Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Horse Painting; Glory From Start To Finish

My usual studio setup for painting, with references nearby. 
Whenever I create a painting or drawing, I take progress pictures along the way. By the finish, I’ve got lots of photos that I don’t need. Some are blurry, some are crooked and some have bad color. I’m starting to weed them out as the art progresses now, but I have a lot of old art photos that need to be purged. 

Today I did a purge of the Tribute to Glory pictures, and it occured to me that you might like to see how the painting progressed from start to finish all in one post although most of these have been shown before. So, here goes! 

The first step was to tone the canvas with a nice palominoey yellow. Then I drew the horse directly on the canvas using my reference photo as a guide. I added white to the mane and blaze in order to define them from the beginning. 

Next I did a value painting in gray to establish the lights and darks. I liked this stage so much that I thought about leaving it as is. This is a technique often used by the Old Masters. 

The next step was to add a thin layer of color over the whole painting. 

Following that I laid on a second layer of color, a little heavier this time. You can still see the gray underpainting showing through. 

At this point I realized that the proportions of the muzzle were too narrow and Glory’s dished face did not show as well as I wanted. I made a number of corrections to the face and muzzle and jaw line and also thinned the hindquarters  to keep them from dominating too much by painting over them with the background color. 

The colors change from photo to photo due to different lighting conditions. 

In this next photo I’ve begun applying a third layer of color and have gotten as far as the throatlatch. You can see a definite line between the layers. 

In this photo I’ve finished the third layer of color and have added some highlights to Glory’s coat. She is almost done!

At this point I decided that Glory needed a larger eye and painted one. I have also made other corrections along the way at each stage; ones that aren’t as visible but affect the whole. 

And finally the painting is done! Glory got some eye lashes, the mane and forelock were finished and a final layer of color went on the background. Notice that I softened the line of the hindquarters  by blending some background color over it in order to push it further back in the picture plane. 

Here is my reference photograph. This is a small 4x5 film print that is not the best image but somewhat captures Glory. I took some liberties in my painting to portray her more as I remember her and gave her a deeper gold coat than she had in reality. The final result is a painting both of tribute to Glory and one that I hope will be a popular image. 

Who doesn’t love a palomino?

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Saga of a Painting - "Have We Met? - Belgian Horses"

reference photograph of two draft horses for an equine painting
Felled by another bout of Hummingbird syndrome, I haven’t done any painting in a couple of weeks now. But I did sort through all of my photographs of one painting, both in progress and completed and managed to correct the best finished photo to very closely match the painting. 

I thought it might be instructive to artists and non artists alike to show you the reference photograph that I worked from and discuss all the changes I made in the painting. So, here goes. 

Above is the reference photo that I took at a horse pull at the county fair several years ago, and below is the finished painting.

"Have We Met? - Belgian Horses" 12x16 oil painting on canvas

Here’s a list of the changes made: 

1. Since I wanted the painting to be of a pair of Begians, I changed the color of the left hand horse from bay to chestnut. 

2. The horses were finished competing and were sweaty and unharnessed. I wanted the painting to show them freshly groomed but not show horse shiny since they’re work horses after all. Getting the muscling and highlights to look natural proved to be a big challenge. I had to look for other references of Belgians with the light coming from the proper direction. 

3. That trailer. Rusty and beaten up was not what I had in mind, so away it went to the body shop for some work and a new paint job. Again, I had to find other references for how a shiny trailer would reflect light. Luckily, I had some from a draft horse show. I also set up two of my Breyer model horses  right next to a shiny flat plane to see where the reflections would be. Notice that there are none in the reference photos. 

4. In the photograph the horses’ ears make a funny tangent where they almost touch. To correct that, I changed the right hand horse’s ear position slightly until it looked better. 

5. I confess to not liking very wide blazes that go over the nostrils on horses. So, I changed the right hand horse’s blaze to a narrower one. I didn’t change the actual shape of his muzzle at all, and notice how much more narrow it looks with the narrower blaze. 

6. Most Belgians do have blazes, so I added one to the left hand horse - just because I wanted to. 

7. Notice the fender showing in the reference photograph? I took it out of the painting because it was confusing and added nothing to the image. 

