Phil’s Ponies

If you read my previous post you are probably wondering if almost three weeks later I am able to un-cross my eyes. The answer is yes, although I must say that trying three different pairs of hard contact lenses in the time didn’t help matters much. Still working on the lenses, but at least this portrait is complete. Here’s a little tour of the project from the original photo to the finish.

The reference photo was taken on the sly by the intended recipient’s daughter. She was back at the old home place in Connecticut for a little vacation and wanted a present for her father, but didn’t want him to know what was up. She couldn’t just remove the photo from the house, so she sneaked a snapshot of it with her cell phone. Not the best way to get a nice square well-lit picture, but at least it was a picture….

Original reference photo--a photo of a photo taken on a cell phone

Original reference photo–a photo of a photo taken on a cell phone

It’s pretty obvious that this photo has some problems, among them glare from the glass that covered the original, harsh lighting obscuring a lot of the detail, and uncertainty as to the actual color of the horses. First problem to tackle was straightening up this photo and getting it to the size proportions needed to fit a 5″ x 7″ Aquabord™.

The cell phone photo after it was straightened up and flattened out in Photoshop.

The cell phone photo after it was straightened up and flattened out in Photoshop.

I needed to add some Photoshop foliage to the top of the picture to fill in the space in the 5″ x 7″ format. That was probably the easiest part of the entire process. Next came the drawing, which was where my eyes went buggy. You (or I) look at this photo and think, well, I see all the detail quite clearly. It’s a whole different matter when trying to reproduce that detail that your eye thinks you saw before you had to actually recreate it–especially in the dark areas. I tried every which way to lighten this up in Photoshop so I could perhaps see some of what was going on the the dark areas, but I ended up (after much procrastination) just winging it from the eyeball down to the nose of the front horse. Here’s the painting pre-eyeball…

How I spent two days at Reins of Life benefit dressage show. Obviously not done yet.

See anything that looks like a clear drawing in the eye area? Me neither.

I had to query my client about the true color of these horses. The photo looks awfully red and I was suspicious that this color was not realistic. She described a color as sort of a palomino trending toward liver chestnut. Fortunately I’ve seen so many of these “ponies” that the description brought up a color instantly to my mind. It’s more like a buff-brown with some golden highlights (oh yeah, easy for me to say), so I played with a few watercolor mix combinations till I thought I got it fairly right…

Final result and time to rest my eyes...

Final result and time to rest my eyes…


And so, mission accomplished. It goes to my client as soon as the varnish is dry. She upped the gift-giving deadline to Thanksgiving but fortunately we more than beat that time.

About Alli Farkas

Equine and landscape artist specializing in rural Americana
This entry was posted in Aquabord, art, draft horses, drawing, horses, painting techniques, photography challenges and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Phil’s Ponies

  1. Wonderful work Alli! The harnesses look great. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. what a delightful painting!


  3. Sabiscuit says:

    The final result is gorgeous. Great light play and the coordinated movement of the horses shows through beautifully.


  4. Absolutely astonishing! Just look at all that detail! I really love the end result. Jealous. Wish I had that talent…


    • Alli Farkas says:

      I knew what I was getting into with this one because I had done this other one––a couple of years ago. What kept me going was knowing that 1) the pony painting is a lot smaller, only 5″ x 7″ and 2) the original photo wasn’t crystal clear so there would be a lot of detail that I wouldn’t have to include.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Timelesslady says:

    These are terrific…thanks for posting and the suggestion that sometimes a reddish tint in a reference is not really there.


    • Alli Farkas says:

      Reference photos can be annoyingly inaccurate sometimes. If you know your subject matter pretty well you can usually tell when something appears to be “off color”. By the time someone takes a snapshot in iffy light, sends it via email to my monitor which may not look even remotely like the colors the person saw on their phone/laptop–the colors can be wildly different. Going the other direction–artist back to client for approval of a painting–can generate the same difficulty with color. You never know what color cast someone is going to see on their personal electronic device. I’ve found that the hardest colors–for me, at least–to reproduce accurately in a digital photo are those in the blue and blue-violet range. The reds, in this case I think, were a product of over-saturation. Hope all of this makes some sort of sense to you!

      Liked by 1 person

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