"Curly, a Paso Fino" - 14x11 oil
It's close to the finishing line! Before I could work on Curly, I had to finish the background. Why? Because I needed to be able to paint his mane and forelock hair over the background and it is no fun painting around tiny hairs. If I had to do that, then the hair paint strokes would loose the gestural feeling. The upper background area was softened with some grey-blue colors to help it go back behind Curly, and then I just softened some of the areas in the lower section.
After studying some horse painting books, I then finished Curly's eye. Dark blues and blacks were added in various places to make him look more "black." I noticed that his ear did not seem to have the correct shape, so I tweeked that a little. Then I had the fun and terror of painting his hair. Why terror? That may seem a bit extreme, but in many of the strokes, I only have one chance to get is correct and I wanted to convey some sense of movement and for the strokes to look gestural versus painstakening painted. It was also a bit disconcerting to paint over his eye because I want his eye to show through, yet I know that his hair often covers his eyes, so I had to be delicate and quick with the brush.
Now it is time for Suzie and Rick's approvals and feedback for the final touches. For me, this is always both exciting and nerve wracking. It is a delightful honor to be painting Curly, who means a great deal to Suzie. Memory Portraits are a joy to create. It will most likely be best for them to see the portrait in person, because I digital image does not capture all of the layers nor are the colors correct. Our monitors also have different color tones. They can give me feedback on details, whether there is too much red showing through, if Curly needs this or that in order for him to 'read' as they envision him. I so look forward to getting together with them.
...to be continued.
Is Curly starting to show his personality?
Ah-h-h, I am starting to 'feel' Curly surfacing. Are you?
As you can see, various colors and values (lights and darks) have been applied. The background colors have been subdued a little but I want to keep the energy. I took the risk of starting to paint his "bangs" because I wanted to see how they would look, but now I cannot go behind that hair to change the background colors!
Various reds were added to the halter to give it some dimension, and I painted the halter very painterly. Why? Since it is red, which is an eye catching color, I don't want to give it too much attention, otherwise the viewer will spend too much time looking at the halter and not at Curly. There is a lot of push-pull that goes on when creating a painting. It is one of our many artistic challenges. I enjoy it because I like the 'intellectual play' that it involves.
I have not done much more with his eye, and will work on it shortly. Not sure how much to detail to give the eye because I need to know how much of his hair will be covering it. Also, I am wondering if his white heart shaped marking needs to be elongated. One of my dilemnas has been trying to figure out what colors to use for his highlights because if they are too light or white, they look like white markings. So far, the bluish-gray around his nostrils seem to be working.
Any reactions to Curly at this point?
...to be continued.
After I applied the first layer of background colors, I started giving Curly some colors. Because he is a black horse with brown and red under tones, I decided to start with the browns first; these will act as an underpainting. More colors have been added to the background. I am not sure how I will treat these colors, but I like the energy. Right now they compete for attention with Curly, so I know I will have to calm them down.
The halter remains red from that first layer of red paint. To do this, I did what we call 'negative' painting, which means that I painted around the shape of the halter. There is not much dimension yet in the painting, but that will come soon. I did not paint any colors for Curly's mane yet, because I was not yet sure how I wanted to treat that area. There are a couple of decisions I have to make, because I want to maintain some of that yummy red for his mane. The paint strokes for his eye are there just to give me the eye's location. It will not look like a mask when I am finished.
Do you see Curly evolving now? I have several layers of paint to go, so you will see various evolutions. Hopefully you are enjoying seeing the developments.
...to be continued.
Sketch transferred & beginning of background
It is confession time. I must admit that my rich red background, that I like a lot, intimidated me! Artists often talk about their fear of the big blank white surface, well I found myself not wanting to ruin the reds I had applied. But I could hear Curly "calling" so I dove in.
Before I applied any background colors, I transferred the sketch, which I posted earlier, onto the canvas. Light pastel was rubbed on the back of the original sketch and then I pressed that onto the canvas through the tracing paper with a pencil. Remember how we did this in elementary school? I do not like to use pencil directly on the canvas because it does not always disolve.
