Something quick and new today.
I had a new batch of Fabriano Artistico paper delivered today which I've been waiting for as paper supplies have run low. After unpacking the goodies, however, I was sitting around procrastinating and being indecisive about what to paint. I couldn't face yet another Lake Bled fiasco (I have yet another one that I couldn't face posting) but then remembered it is the start of a new month and wetcanvas.com would have a new challenge.
And a rather fine challenge it was. Enormous fun to paint this. Lots of lovely purples in the shadows which you wouldn't expect at first sight. Turns out giraffes have very strange faces but it came out extremely well. Hooray for Fabriano Artistico and wetcanvas.com
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.
Getting somewhere now. Decided on a bigger format and rearranged the composition.
Using image editing software I squished the horses together to make things a bit more interesting.
Finally getting somewhere with the horses. I went back to more of a contour-like original drawing which gave everything a bit of life. I don't know whether this is the final thing yet but we're close.
Some intermediates :
The drawing. Looks a lot better at this stage - I need to remember not to get too stiff in the painting.
I did the horses and riders one by one. First the central figure. The faces are so small it was impossible to get a likeness. This may be a good reason to do a larger version.
Second horse in. I'm feeling pretty good here. Thankfully I didn't screw up on the third one.
I have a commission that I really want to do a good job on. Well of course I always want to do a good job but this one is, ummm, tricky. Horses. Horses with riders. Not straightforward and even Mr Zbukvic says horses are the most difficult things on the planet. So today was horse sketching day. Not fantastically successful but progress is being made.
And we have a video! First time doing a time lapse on the iphone. This was very professionally propped up on a coffee mug next to the water jar and came out well considering.
It's very strange to watch this. It looks like I just draw things and then color them in straightforwardly. It is abolutely nothing like that in real life. It's a constant stream of decisions, problem solving, mistakes, going over stuff. Also - next time shoot from the left hand side. Will have to get the tripod out.
I still haven't moved over to the new palette as I'm trying to use up all the paint in the old one (amazing how long it lasts). I'm left with a lot of orange, red and pthalo blue so colorful butterflies came to mind.
It was good fun to use some bright colors for a change and he came out fairly loose. Pretty happy I think.
I did a quick sketch in the small 5x7 sketchbook :
This actually came out cleaner which is often the way. Easier on a smaller scale though.
For completeness here is it part way through when the initial orange washes went on :
Trying some badger poses for a possible larger painting. This is done with a water brush in a Stillman and Birn Alpha series sketchbook. Some people love these books but I’m still getting used to it with color. I really like the colors in the dark areas and the characteristic badger shape.
Also did a couple with soluble graphite and a water brush. I found this pencil recently during my ‘brush audit’ and remembered how much I like using it. I don’t think it’s graphite at all - it feels plasticky - but it goes on well and a bit of water creates good light grays. Best of all you can keep it in your bag and not end up with everything grubby with the graphite. Even keeping things in a ziploc bag doesn’t keep things clean with a normal pencil.
A commission came in a couple of weeks ago for a painting of dolphins. Now I haven't painted dolphins before and I knew as soon as heard the request that I wanted to have them jumping and lots of water splashing around. My next thought was - yeah and splashing water is really hard.
But I was excited to try this and spent a fair while looking at pictures of dolphins and water and made some sketches of how to group them
I knew as soon as I'd done the sketch that capturing the dolphin character wasn't going to cause too much trouble. They're such lovely shapes and are a pleasure to draw. The water however....
But in the end the water came out well. I wanted to contrast the loose splashiness of the sea with the smooth lines of the dolphins and I think that comes across well in the finished painting.
Very happy with this.
I thought I'd have another go at dragonflies. I wanted to retain the sense of movement with the fuzziness in the wings but also get the crispness of the legs a little better. I think this is more successful but could do with a little more color.