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.
Here are the last nine days paintings in order. I started badly and ended badly but there was some good stuff in the middle.
The hardest thing for me right now is answering the question ‘Why did this painting go wrong?’ Without knowing that I’m floundering around trying this and that and somehow hoping something will happen. This blog post is an attempt to answer that question with something that I can act upon and improve.
Let’s start with the good :
1. I’ve learned to create greens that don’t scream at you. Instead of quin gold and ultramarine I’m now using a much greyer mix of mostly mayan blue and burnt sienna.
2. Simpler paintings often come out better. Day 5 (the middle one in the collage) was a really unprepossessing photo but I managed to get some wonderful light onto the walls and some lovely warm shadows.
3. There’s some good texture in some of the paintings. Especially the almost monochrome one.
4. There must be something else. The drawing is mostly good. I could still stand to take a little more care over it though. The jury is still out as to whether the value studies are helping.
5. I’m managing to suggest detail better than I used to. If you ignore the screaming greens numbers 3,4, and 6 have good suggestion of lots going on without actually painting every little bit.
6. Color in general improved as I went on. Dialing back the greens and limiting the palette helps here.
7. As a group they don’t look too bad.
So now the bad :
This was meant to be an exercise to improve how I use values in paintings. Not much success there.
1. I have trouble knowing when to push a contrast and when to decrease it. For instance wall shadows often look really good when the contrast is dialed back a little. The effect of the sunlight is accentuated if you make the shadows lighter than they appear. I’m still having a *lot* of trouble with this.
2. Another problem is knowing when to use your darkest darks. I tend to overuse them in places where they shouldn’t be (under roof eaves for instance) and then under use them in other places. Actually I can’t see anywhere where they’re underused – maybe I should learn to keep my powder dry here.
3. Screaming greens!! But definite progress there.
4. Sloppy drawing. Clamp – you can do better than this!
5. Oh, so many more things.
So what is the plan of attack? I need a few wins under my belt. Here are my thoughts :
1. I’m going to paint smaller (1/8 sheet) to force me to keep things simple.
2. Keep those uber darks in the back pocket until really needed.
3. Simplify to the big shapes for as long as possible.
4. Keep on the buildings theme for now.
5. Keep having faith things will work out.