Sometimes the paintings we see in our mind’s eye take a bit of incubation before they appear on paper. Two years ago I became inspired to paint my farrier doing “hot shoe” work. In this work, new shoes are shaped to the horse’s individual feet with a forge. We set a time for me to photograph him working; I took many reference photos. Much later, I sat down to make a study for the painting. I used a variety of media for this study, including graphite pencil, colored pencil, and charcoal. The finished drawing suggested a pastel painting, but I knew I wanted this to be a watercolor with lost and found edges.
I thought I would work on it last fall or into the winter. Instead, I studied the effects of winter storms. We had quite a bit of snow this past winter, so I observed how the atmosphere creates lost and found edges. I went out to paint some storms safely ensconced in my car. Most recently, I began the painting process. In the drawing, there is no smoke or lost edges. I felt for a study, I needed to learn how the edges articulated and the shapes joined. I did like the idea of using primary colors as my color scheme. For the painting, I decided to use the following pigments- 2 neutrals- (one leaning toward yellow and the other leaning toward red), raw sienna and burnt sienna; 2 blues- cobalt blue and ultramarine blue; 2 reds- permanent rose madder and permanent alizarine crimson. This is a rather traditional palette, and for this painting these six pigments worked quite well.
After transferring my drawing to a half sheet of Arches 140 pound cold press paper and stretching it on my watercolor board, I set out to create the background- the elusive smoke and the atmospheric effects that smoke would create. I relied strongly on my winter studies of storms, mists, and fog.
The initial wash was laid down with cobalt blue, burnt & raw sienna, (and rose madder for the sleeve.) When the wash dried, I felt the edges were too defined, so I lifted quite a bit of the initial wash to better express the smokey environment when the hot shoe is tested to the horse’s hoof. (See next photo.) Now, with no strong edges, my mind was having a hard time organizing the shapes and seeing how the final result should progress. I needed to create some hard edges, value range, and definition. I did this by painting the head and the hand.
Later, I added the first wash on the red shirt in rose madder. Now the drama of the farrier placing the hot shoe on the horse’s hoof is beginning to emerge to become the centerpiece of the painting.
With the initial red wash dry, I used alizarin crimson and ultramarine blue to define the shirt. The top peaks of the fabric folds were lifted to create highlights. (It’s interesting how that word perfectly defines what an artist does.) While still wet, I added more rose madder to saturate the red at the point just before the fabric moves into shadow.