|reference photograph of two draft horses for an equine 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.