Thursday, May 29, 2014

"#64" New Event Horse Oil Painting

Work in progress of  an event horse. Oil on canvas
Since I'm still not very mobile with this broken leg and can't go work out in the flower beds, I have to content myself with creating greenery in my paintings. 

Yesterday's painting project created great strides forward with the other new big painting. I laid down the first layer of color on the background and am so far very pleased with it. It will compliment the bright chestnut color of the horse very well. 

The working title is "#64". It is a 20x24 inch oil painting on stretched canvas of an event horse at a horse trials on his way to a dressage test. The horse's name was Fuel Efficient, the event was the Encore Horse Trials near Chelsea Michigan about 2000-2002. I got a lot of good pictures that day and met and made friends with the show photographer, Rebecca Baucus. I'll be forever grateful for her friendliness and shooting tips. 

Sadly, show photographers are having a very hard time of it these days. They spend a lot of money on equipment and training, spend long hours shooting all the horses at shows and then long hours going through the photographs, creating proofs for clients and handling the sales of prints to owners and riders. Believe me, they earn every penny they make! But, today with digital cameras taking over from film cameras, anyone can shoot at shows, and many unscrupulous "photographers" poach customers from the official show photographers and take income away from them. Many professional horse photographers have given up shooting at shows as a result. 

The side effect of this is that some show photographers are hostile toward artists who are at shows to shoot reference photos. We have to walk a fine line to avoid interfering with the professionals as a result. I carry business cards with me but do not pass them out unless asked. I turn down any request to shoot someone's horse and sell the prints, and I stay out of the way of show photographers. I have also introduced myself a few times so that they know who I am and why I'm shooting willy nilly all around the show grounds. 

The other thing we artists have to be careful about is not violating the privacy rights of the owners, trainers and riders by painting their exact likenesses. Technically, we should get model releases from them all, but this is extremely impractical. The simple solution is to change markings on horses and facial features on humans, particularly kids. 

I used to enjoy going to the shows, seeing all the fine horses and riders all spiffied up and watching the action. Shooting dogs is a side benefit. Every show has lots of dogs in attendance, either with the barns who come to show or with spectators. I'm hopeful that once the leg heals I'll be able to get around better again and can again take my cameras to shows to "shoot" horses. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Twilight Reverie; Painting The Horse

"Twilight Reverie", horse oil painting on canvas

It’s Memorial Day weekend, and the weather is beautiful, the trees are finally leafing out and Spring bulbs are blooming here in NW MIchigan. I’m ignoring reports that there is still ice on Lake Superior. 

My kids are here visiting, but since I can’t do much yet, I’ve spent two days in the studio working on two different paintings. The first one just consisted of getting the image drawn on the canvas and then reinforcing the lines by painting over them with a tiny brush. Nothing exciting to see there. 

The second painting is the one above. The first layer of paint was applied to the horse and the bit of sky that shows. I had problems that slowed the process. For one thing, the paint was thick. For another I had problems with paint brushes. I felt like Goldilocks and The Three Bears; some brushes were too stiff and some too soft. The paint either was going on unevenly or I had little control over what the brush did with the paint. I finally found some that worked and managed to finish the horse in one day. 

When the work session ended and I looked at the painting, I wasn’t very pleased with the results. Then I took out my trusty red acetate report cover and looked at the painting through it. The red makes the color dissolve pretty much into only values of light and dark. Immediately it was obvious that I had gotten the light areas within the horse too light which was causing the horse to have a kind of disjointed look. 

Then I felt better. With the next application of paint, I can correct that. All of the preparation work of doing the planning and the color study are now paying off. The painting has a long way to go yet, but it is well under way now, and I have high hopes for it. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Prancing Foal Pastel Painting

"Feel So Fine" Pastel horse foal painting
It's Throwback Thursday on Facebook, so I thought I'd share this older pastel painting of a lively colt which is still available for sale. 

Bullet was a five week old Morgan colt just turned out with his mother on a late Spring morning. His youthful exuberance is expressed in this painting as he prances about in the lush Spring landscape. 

The painting is 12.5x14 inches and is available framed for the special price of $225. Please contact me if you're interested in putting this speedy Bullet on your living room wall. 

You may email me at

Monday, May 19, 2014

High Spirits and Horse Art

"High Spirits" pencil sketch of a rearing horse

High Spirits. 

That’s what I’m feeling these days as I get back into the swing of creating and painting regularly after a long hiatus. 

I found this little freehand drawing while going through some records this morning and thought he fit my mood exactly. 

There has been more progress on the Twilight painting. Yesterday I finished laying in the first layer of color on the background. The painting has been put up on the wall to dry after which the first color will go on the horse. It’s a big painting, and it’s pretty imposing on the studio wall. 

