Tag Archives: portrait

Tis the Season

I’m back from New York and working hard on the several handmade gifts I’m doing this year. I usually do a mix of homemade and bought gifts, depending on time, ideas, and general motivation. One thing I’m making this year is a portrait of my friend Liddy’s new horse, Violet.

violet portrait pix - right

Just before I left for Thanksgiving, the model was starting to move from the awkward early pastel layers to at least the vicinity of realism. She has a ways to go, but I’m feeling confident that I’ll have her done in time for Christmas.

Here’s Violet after about 5 layers of pastel:

violet progression 01

At this point I was having trouble visualizing her because of the white primer mane and tail, so I switched from pastels to acrylics for a bit. I always find that useful for the final pastel stages because it helps me see where how the colors will look on the finished horse.

violet progression 03

Ah, she’s starting to look like Violet now! Here she is with a few more layers in both media:

violet progression 02

I’m pretty pleased with how she’s turning out. She’s a gorgeous horse, and while I know I can’t do her color justice I at least want to achieve a resemblance of her beautiful coat. I think I’m getting there- she needs a number of layers in both pastel and acrylic, but I’m relieved to have her looking at least vaguely Violet-like by early December. Hopefully by the end of this weekend she’ll be even closer to done.

Portraits for Portraits

Generally when I’m getting ready to paint a model, I’ll take my main inspiration from one picture and then find other similar references to augment the one view I have. It’s a rare pleasure to be able to take multiple, detailed pictures of the same horse, in the same light, at the same time of year. This kind of detail and accuracy is important if you are doing a portrait of a particular horse.

The newest horse at my barn is a gorgeous dapple Welsh Cob mare named Violet. She is a beautiful mare and one of the most willing, calm, trainable horses I’ve ever seen. She’s being started by a friend, so of course I must make a portrait as a gift! After all, this horse just begs to be painted.

Since I was lucky enough to be there in person with my camera, I took all the reference shots I’ll need for a detailed depiction.

Right side

Left side (less angled would be better but…)

A decent full body shot of both sides of the horse are pretty essential for a decent portrait, although I’ve snuck by with less before. But the best case scenario is to get all your angles, so you don’t find yourself partway through thinking bollocks, what color are her armpits?

This is the color of her armpits.

It’s pretty important to have a picture head on and a rear view too, especially with a horse who has such particular facial markings and tail coloring.

And because why not, I held the camera up high and took a shot of her topline.

Of course, I took more pictures- she too pretty not to photograph and more detail is always better. But those are at least the basics I’d want for most portraits. If anyone else wants to use the above pictures for reference, enjoy! You can even email me if you’d like more and/or larger sizes. That color is just too pretty to keep to myself!

Note: Violet’s owner does know about her eye. Although it looks like something scary, that lump is just some scar tissue from an old injury. It’s completely harmless and doesn’t impede her sight. And yes… I do intend to sculpt it on my portrait.

More productive nostalgia

My lesson-teaching, barn-owning, pony-loving and all-around-awesome friend is looking for a new pony to add to her lesson program. We’ve been emailing ads back and forth and it’s made me nostalgic and made me really miss my own pony. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to drive down and see him for at least a week. So I turn to models for some pretend pony-owning.

My nostalgia made me get back to work on a portrait of my old school horse and first love (and heartbreak), Jaime. Jaime was a grey Quarter Horse gelding and my best friend for two years. He was a pretty leggy Quarter Horse, and I chose the Peter Stone Chips Stock Horse for his portrait. To add some expression I turned his head just slightly and twitched his ear.

Pastelling him has been sort of funny… he’ll probably never be much of a halter horse because I wanted him to look like the Jaime I remembered, and that means never clean. He’s dirty and has yellow and green stains from lying about in grass and… other horsey things. I added a little grey scar from where he stuck his foot through a wire fence and then waited patiently for someone to come discover and rescue him.

He isn’t quite done, but I couldn’t help but jump in and start him a bridle this evening. I need to go back and look at my pictures to check what bit I actually rode him in, but a plain jump-ring snaffle works for now.

Hobby Hodge Podge

Today I’m sharing a few fun things that I’ve found in my online hobby wanderings as well as the fruits of yesterday’s labor.

A member of the Fallen Leaves discussion group asked “What are your hobby rules?” I have always had my set hobby rules (at least, since I got back into the hobby in winter of 2009) but I had never written them out, which in itself was a good exercise. Check out the thread to see what other guidelines people have set for themselves.

The always-brilliant Laura Skillern of Don’t Eat the Paint replied to my question about paint storage (my post is at the bottom of the page, in the comments). I had no idea that mixed acrylic paint could actually be stored for future use. This could be revolutionary… if I ever get the nerve to try acrylic painting again. I would have to buy those special glass jars (egads! spending!) but it might really be worth it.

