I thought the last pair of draft horses in harness that I painted were incredibly complicated (see them here) and felt like it took an eternity to paint them. The new pair, part of a four-horse hitch at the Michigan Horse Council Stallion Expo this past March, are going to take an eternity plus an infinity. Is it a coincidence that I finished the first painting last May? I don’t know. Things have a way of creeping up on you. The only thing I can say at this point is that the painting part shouldn’t be nearly as difficult and time-consuming as the pencil drawing was. These guys were outfitted in show harness and fancy braids, which you may not see too clearly in the photo but believe me I think I know every wrinkle of their ribbons and every facet of their harness studs.
It’s probably time to bring up a little discussion about drawing, and why I insist on doing it rather than projecting or tracing the image–which, of course, would save a lot of time over the painstaking freehand drawing method. It has become totally acceptable among a huge number of artists to project the image they will later paint. I do use a projector for very large canvases, but I project my drawing, not the original image I made the drawing from. I figure I’ve already drawn it once, I don’t need to do it again. But I definitely need to do it once. And the reason is…this is how I get to know the subject intimately, by staring at it and making endless corrections until I am totally bug-eyed! I need this connection with the subject in order to let myself become one with the painting. I don’t know how else to describe it, except to say that experience has taught me that if I trace something I have no idea later how all the parts relate to one another. When I draw, I know that I have studied every aspect of what I have drawn and the map is laid out for me and I understand it. I have no quarrel with artists who trace or project their original images; it just doesn’t work out very well for me.