Courage And Valor
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When I first did "Power and Passion", I had no intention of making a series of it. When I had completed it I thought "Wow, that was fun I think I'll do it again" And so "Strength and Glory" came into being. Well it happened all over again. The popularity of the first two was encouragement enough to talk myself into another. Also, I get a lot of requests for Clydesdales. I do have my "Rough Draft" piece but she is pretty shaggy and not what most have in mind.
So the new work is a Clydesdale team in parade hitch. My main models are a pair from the Britt Draft Horse Show held annually in Britt, Iowa.
Horses and Tack Drawn Out
Well after roughly 50 hours of drawing time I am beginning to lay in the color. Paintings of horses in tack take far greater time and effort to get drawn out. Oil pastel is a relatively unforgiving medium and so I need to have everything drawn in before I begin filling it out. I would think that laying in the color will take only slightly more time than the actual drawing since so many decisions have already been made.
Purple is my favorite accent color in most of my work. I like to think that for the most part it goes unnoticed by the viewer. In both "Passion" and "Strength" purple played a major role but when viewing the painting as a whole the artwork reads as having fairly realistic coloring.
Several years ago a good friend, who is a watercolorist, said she mixed purple and black to make a better, more rich black color. When I began working in oil pastel I took her direction and have been mixing my blacks ever since. I think the purple warms the black and adds depth. Also the purple/black gives more visual pop to the painting and often complements the surrounding colors.
One of the things I like best about oil pastels is its ease with mark making. I love all the little dashes of color combining to form the whole image. I could use oil pastels in such a way as to have a smooth glassy surface to extend my work into a more hyper realistic form. But I really enjoy the effect of laying small slashes of color next to each other.
When I was working in water soluble pencil, I often worked to gain a more realistic presentation. "Working Girls" is sort of the pinnacle of that. I have always wanted my work to look like it is a painting. I may portray my animals very realisticly but would use cropping for effect. In many of my works, the negative space is just as important as the subject.
Anyway from that point in time, I began backing away from the realism and playing more and more with the impressionism. Some of my works lean deeper into the impressionistic technique than others. The driving factor behind why I do what I do and how I do it, is how much enjoyment I get from it.
I work on a drafting table that is set at about a 40 degree angle. I am often surprised by how this can throw off my drawing. I am constantly propping the work up somewhere so I can stand back and get a good look at it. Occasionally I turn it upside down to check for balance. I don't have a mirror large enough at the gallery to try looking at it that way. I also sit for most of my painting time. I tend to stand more when I am doing areas of movement. Standing helps feed the energy I want to convey in my work.
Working on Right Horse
I have been reworking the mouth on my second horse. Something isn't quite right. Originally drawn with the mouth closed, I have since opened it in varying degrees and closed it again. I have been experimenting with its width and changing the lip positions. Unfortunately this can throw off the whole proportion thing so I may spend more time redrawing much of the head and tack. I really don't like to work on the drawing while color has already been laid in. There is an optical illusion that occurs, making the colored areas look larger and may potentially ruin the whole work. Humph. But I know what I have now will not be good in the end, so I feel I have no choice.
Scribbling in the Color
I am quite pleased with the new mouth on my right hand horse. When I begin working a new area, I tend to just scribble in the color. Then as I add more colors to create shape and line, the image slowly forms. I almost always go through a period of doubt. There is this jumble of colors and marks and I think “This doesn't look anything at all like a nose.” I keep playing at it and try not to over think it. Sometimes I get up and go do something else for awhile. Like go make notes for this artist journal or play a computer game. Then when I come back I am surprised how everything makes sense. Most of the time I don't even continue to work that area. It's strange how much of the creative experience can be an unconscious process.
I was once asked by a friend what exactly is it that I like so much about horses. I am not one to spend a whole lot of time analyzing myself, so I had to give it a bit of thought. The truth is I like everything about horses. The way they look and sound and smell. The gentle manner of my horse and his sweet disposition. I love to spend warm summer evenings sitting on his hay bunk in the barn just listening to the soft whisp and grind as he eats hay. Occasionally he runs his nose over my leg or foot just to let me know he is enjoying my company.
I think I was just born with the love of horses embedded in my genetic code. I don't remember when it all started, I have just always been "horse crazy". I don't know why I get so much enjoyment from just being with my horse. I don't know why I create horse paintings one after the other. Perhaps I should spend just a little time analyzing myself....Nah.
Speaking of favorite things. Horse noses are my favorite area to do in a painting. Most people would guess the eyes. And they are most important in making an animal come to life. The eyes are also the area where I begin every painting. But the noses are a joy. I particularly love doing pink ones, so I was having a blast doing these two Clydesdales.
Ready to Start the Background
Well I still have a lot of the details left to do, but today I think I will start putting in the gray blue background. I did the red and white ribbons yesterday. I am surprised how adding the red and white ribbons made it feel so much more like Clydesdales. I had pondered blue and white ribbons, like "Strength" has, as they would coordinate well with the background. But I went with my original intention, and I like it.
I am bracing myself for the inevitable feeling of despair that occurs when I begin the background. There is always a point where I am sure I've ruined the piece. But I keep at it, and pretty soon things fall into place. Usually.
I am still unsure what to call the piece. I am thinking about “Courage and Dignity” Maybe “Courage and Honor”. Or mix it up and go with “Dignity and Honor.” Mike likes “Truth and Justice” Which has a nice ring to it but doesn't quite fit the theme I've established. I may well have named the other pieces differently had I known I was going to do more. At the moment my plan is for The Big 3 to be it. But who knows, the original concept was for one.
Courage and Valor Completed
Well it is a new year. I am pretty much done with the Clydesdale painting. Just some cleaning up to do and a few more finishing touches. A shadow here, a highlight there. Overall I am pleased with it. The original is rather large at 22"x31" so I think I'll make the prints smaller so they are closer in size to the others. As to a title, I'm still working on it. I am ready to paint something new. And I am looking forward to it.
Text and original graphics copyright © Mona Majorowicz, 2000-2017.