A Hundred Reds

I recently aquired a commission to paint a paint.  A “paint” is  a multi-colored horse, usually with large white and brown splotches.  They can be black and white like holstein cows or even palomino and white but generally they are brown and white. Like Tonto’s horse in the Lone Ranger.  A popular color, the term “paint” is used for Quarter horses, a particular breed of horse.  Other breeds of splotched horses are called pintos.  All charming nomenclature aside, this particular paint horse was part white and part bay, a reddish brown color with lots of variation.

No where in the palette of colors available to artists is the color, Bay.  And if one ever looks closely at this horse color, one will find a shade of red, a shade of brown, a shade of blackish brown, a shade of mahogany, etc, etc.  And one  had better have an arsenal of browns at one’s disposal as well as some mad mixing skills.

I was given a photo of the subject, an iffy quality digital print.  Chetoh is a nice looking boy with good color and a kind eye.  The picture was low in pixels, but what it lacked in clarity, it made up in posture.  The pose of Chetoh was perfect and I didn’t have to do anything to change his position.

I sketched him out and outlined his shape with orange.  This is a technique I have been doing for some time now and I like to leave a little of the outline peeking through my final layers.  It’s like an aura and adds a little oomph to the final piece.  I like it, and that’s the important part.

I took stock of my browns and reds and dabbed out 4 kinds of browns (sienna and umber, both burnt and raw) two red oxides, black, white and my go to blender: naples yellow.  I love that color… it’s my butter.  I rounded out my palette with cerulean,thalo and ultramarine blue.  And yes, I used ALL these colors to make this bay horse look like a bay horse.  They are layered, blended, adjacent, glazed and somewhere in some version became Chetoh’s highlights, midrange and shadows.

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Getting the colors in their proper place by referencing his mug shot.

I don’t know what the math looks like when you take 12 colors and mix them with each other one at a time and/or in combinations with the rest, but I know it’s quite a lot.  It felt like a hundred reds; but I really don’t know since I try not to think about it.  When painting, I try not to think at all.  I just look, compare and choose. It’s judgement call after judgement call… too light, too blue, too this, too that.  Add, subtract, scrub, twist, smooth out, swoop up.

Working on his chest and mane.  Painting white on a white canvas is always fun.

Working on his chest and mane. Painting white on a white canvas is always fun.

Once he came together, I roughed in the background.  This took me longer than I had expected.  I made the sky very light at first, but when I stood back to look at the composition, his white blaze didn’t stand out like I wanted.  A heavier dose of Ultramarine was pressed into service and I popped in a few clouds for good measure.  The final result, an elegant Chetoh on a windswept hill.

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Chetoh the Paint Horse

The New Easel

Way back when I was in Art School, a handy friend helped me make an easel for painting.  I dismantled it upon graduation, but later when I took up painting again, I made another one.  It’s just  2 x 1 and 2 x 4 construction with long lag bolts to slide the horizontal surfaces up and down.  It’s simple, but it works and will hold a large canvas without much trouble.  Being made of unfinished lumber, I often use it to wipe down loaded brushes.  Sometimes it even stands in as a mini palette for mixing colors.

Home-made easel.  Simple but effective!

Home-made easel. Simple but effective!

I’ve been using this easel for years. You know I never felt I needed anything more even though there are some super nice store bought models on the market.  However, earlier this month I walked into the local university bookstore to buys some snazzy new pens when lo and behold, there stood a darling sporty model!  It was  a really nice easel, all finished beechwood with knobs to adjusting the horizontal bars.  No more lag bolts!  The best part was it was on sale.  Who doesn’t love 50% off?!

I bought it and brought it home.  Having 2 easels in the studio feels like a luxury, but moving and stacking up wet paintings is a real hassle.  It just made sense to expand my tool bin with another easel.

Lovely beech wood and very easy to use!

Lovely beech wood and ready for a test drive!

I promptly loaded up an unfinished painting and got to work.  Time to get my horse’s portrait off the “in progress” wall and turn it into a completed painting.  I scraped off all the old paint from my glass palette and put out some fresh oils. The squiggly snake in the middle is artist grade walnut oil.

New paint waiting to get going!

While I was sorting out the colors I wanted to use, it occurred to me, some followers may want to see my set up.  Here’s a few pics of my palette table.  Maybe it’s unique to have a palette table, but it works pretty dang good!  I bought an old dresser, painted the drawers in fun colors and use them to store my paints.  The top drawer holds oils, the middle one my acrylics while the others are employed as storage for canvas, tapes and various tools. The top surface is covered in white paper with a large glass plate over that for mixing.  It’s super easy to use a flat paint scraper for removing old paint and it cleans up really well.

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studio_today 004

I keep pliers in the drawer to take off caps.  Sometimes those little caps will hang on for dear life, turning the paint tubes into a twisted mess. If the cap refuses to come off, I might cut the end of the tube and squeeze the paint out the bottom.  That’s a sure fire way to get paint all over oneself, but it’s worth it.  A little aluminium foil can be used to wrap up the end.

For paint, I mostly use M. Graham and Winsor Newton.  There are a few old tubes of Grumbacher too, but these probably date back to my college days.  They don’t dry out if you cap them properly, but the paint sometimes needs coaxing with turpentine and oil to get them to flow again.  When choosing a palette of colors for a particular painting, I try to anticipate where I am going  (color wise) and put them all out at once.  I put out more than I need, since I don’t like having to stop in mid painting to add new paint to the repertoire.  I will if I have to, but would rather not if I can help it.

When I left off on the portrait of Cricket, she was just sketched in.  With fresh paint and some background music on the stereo, I began to put color on her body.  I like to work wet on wet and often mix right on the canvas.  Acrylics are a whole other ball game… they work well for layering and glazing, but oils are so blendable.  I love being able to tinker with the color.

Background was pretty much done... now on to the nitty gritty!

Background was pretty much done… now on to the nitty gritty!

Things were going well but  for the face.  It was being difficult since I was using a photo of her all tacked up (saddled and bridled), I had to imagine what the shadows and highlights would be like without a bridle.   It was getting muddy and I still need to fix some parts here too, but will have to wait until she dries out some more.  At that point, I’ll glaze in the trail dust too.

Almost done, but for the dust.  I'll have to wait for it to dry so I can glaze that dusty over her legs.

Almost done, but for the dust.

So far so good!  I’ll post some finished ones after I finally sign it.  That’s always the last thing I do to a painting besides getting a final clear coat.  While that dries, I’ve got another winged chair in the works.  Found a new upholstery store and couldn’t resist getting more fabrics for another chair.

Next post:  shopping at “Remains of the Day”!

Horse Art

After completing the chair, I spent the day tinkering about the place.  I tidied up the studio too and thought now is a good time to drop in a gallery of work.  So here is some of my horse art.  There’s quite a bit of it… yeah, ok, so I like horses!  And yeah, probably more than the average person.  Maybe not more than the average horse person, but still… a lot.  Enough that at one point, I got sick of making landscapes and creating work that may be marketable and really focused on painting what I love.   I kept at it until I had quite the collection of horse paintings.  I make greeting cards out of many of them and sell them at fairs and horse shows which just about pays for my horse activities.  Not quite, but every little bit helps.  Enjoy the gallery!

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