The horse is a chestnut eventer, and the photo was taken at a three day event in downstate Michigan about 2002-3. Something in this photo speaks to me although the image isn’t particularly dynamic or dramatic. Maybe it’s the lighting or the gesture. Whatever it is, it’s enough to get me excited about painting it. 

Tomorrow’s challenge will be to enlist my husband to help get out materials for doing the grids and getting the image onto the canvas. There are just some things in the studio that I can’t reach right now. My drawing table is in the attic, but I have a small portable drawing board which should work nicely for the gridding. It also has a rule attached to it to be sure the grid is square. 

I will share as work progresses.