Painting a horse portrait with lost and found edges.

This painting that I am currently working on is from two pretty good photographs, but I wanted to create a lot more atmosphere and romance in the oil painting than exist in the photos. The horse is a gorgeous aged gentleman, at 36 years still going strong and I want the piece to have a timeless quality.

To this end I have replaced the stable walls and door and rug in the photo with a background half in deep shadow and half in light. He emerges from the shadows with the light accentuating his profile. (He has such a beautiful facial bone structure that I had to show it to best advantage in his portrait).

The edges take on new importance in this portrait, meaning that I am trying to create contrast in some important focal areas ( the nasal peak , and the eyes)  while playing down contrast in other areas so that they lose themselves into the background. 

There are just two layers currently on the piece, but I anticipate adding at least three more layers over the coming week as the painting nears completion.

Oil painting of a horse lost found edges.png

Above: is the portrait at the second layer stage. Mapping out the main lights and darks and organising the composition, checking proportions etc. Once this layer is dry, it will be time to add mid tones and smaller details.

Work process video - painting a horse portrait.

I had already painted the first layer of this painting of a beautiful Chestnut Peruvian Paso gelding called Tucker, kind permission of K Broemmelsick.  I hung the canvas up to dry and it was actually almost a year until I managed to get a second session in. I filmed myself painting the  next stage and have made a video.  When editing it, I found out that I use my fingers rather more than I realise!

Work in progress - Coonhound Mix Coda

This small oil is painted from a photo reference kindly supplied by permission of Karen Broemmelsick. I love this dog's expressive eyes. This is the third time I have painted a portrait of Coda.  I have a little work to do on the feet, which I will leave slightly deconstructed so as the keep the main focus on her eyes. 

Painting Large - getting started on some big canvases

I really like the challenge of painting large canvases, and this week I made a start of three of them.

1) A brand new commission, which is a portrait of a family of four dogs, two Cockerpoos, and two Border Terriers.  This piece its just shy of a metre in length, and 60 cms high.

2) A 60 x 70cm painting of a running horse

3) A 100 x 100 canvas featuring a seated black Labrador 

I find that I need to do quite careful 'mapping out' on a big canvas before I begin to paint.  Because of the size, it isn't possible to take in the whole piece at once and draw it  by eye.

 Measuring the proportions, using the dividers

Measuring the proportions, using the dividers

 

I use dividers and sharpie pens to mark out sections of a painting, check proportions and ensure that there is space for everything I want to include.  I do a quick plan on Photoshop, by creating a clipboard that is the same ratio as the canvas I am about to paint. Then I arrange the subject matter within the clipboard until I am happy to save it and use it.  I then use my proportional dividers to enlarge the photoshop image and transfer it onto my canvas. I don't put any detail in at this stage, just a rough map of where everything is going to go.

 I measure and mark out blocks where the main big shapes are going to be, in this case the four dogs faces,

I measure and mark out blocks where the main big shapes are going to be, in this case the four dogs faces,

Here is a short video clip of the beginning stages of the above commission. I'm going to film the entire process for my client so that she can watch the painting process all the way through.

Watch the video here

 The first wash of paint applied very thinly for a soft finish. Further layers will tighten it up and provide the details but for now, it stays loose.

The first wash of paint applied very thinly for a soft finish. Further layers will tighten it up and provide the details but for now, it stays loose.