I will start with my painting of Boomer. This was a very special commission for a friend and this was the first horse I'd ever painted. Yep. the first. There is a first time for everything right? It was definitely a challenge for sure, but I loved doing it.
My friend had seen a very cool chair that had a portrait of a horse on the back and wanted to replicate it but with a portrait of her horse. She asked if I could do it. I told her I wasn't sure but sure willing to give it a try.
I have to tell you I was a bit freaked out by the whole horse portait thing because I know very well that a portrait is a portrait. If doesn't matter if it's a person or an animal, the likeness must be there. Since my drawing skills suck I decided (with the client's permission) to do a drawing transfer, rather than try to sketch it out freehand. This way the drawing would be spot on in dimension and perspective. I uploaded the photo to Walgreens photo processing and printed the photo 16x20 poster sized. I then used transfer paper and a stylus and went over all the lines in the photo. Now some may call this cheating, and haters will hate, but I wanted to make sure that this drawing was spot on. No room for error. In my opinion, the drawing is the most important element, but so is application of color, shading and contour. Cheating is a very strong word. It takes a lot of skill to render a likeness in paint and hey I figure if it was okay for Edgar Degas and Norman Rockwell, it's good enough for me.
After transferring the image I fixed the drawing by spraying it with some retouch varnish. Then I outlined the drawing with black oil paint, highlighting the eyes, mouth and nose.
I then took a deep breath and started on the nose and eyes. I decided to do the eyes first because in the past when I have done portraits I have saved the eyes for last and this proved to be problematic. I wanted a clean canvas to start the eyes on and I have to say it was the best decision I had made. I knew that if I screwed up the eyes and had to erase I would still have the rest of the drawing in tact and would only have to fix the eyes. In the past when I had messed up the eyes I had to scrub and remove all the paint around the area and that made a mess of the skin around the eyes. This worked out best for me. Luckily I got the eyes right the first time!
I then moved on the to the nose. The nose wasn't as difficult as the eyes, but Boomers distinctive markings made it a bit of a challenge. I was happy with the results and moved on to complete the nose. The biggest challenge at this point was to get the contours accurate. By first putting in the shadow areas and the highlights I was able to put in the mid-tones and blend the areas together.
I moved on up the head and completed the ears and neck. The mane was left for last as it would require a lot of detail.
Once the head and neck were complete, all that was left were the mane, the details and the background. At this point I am now looking at the muscle contours, softening lines and making sure that I didn't miss anything.
As you can see there is little detail in the mane at this point. I went ahead and added the background. The first background was a bit drab, mostly brown and it seemed to swallow Boomer up. At the suggestion of another artist I added a bit of green to make the horse pop. I like it better now. I then moved on to add more detail to the mane between the ears, the detailing on the ears and fine tuning of the contours.
Boomer is complete now and I get to do another one specifically for the chair. Yep, the first one was just to practice. We will see Boomer again!!