Noble and brave, Racer belonged to the Dancy’s who lived across the field from my family. I used to go out and give Racer apples and sugar cubes in the warmer months. Now I have the opportunity to immortalize this horse in a portrait I will paint from a snapshot.
The deep brown coloring of this horse blends into a light reddish color on the cheeks down along the nose and across her face. The ears are always straight up as if Racer were ready to take off. Painting the mane takes time and a steady hand. You don’t want the mane to look stiff, but soft and silky. Racers eyes are the darkest brown with just a hint of sparkle. Her stance is regal and almost as if she is readying for a romp across the fields.
Dark green grass and the ruts of the farm road give a perfect balance for Racer. This gorgeous horse will never be forgotten. I believe I have captured her profile perfectly and the touch of white on her forehead and nose came out just right. The Dancy’s were extremely pleased with the oil portrait of their loved horse. She hangs proudly next to their fireplace. Mrs. Dancy says she can almost reach and fell Racer’s soft hide and pet her velvet nose.
You have to be careful when painting a horse. Equestrian art can turn out almost stuffed-looking if you make them too perfect. Kept the eyes from staring lifelessly and make a point of elongating their features. There is a great deal of space between the eyes and their snout.
It takes skill to paint a realistic horse from a picture. Horses’ faces have contours with textures and ridges. Muscles and tendons just below the surface of their skin gives an almost fluid look to most horses. Making these textures stand out gives a three-dimensional look at a horse’s head and body. I keep the contours realistic to prevent my oil portraits from looking flat and one dimensional. Be careful, however so you don’t make your horse portraits look cartoonish.
Remember, not every ridge and contour is a line. Be sensitive and look at the picture closely. Study a real horse to find the subtle shifts in color and tone. I often stand back from my work to see everything as a whole. I want my clients to see all the nuances of their pet from every angle. It does take quite a bit of work, but if you love animals you can paint them correctly.
Light works wonders on a horse’s face. Light is reflected in shading areas and can light up the horse’s ears; just like the ears on Racer. Being talented, I use light to reflect color, personality, and dimension.
Oil is the perfect medium for equine art. Use burnt sienna, umber, French ultramarine, blues and soft reds blended with browns. White is a vital color for horses, but do be sure not to make it too stark of a white. There are always colors moving throughout the horse’s body and different shades present themselves at different times.