“Redheads Have More Fun” portrait of Willy
I have been working on a commissioned portrait of a beautiful 8 year old chestnut warmblood gelding. Commissions require extra care, because we all have unique perspectives based on our experiences. I wanted my vision to capture the horse’s sweet generous nature and the owner’s expectations.
I took extra care with the pencil study, being careful with Willy’s anatomy, his stunning drop-dead-gorgeous-good-looks and conformation, as well as his sunny personality. I took extra time drawing his face, as the face and especially the eyes are the window to the spirit.
When the pencil study was complete, I did a value map. I would recommend this step to anyone who wants to ensure success with a studied composition. This process is not suitable for alla prima quick painting, but it works out many of the compositional problems that could crop up in a larger studio work. My process is to find 3 values- dark, medium, and light. I combine close values from the pencil study into larger connected shapes. When I get to the painting stage, I keep the values accurate, and add a variety of color within the value shapes. This variety of color enlivens the painting’s surface and the subject of the painting. I also like to create lost-and-found edges at this point. Where the sunlight touches the edge of the horse’s body, I have allowed the shapes to merge with the background- (horse’s left front leg and hoof.)
The next step is the underpainting. The underpainting sets the tone/temperature for the completed work, as this glaze will glow from within. I have a warm golden wash in a variety of tones and tints- (hansa yellow, gamboge, raw sienna, burnt sienna). I masked the areas of white- blaze and socks, and left those white areas in shadow blank- no underpainting. For this portrait, I want a warm painting with distinct blue shadows on the horse’s socks and nose, so I saved those shapes for later painting.
After the underpainting was dry, I painted the background. I wanted a very soft, light background that wouldn’t compete with the horse. I used both blues for contrast and yellows for harmony. When the background was dry, I built up shapes, added color, and worked from light to dark, using my value map. As the body was taking shape, I switched to a smaller brush to complete the face. The face slowed the process down, as stated before, an artist must capture the soul here. When the horse was complete, I added energy in the foreground with lively brushstroke and splattered color. I wanted to convey the energy of a joyful gallop and the impression of a flowery meadow.
This work will be previewed at my Open House Sept 29, 2017 5-7 PM at Backstreet Street Bagels & Gallery. To purchase a painting or commission a work, use this link: purchase painting