Jennifer Buxton of Braymere Custom Saddlery is in Texas judging the Lone Star Live and posted some totally inspirational photos of Lyn Norbury’s performance entries. Everything in these pictures was made my Lyn- that’s my dream and goal!

The two pictures below are screenshots of Jen’s post. All credit to her and Lyn.

Correction: Jen says (in comments, below) that these photos are by Kellye Bussey. The Lone Star resin is owned by Susan Hargrove and customized by Sherry Clayton, but shown by Lyn Norbury.

What phenomenal entries, made 100% by the owner! So cool. And that Hazel resin is totally scrumptious. As I said I found these entries very inspirational, and I’m happy to say that yesterday I did finally get some photos of my Trakehner mare Doublet in her new bridle with handler. Everything in the photo is made my me.

Doublet, chestnut Trakehner mare, CM PS Chips Warmblood by me as a semi-portrait of the Thoroughbred gelding of the same name owned by Princess Anne.

And yesterday’s other achievement, perhaps less exciting but still pleasing- a halter photo for my finished POA mare, Diamond.

Diamond, blue roan leopard POA mare, CM PS Chips Pony, a portrait of the real POA mare who taught me to canter at summer camp

It’s intriguing to note that both of these models are portraits- it sort of ties into my model horse rules #3 and #5, that all CMs are by me and I have to really love all my models or they don’t stay in the collection. Both of the above models are portraits of horses that I dreamed about as a child, so now I have them-albeit in miniature form-and my childhood dreams are immortalized and treasured. Here’s a photo of the real Diamond and one of the real Doublet, from The Encyclopedia of the Horse.

Pencil work: flea bites and roaning

Inspired by my lovely new collection display and a post about flea bites on Fallen Leaves, today’s post highlights two horses that are nearly finished and who have both been detailed using colored pencils.

First is “Nettie Perle,” a Pebbles Arabian mare in flea bitten grey. I adore this mold and was very lucky to be able to trade for one, since they are pretty expensive even as bodies. After prepping and using white primer, I shaded her with white, grey, and black pastels. After those layers were sealed I did several layers of fine ticked flea bites using a Derwent colored pencil. I am very pleased with the results. Now I just need to do facial details, hooves, chestnuts, etc. and she’ll be finished.

Horse number two is the Peter Stone Chips pony, another awesome and hard-to-find-cheap mold. I searched for one as she is the perfect portrait of a mare that long ago taught me to canter, Diamond.

Diamond circa 1998 with a foal

Diamond was a POA broodmare and summer camp horse with the most unusual coloring- her official color was blue roan with leopard spots. I actually had a custom done of her (on the Trad. POA mold) when I collected horses as a kid, but I was never really happy with how she turned out.

To create Diamond’s roaned and leopard coat, I used black and white pencils (both Derwents and pastel pencil) to make hair marks over a pastel base coat of her blue-grey-white coloring. I’ve done several layers of roaning in both black and white, including both hair marks and larger spots- you couldn’t really tell on her where roaning ended and appaloosa spots began, so that’s the look I’m going for.

As with Nettie Perle, I’m very pleased with how this penciling technique has worked out. Diamond is also at the stage where she only really needs last details such as chestnuts, hooves, eyes, and face detailing to be done.

Tips for working with pencils:

  • Follow hair growth charts – a horse’s coat is full of interested whirls and curls and you want to make sure to capture this correctly with any hair detailing. I have posted hair growth charts in a gallery here.
  • Go slowly – this is not something to rush! I like to watch TV while I work so that I am not overly focused on the pencil work but relaxed and methodical.
  • Seal between layers – the best effects are going to come from multiple layers of “hair” just like a real horse. Seal between layers to avoid messing up previous work.
  • Sharpen the pencil often – no matter what scale you are working on, hairs are tiny! Keep a sharpener handy and don’t let your marks get too wide and blunt.
  • Vary your strokes – for both roaning and flea bites, varying the number of “hairs” in different areas will create a more realistic pattern. You don’t want uniformity in the coat, just consistence. Especially with flea bites, the concentration of red hairs varies a lot (notice on Perle above some thicker patches of pencil lines near her withers, flank, and barrel).
  • Experiment to find the right pencil – I use Derwents and pastel pencils, but there are lots of options out there and there is certainly no right answer. One brand I’ve heard good reviews of repeatedly, but never tried, is Prismacolor Verithin. I use Derwents mainly because that’s what I already had when I started doing models, and they work well for me.

Alice!

Now that Robyn has received her gift, I’ll post it here. This is my first traditional and my first appaloosa. The background is quite out of scale for her but I am tickled because that is the actually edge of Robyn’s arena.

She is a portrait of Robyn’s feisty, curious POA mare “Alice” who loves to climb and/or paw anything in reach. She is the Breyer El Pastor with a new tail, new mane, resculpted head, and straightened leg with a in-scale mounting block. Her body color is all pastel, while her mane, tail, facial details, hooves, and markings are in acrylic.