When I began applying the background colors, I re-read my notes from my interview with Suzie. She said that she saw warm colors surrounding Curly. He is also a real personality, so I used soft diagonal brush strokes, versus horizontal, because the diagonal line conveys energy. It was important for me to remember to not cover up all of the red in the underpainting. It will be interesting to see how the reds and background colors intereact with the horse colors.
Can you envision Curly the horse at this stage or is it a bit too strange? How much red do I leave coming through in the final rendition? Hmmm....
...to be continued.
First layer of paint or underpainting
Where is Curly the Paso Fino horse?
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I was going to do some experimenting because Suzie had given me artistic license. So I took an artistic risk -- meaning that I did something I have not done before -- and I painted the entire surface of the canvas red. The fun twist to this phase of the painting is that I changed course in mid-stream. Originally, I was going to mix up a pile of solid red paint and brush it on, but then as I squirted out the various hues of red I decided not to mix the reds but to paint and blend them on the canvas. It is not quite as obvious in the photo, but I painted the full spectrum of warm to cool reds. Did it remind me of finger painting as a kid? Perhaps, but it did give me ideas for future paintings. (Hmmmm. The vat of ideas keeps filling up.)
Meanwhile, back to Curly. Once this red layer dries, I will transfer the sketch onto the canvas.
So what do you think of the red underpainting? I wonder if I will be able to preserve some of the reds or will I cover it all up with more layers of paint? The red underpainting will effect future layers.
....to be continued early next week.
The red & green color palette - oils
Since Suzie gave me "artistic license" for the background of the painting, I have decided to do a little experimenting. (We artists love artistic license. It is most often used when we eliminate something, such as a telephone pole, or move something, etc. in a painting.) First I need to decide the palette of colors I will use. Since Suzie's answer to the question, "What are the first colors you think of when you think of Curly?" with "brown-black, red and warm colors," I received the direction I needed. She also mentioned that he has red highlights.
When I begin any painting, I choose a color palette that best suits the subject and my artistic vision. Most artists only use one set of colors for all of their paintings, whereas I choose between these three palettes: red/green, blue/orange, and yellow/purple, which are based on the color complement theory. I do this to assure more color harmony in my paintings. Changing my color palettes also keeps me from getting into a habit of using the same color mixtures in every painting.
In the photograph I posted here, you can see the tubed colors. In the middle I have a sample of some of the mixed colors I will use in the painting of Curly. Would you have chosen a different color palette? If so, why? Do you think these colors will express Curly's character? What questions do you have about color?
...to be continued.
Sketch of Curly, a Paso Fino
What does Paso Fino mean? It translates into "fine step," which is appropriate for these horses. Paso Fino horses orginate from Columbia, South America, known for their people friendly traits and smooth riding gaits. Whenever I begin a Memory Portrait commission, I invariably learn something new; this is one of the many reasons why I enjoy working with people in creating a painting they want.
The first step of the commissioning process is an indepth interview. Suzie's husband, Rick, asked me to paint her horse Curly and after several questions and photographic references, he decided to get Suzie involved versus having the painting be a surprise. Rick thought the outcome would be more satisfactory, and I believe he is correct. Through the interviewing process, I learned that Curly is an 18 year old male, who is a bit of a trickster - will tip over a bucket for fun - yet kind and sensitive with a good heart. He also has a unique marking on his forehead. Suzie also gave me several more photographs and indicated her favorite picture of Curly.
Posted here is a sketch of Curly. You will notice that it is on tracing paper. I do this in case my first attempt at painting Curly is not successful - I still have a drawing from which to begin another attempt. My questions for Suzie and Rick at this stage are: 1.) Are his proportions correct? 2.) Is the location of eye approximately correct? 3.) In the photos, his nose/muzzle area seems narrow in comparison to other horses, is it correct? 4.) Would you like the background to be abstract or a fuzzy landscape or should I make the decision? and 5.) Is there anything else I should know before I transfer this skectch onto canvas?
I would love input from others as well as Suzie and Rick. Thank you!
...to be continued.