Cute little James is the most adorable jockey. He loves his shaggy pony; they are best friends. I painted this from a snapshot James’s parents took on a recent trip to the fields around the town. James is only five years old in this picture and see how comfortable he is with his tiny hand hiding under the thick main of his pony, Rocket. Just learning to ride can be a heady experience, but with a best friend, it is almost a love fest!
It was a joy to paint this shaggy Shetland pony with his long tail and floppy main. The dark brown of his hide held particular challenges. At one glance, you think the pony is all one color – dark brown, but there are many subtle browns.
To get everything picture perfect, I detailed James’s smiling face and round cheeks. The blue of his riding outfit and boots make a perfect contrast to his pony’s coloring. Just a hint of whimsy flashes between the pony’s ears. His long forelock makes him seem almost comical.
The greens and yellows of the meadows are in striking contrast to the dark green of the high hedge. It takes a steady hand to make the grass look real! Use different oils to give texture to the landscape and bring out the reality of the son and the pet.
James’s parent adore this oil portrait. What I have given them will last for many years – long after the photo has faded. They hang this picture with others I have done for them in a very special place in their hall. It was marvelous to paint this little guy and his best friend.
Learn to paint pets in oils and from photographs and recreate a huge range of horse paintings. Oil is a difficult paint medium to use, but once you have mastered the technique it is expressive and fluid. Find out how to make the gentleness of this pony come to life by learning about the anatomy and mixing coat colors.
My first step to painting this horse portrait was to sketch out the backdrop of the scene. Using the large hedge or bank of trees, I determine where to place James and the pony in relation to the backdrop. Next outline the shape of the horse. Make sure it is in proportion to the backdrop.
I layered the color to establish depth. Using a range of browns ranging from light to dark gave the pony more dimension. I general use different oil painting techniques when working with pets and children. Glazing, blending, and working with gradients work well, but I always experiment before I touch the final canvas.
Once I have the basic shape of the pony, I add a sketch of James. Then I use vibrant color to give shape to the little boy and the pony. Using patches of red with brown tones and blue to add depth, I give the pony life. When adding the blue of James’s riding suit, I also play with shades. Finally, I add in white to the colors to show light and add detail. I continue working with paints and textures until my painting is just like the photograph.