Well here is the final thing. I think I'm pretty pleased with this although as always it has to sink in for a few days to know for sure. This has been the most complicated commission so far and was a lot of work. Definitely worthwhile though and now I can paint horses noses like a pro.
Let's have a quick look back as to how I got here.
My first attack was just a quick sketch to see whether my horse drawing ability had improved :
Not perfect by any means but much improved from even a year ago. This encouraged me so I ventured into a color sketch.
Hmm. Not quite what I had envisioned. A bit too sketchy for a commissioned work I think.
How about if I include some background (straw clutching here) :
Nope. Back to the drawing board.
So let's expand the subject matter a little I thought. Include a couple of extra riders and see how that works out :
Oh good grief no. I like the shadows on the white horse and nothing else. Let's try something else. How about just a torso shot?
Ok so we're going in completely the wrong direction. An intervention is needed here. This is obviously not going anywhere. Need to completely rethink and try and remember how to paint.
At this point I put down the brushes for a day or so and came back fresh. I decided to tighten up the drawing somewhat and go back to the 3 horses and riders. This started to look a lot better :
MUCH happier now. The drawing is better, the painting is better, the brushwork is better, and the horses really do look like horses. So what changed? One thing was I really took a lot of care over the drawing. Carefully observing all the shapes correctly and taking some time over it. This made it a lot easier to apply the paint and keep it loose knowing I didn't have to correct the drawing at the same time.
But I still wasn't completely happy. I wasn't sure that the 'three in a row' look was the best so into photoshop (actually gimp) I went and played around with the arrangement. Pulling them all together in a clump felt a lot better so I went with that :
Yup. This is the one - let's do this.
The final change I made was to increase the size of paper I was using. Everything up until now had been on 11"x14" paper. I upped the size to 18"x24" and made the painting portrait.
So the plan was :
- Careful drawing.
- Decide which edges to lose ahead of time.
- Be careful painting the horses heads and legs - these bits are the most important on a horse.
- Keep the faces recognizable as human but not of anyone in particular. When I'm painting from photos and haven't met the people in person I find it very difficult to get a likeness.
- Make it look like a painting. Not sure what I mean by this but it's basically to make sure all the shapes hang together and everything is part of a whole with no areas of the paper left out. This doesn't mean paint on every square inch but rather that every part relates to every other part.
By this morning I was almost there. All the horses had gone in well as had the people. Increasing the image size had helped enormously and I was pleased with the final composition.
The very last thing was to put some bunting in across the top. It was actually quite tricky to keep this loose but flicking a lot of water about helped here.