(In the future, I will blog more about the progress of each painting in this series, but I have completely finished this painting already, so this is a post in retrospect.)

I love horses. I love to watch them, to ride them, to paint them. One of the things that always astounds me about these beautiful creatures is watching a trained horse with a child. This animal, with such a large body mass and strength even a grown man cannot contain, leans down for a hug from a five year old. When ridden, the creature is sensitive to even the softest of touches to its side or pull of the reins.

I love to see riders with their horses. The peace, the companionship, the ferocity of their friendship is so inspiring. So, I wanted to express that somehow in paintings, through 6 portraits. This is the first of those artworks, an oil painting.

My first order of business for this series was to select reference photos. I searched through hundreds on a database of photos (provided royalty-free for artists to use, since I don’t have the equipment yet to take my own photos 🙁 ), and settled on 6. This is the first one I decided to work on. I loved the pride, the elegance in the horse’s stance. He looks so peaceful, so prepared for whatever is to come, and I hoped to capture that in the painting. I knew immediately that this one would be done in oil. I wanted the rich, full colors with the body and depth that oils so wonderfully provide.

I sketched the basic outline in pencil, kinda sloppy, since it’s more a guideline than a rule, and slapped down some color. The base coat and first block ins I did in acrylic, just to set the tone and get my base colors in.

Here I started laying down some darker colors, trying to get some more depth within the painting, some darks and lights to work with. Started on some details on the harness as well.

I was working with the above look for a while, but decided it was looking too flat and needed some more reds brought back in, so I covered the horse in red. I will often have a layer like this that isn’t evident at all in the finished painting, but plays a huge part in the color decisions I make in continuing the piece.

This was my favorite stage of the painting, other than the completely finished work. I even debated leaving it looking like this, but only for a moment. I could not have done that with this particular painting, because I had an image in my mind of what I wanted it to look like, and if I’d stopped here, the painting would always have felt unfinished. I have thought perhaps I should delve into this style in the future.

Here, I am putting some more browns back in, working on the planes of the horse’s face. As I paint, I clean my brushes off on the raw parts of the canvas. I don’t know if it really has any effect on the finished work, but it’s fun to look at as I paint.

This is in the final stages, maybe the last 1/4 of the painting process. To many it may look already finished, completed. However, it does not yet match my mental image, so it cannot be left here.

Now, it is finished in all its glorious beauty. The last splash of highlights on the forehead, the last whoosh of green on the trees, the last refined detail added. I am done.