8 x 10
8 x 10
I also saw a busy stable along a country road and decided to stop in and introduce myself. The owner kindly agreed to let me paint on the property and I spent a few pleasant and productive hours painting and chatting with horses and their people.
I think I had the courage to take on the challenge of painting horses from life for a couple of reasons: first, I've been doing 20 minute model sketches in my classes for the past couple of weeks and have had to come up with a strategy for my students and me to use for such quick work; and second, I spent my childhood filling the margins of school work with galloping horses and papering my walls with equine drawings, and the understanding of horse anatomy that I acquired back then has stayed with me.
The first thing I did was to mix the colours that I'd need for a few key elements: horses, sky, and land. I made the mixtures to the midtone average of the object, knowing that I could add dark accents, reflected light, and highlights at my leisure once I'd placed the forms.
I also made sure that the temperature of the paint mixture matched the temperature of the object. Part of what attracted me to the horses in the first place was the way the warm light bounced around their forms and the sky reflected off of their top surfaces.
Once I had the mixtures on my palette, I did a quick gesture line to catch the basic pose of the animals and launched straight into placing their forms on the canvas. There was no drawing; I went straight to big blocks of paint that were the right shape, colour and value. Any lines that are in the final paintings were added last, on top of the forms, for emphasis.
While this sounds difficult, you'd be surprised at how much easier it is to paint a complex subject using big patches of paint than it is to paint by starting with outlines. We see objects in terms of their overall silhouette, so painting them that way makes good sense.
In both paintings, the horses didn't stick around for the whole process. But having the large masses there, and being able to examine the horses' colours even after they'd moved on helped me to finish up. At home I popped them into my trial frames to check the compositions and made a few more small adjustments.
I'm pleased with these. They were a stretch for me and I think challenges help me improve. Expect more horses from me in the future; I'm hooked on them again!