Today I will start the process of getting the other new painting drawn on the canvas. This is another big painting of the same dimensions, except that it will be a horizontal format. 

"Twilight Reverie" first color on background

Yes indeed. I’m in High Spirits!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Fun With Color Studies

color study for horse painting

Color studies are fun to do. For one thing, you don’t have to worry about putting in details unless you’re doing them to get the detail right, like a person’s face or a dog’s eye. For another, you don’t have to get the shapes and proportions exactly right, either. And, they’re usually quick to do, so if one doesn’t turn out the way you planned, you can easily do another. 

What is a color study you may wonder? 

A color study is a small (usually) quick painting done to work out possible problems in a larger, more finished painting. 

Why do a color study?

1. To work out color harmonies
2. To work out values
3. To practice painting a subject or object or the whole painting
4. To prevent having to make a lot of corrections to the final painting

Before beginning the big version of “Twilight Reverie”, I decided to do a color study. Why? Because color harmonies, accurate color for the time of day and the atmosphere of the painting will be critical elements for what I want to say with this painting. Plus I wanted to get an accurate and pleasing color for the horse figured out before putting a lot of paint on a big canvas and then having to do parts over again. 

So, I spent a happy afternoon yesterday painting away on this 8x10 inch color study, drawing right on the canvas and slapping on the paint with little regard for detail. Detail in this instance is not necessary to get a feel for how the colors will work together. Nor are absolutely accurate horse proportions. 

Same colors look different on white background from the yellow  toned canvas

First I played with paint, trying various combinations of colors to get the horse color I’m after. I tested the color mixes on a sheet of white canvas paper and came up with some mixes that for the horse that match closely with the reference photo and my own familiarity with my horse’s color. Then I found a small canvas board that was already toned with a light yellow and proceeded to create the color study by drawing directly on the board. 

When it was finished, I confess to being pretty pleased with the result. But, most important of all it revealed that the color mixes used will be much warmer and bright when painted on top of the yellow toned canvas. I had expected this to some extent, but the change was more dramatic than anticipated. 
Desaturated colors in Photoshop

Now I must ponder, will that effect diminish with thicker applications of paint? Do I need to soften, dull down or lighten the color mixes to achieve the soft evening reverie mood that I’m seeking? 

I’m also debating whether or not to work some grass into the hilltop that the horse is standing on or leave it all sand. And, adding some road behind the fenceline will also help to break up that large area of solid green trees. Some experimenting in Photoshop is in order before beginning the big canvas. 

Stay tuned. 
Here is the cropped version that will actually be the painting

Friday, May 9, 2014

Facing A New Challenge

"Sweetie" 11x14 inch pastel painting of a horse

The past few days I’ve been solving an income tax problem and loading up my laptop computer so that I can use it in the studio. I’ve also been making some revisions and changes to my webiste, a much overdue task. That means no painting has gotten done. However, that’s about to change. 

Many people or “peeps” as we refer to them on Facebook, post old pictures of themselves or family or old artwork on Thursdays for Throwback Thursday. It’s a kind of a fun thing, bringing back our own memories and giving a few laughs at hairdos, clothes and so forth. 

Here is my contribution to this week’s Throwback Thursday. This is an 11x14 inch pastel painting of a Quarter Horse mare that I did for a former client several years ago. It’s one of my very best horse pastels that I’m still proud of. 

In reviewing images old and new for the website, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I got a lot better working with pastels than I currently am with oils. That is a sobering and almost a discouraging thought. So, how do I get better at the oils? By doing lots more of them, of course! For many years I did nothing but pastel portraits of horses and dogs and a few cats. They HAD to be good and HAD to be a good likeness, so I put a lot of effort into them, learning to handle the medium well to get the effects I wanted. It was excellent training even though I finally burned out on the whole portrait process. 

This new realization has somehow energized me to get back to work on the oils that remain to be finished and the new ones waiting to be done. “Glory” was a start, and I’m happy with her for the most part. Just as getting a juried show rejection makes me more determined to improve my art, so does knowing that my pastels are better than my oils. 

That shall not stand. I’m up for the challenge and eager to get started!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Palomino Painting; Glory is Finished!

"Tribute To Glory", 12x12 oil painting on canvas

A few days ago I finished the Glory painting.

Not only was it great to finish this painting which has been “under construction” for so long, but it was a very pleasant day spent in the studio. With the window open for ventilation, I listened to the Loons calling on the lake all afternoon as I zoned out on the painting.

The painting is signed and awaits some drying time before I varnish it. It will really glow when varnished. Then it will be for sale. 

I think it will make a great print, too. Don’t you?