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I try to take my camera everywhere I go. You just never know when or where an opportunity to photograph something will present itself. I was traveling to pick up some matboard with a friend and drove past a large herd of paint mares with foals. After about two seconds of deliberation I turned around and hopped out, camera in hand.
It was a feast for the eyes. I was so excited about what I was viewing through my camera lens, I had several painting ideas even before I had finished shooting my first roll of film. All in all I took 6 rolls of film and most assuredly would have done more had I been alone and not on my way somewhere.
I have just begun laying in the color and I am having a great deal of fun. The way the image is laid out is exactly how I like to work. Being a sectional painter I like working in one tiny area and then moving on to the next tiny area. I dislike large expanses of color. All these bodies close together and spots are perfect for me and I expect to complete this painting in a very short amount of time.
White, while easier than doing black has its own challenges. In watercolor it is easy for you to just let the white of the paper show through which gives a luminous effect. It is one of the things that makes watercolor paintings so stunning.
Colored Hues Within White
Water soluble pencils, however are not the same as watercolor. And when laying in color there are marks made by the pigment. Though much of it lifts when the wet brush is applied, there are still traces of the original pencil marks that show. In most colors, that gets hidden by layering. With the pencils, small areas of white were actually fun to do. But great expanses of white, such as an all white horse were quite daunting. Even with a very careful application of pencil, there was often marks left and the color could sometimes look uneven.
Oil pastel is completely different and I am enjoying experimenting with whites. In this painting I am using loads of yellows, violets and rose colored hues to add a soft glow to the mares. I find myself much braver with color usage in oil pastel because it is so easy to put in.
Oil pastels are slightly transparent which makes blending colors interesting. The white of the board adds a luminosity to the colors when in direct light and a painting can glow. I learned the hard way to work with my drafting table lights off. Otherwise, a piece may look spectacular on the table but may be flat and lifeless on the wall.
I have moved and removed a few horses. I usually try to avoid altering things once I have begun putting down color, but with so many horses it required some tweaking. I needed to shift around the horses to get a placement that offered better flow for the eye to travel.
Often there is an optical illusion when something is filled in, it looks disproportionate to the rest of the scene. So if I start messing around with a work in progress it can be potentially disastrous.
Usually I have a working title before I even begin a painting. Occasionally, as in this instance, I am at a loss. I am a firm believer that if a title doesn't add to the story then, it is best to leave it untitled. I don't find descriptive titles all that interesting. Like “Brown Horse in Meadow.” What a yawn.
So I have been pondering possibilities. Maybe go with something clever alluding to the patchwork of color or paint horses. The other thought is something about sleeping or siesta. All the mares and foals were resting during the heat of the day. And they have sleepy expressions on their faces.
The other title possibility is to make it part of The Zen Horse series. I have nothing particular in mind for this. However there are several aspects that would make it work as a zen horse painting. "Everything the same, everything distinct," is a big one. "Everyone and Everything is Connected" is another. I am not sure how I feel about putting a painting into the zen horse series without having a concept for it from the beginning.
I have had a bit of a break. I went to a warmblood (horse) inspection in Minnesota and then to a threshing show where I photographed some working drafts. If I go too long without working on a painting I loose the passion for it and often don't come back to it. It may sit unfinished for years until I finally throw it out.
So I am back putting in color trying to rekindle the initial zeal for this piece when I started. I am too close to finishing to give it up now.
I have put in the background and am quite dissatisfied. Initially it was a rather bright chatreusey green. I liked the brightness of it just for fun, but it clashed with the moderately realistic coloration of the horses. So I then darkened all the green to a more natural forest type green that I often tend to use with my horse paintings. Still not happy.
I came into the studio today on the verge of tossing the painting and counting it as a loss. But I thought one more day. If I am still unhappy with it, off to a bonfire.
Often if things aren't working I will cut down a painting to the elements I like and try make a successful piece from that. I start taking strips of paper and laying them across the image to see what could be removed and if it would help.
I made a decision to remove about one inch from the top. I have been known to take off as much as a third of a painting. I then scraped out two horses at the top and made the area more of a negative space. Lastly I laid in some new green all around which I am happier with. It is a bright, not so natural green. But I think it works. We'll see if I think so tomorrow.
I am almost to the point of calling it done. The painting did not turn out as I had hoped but I think it works. Often after a month or so passes and I can look at a work and think it is better than I remember. Sometimes when I finish a piece I am too caught up in the workings to be able to stand back and get an accurate overall opinion of the completed painting.
Well so much for finishing this painting quickly. In actuality not all that much time was spent working on the painting. There was a lot of in between time. All of September had a heavy art fair schedule. I now have a month or so until the next fair so I am looking forward to getting a few small pieces done.
I have pulled out a few more horses and I think I am satisfied with my overall composition. Also, I am pleased with the colors and it is a matter of putting in a few more shadows and highlights for that extra pop. I still have no title for it, though I am pretty sure it is going to be a zen horse painting. It just seems to fit so well. It is time to move on. I am feeling anxious to get to something new.
Text and original graphics copyright © Mona Majorowicz, 2000-2018.