8. The trailer interior and uprights.What I was seeing in the reference photograph didn’t make sense, so I changed it to correspond with the near side, taking into account that the trailer was at a slight angle in the plane of the painting. 

9. I cropped the photograph to offset the horses’ heads slightly to avoid a perfectly centered composition. Notice that you see far less of the right hand horse’s shoulder.

10. The final change I made to the image was to give it a new name from the working name of “The Green Team” to “Have We Met? -Belgian Horses” which I think better expresses the engagement of the horses’ gazes with the viewer. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little trip through the brain of an artist and that you’ve learned a thing or two about how to use reference photographs in the best possible way. Rarely is a photograph perfect in every way, and some photographs just don’t work as paintings. Learning to evaluate a photograph from a compositional point of view is a necessary part of progressing as a realist artist. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Little Pinto Oil Painting

Oil Painting of a pinto foal

Yesterday's leftover paint painting didn't go as well as the first one I did. But, Hey! I made the effort, and that's what counts.

The little pitcher painting didn't get many Likes on Facebook so apparently others didn't think it was as wonderful
as I do. But, that's okay because "I" know it represents a step forward and turned out well for what I can create at the current time.

After painting a color chart of my brown oil paints, I used the leftover paint to create this little 5x7 of one of my Breyer foals. I didn't pay enough attention to proportions or fitting the image on the canvas (it was close to dinner time), so the foal turned out looking more like a pinto pony. I was rushing and having some trouble with the paint so just gave up at a certain point.

The background consists of raw ochre (a color I very much like) and burnt sienna over that. The foal is painted with burnt umber, I think, and some Van Dyke brown that is almost a black. And white, of course. Again, I used the #6 and #12 mongoose brushes.

I have one more color chart to do, but I've run out of space on the wall to put wet paintings so will put that off for at least a few days. Meanwhile, I'll get back to working on the big Twilight painting.

This weekend my "kids" are home, and we're celebrating Independence Day. I tried helping out in the kitchen last night but ended up very tired and very sore, so apparently I overdid. I will do quiet activities for the rest of the weekend and wait for the okay from the surgeon to get back to normal activities.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Nailed It! Little Blue Pitcher Painting

"Mom's Pitcher", 7x5" oil painting on canvas board

This is a little  painting I did yesterday of a blue green glass pitcher that had been my mother’s. It's a 7x5 inch oil painting on canvas board.

I put off doing this little color study for two days because I was afraid of messing it up. How silly is that? It’s a study for goodness sakes, not the Mona Lisa!

The idea was to use up leftover paint from the blue color chart by doing a small painting, just for fun.  But, by the time I got around to it, most of the paints had dried so I was limited in the number of blues I could use. Adding a teeny bit of Winsor Green and a teeny bit of purple turned the painting into an analogous color study to give it more punch. 

And, Voila’! It turned out really really well! 

The main colors are Ultramarine blue, Cerulean Blue and some touches of Prussian Blue along with Titanium White and the green and purple. Oh, yes, and some Delft Blue which is a very dark blue. 

I drew directly on the canvas from life and made myself use a larger brush for the background and foreground, a #12 Winsor Newton Monarch flat. The rest was done with a #6 Monarch flat. Keeping the painting loose was a goal and not fussing with brush strokes was another. 

All in all, I’m very pleased with the way I captured the look of translucent glass, rendered the shape fairly accurately and didn’t overblend. I love the brush strokes and reflections, especially in the table top. 

I am eager to do more of these and just wish I’d thought to do them after finishing the other color charts to use up those dabs of leftover color. 

As a bonus, here is a small sketch from life that I did of our kitty, Molly, while she slept one evening on the foot stool. It’s basically a line drawing but still captured some dimensionality. I’m very pleased with it, too. 

Meanwhile, I’m reading a very good book on color, Paints and Colors by David Pyle. It’s so good that it’s hard to put down, and I wish I’d found it many years ago. 

Happy Fourth of July to all my American friends and followers! Let the summer begin!
"Molly's Nap" pencil cat drawing