Can't think of anything else to tweak here. Hope my client can't either!

Can’t think of anything else to tweak here. Hope my client can’t either!

Here’s what we started with:

I’d been staring at the 6th+ pass version of this painting for about three days knowing that something just wasn’t right about the background but waiting to be sure exactly what it was. After I decided this morning that all it needed was to be lightened and less definite (it was hardly definite to begin with, but needed even less) it only took about 10 minutes to fix it. As so often happens, when you adjust one thing you end up needing to change another. Junior was too red (the photo above was lightened in Photoshop so I could see details,but the original was quite dark–the challenge was getting the happy medium). So it took another hour to figure out toning down the red and then going about it. It felt really good to put the final touch on these horses: whiskers! So for those who were counting, it turned out to be a 7-pass adventure plus whiskers.

We are skipping over version 4 of Bella and Junior because the camera just didn’t capture much difference between it and version 3. However, version 5 definitely shows all the nuances of shading beginning to smooth themselves out nicely. At this point I would say there will be a version 6 and then maybe some touch-ups and added details. As usual, you can click on either image for a larger version. Enjoy!

Third pass

OK, short and sweet. We have the third pass for Bella and Junior, and they’re starting to look pretty good. I think my estimate of 5 passes may be a little short though. Not that there’s any kind of a formula here. It’s all just a wild guess. And some day I will bother to record my camera settings so the colors come out the same every time. The background has not been touched since the first photo in this series, but I’m always fiddling with the camera trying to make things look better. Shouldn’t have bothered–the colors in the first photo are closest to what the background really looks like!

Taming the yellow

Click on either image for a closer look. To be continued…

Got the first pass on Bella and Junior. Hard to tell how many more layers it will take, but if previous experience is any guide my guess is about five.

But Alli, they're so YELLOW!!!

But Alli, they’re so YELLOW!!!


Yes, indeed, they are yellow. But not for long. This yellow will end up under those estimated five more layers of transparent color and by the time they’re finished you will only be aware of a subtle warm glow under their bay and chestnut coats. I know you don’t believe me but just hang in there with me for the duration.

Here’s a bay who started out pretty yellow and turned out a rich red-brown–coincidentally named Junior Mint (although our current Junior is a chestnut, but you get what I mean, right?)

Detour= Delay

I was of necessity in Chicago all of last week, and although I took all my art materials with me and I have a studio space there I still did not get anything near what I expected accomplished. However, I’m now back home, back on track and hope to stay that way.

I did decide to treat our friends Bella and Junior to a light dose of ink partly to help define the pattern of the mane so I don’t have to think about what’s light and what’s dark at every moment. I also like the definition it gives to the eyes and nostrils.

Just enough ink detail to suggest some shape and expression

Just enough ink detail to suggest some shape and expression

Ink also helps me see the drawing underneath a background. This background is one that I do sometimes and it requires a lot of paint about the consistency of, say, lobster bisque in order to spread it around and get it foggy-looking. What happens is that the edges of the figures get overlapped a bit and pencil lines would disappear entirely. I can usually see the ink through the soupy paint just enough to recall where the edges are.

Ink with the background. Not to worry, the horses' ears shall reappear shortly.

Ink with the background. Not to worry, the horses’ ears shall reappear shortly.

I’m thinking that the red-brown-gold hues of these horses’ coats will resonate nicely with the blue-violet background. Or I may even add a little more white to parts of the background to make it even more wintry looking. Will make that decision after I get more of the the horses done. Looking to go for an early ride tomorrow then spend a good chunk of the rest of the day getting these guys some color!

Bella #1

Bella #1

Junior #1

Junior #1

Pencil drawing combining Bella#1 and Junior #1

Pencil drawing combining Bella#1 and Junior #1


After mulling over the photos in my previous post and rejecting various combinations I finally decided to put our two friends in a familiar horsey context, communing over a paddock fence. Fortunately the fence was already in Bella’s photo, so all I had to do was alter it to accommodate Junior. Took the top rail off because it was too high, put Junior behind what was left and added some snowy foggy trees in the background to cover up the buildings and make the whole scene look a little more wintry. For now, we’ll just have to live with the present version looking like its usual paint-by-number interpretation at this point in its progress.

I haven’t used any ink in a while on portraits, but I’m thinking I’ll throw a few ink touches into this one. Ink helped get some nice texture on another bay horse (Sue) in a snowy scene and will also help pick out some delicate texture in Bella’s mane. It should also get some nice definition in the dark outline of Junior’s eye.


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