Thursday, September 12, 2013

"Toby", a birthday surprise Horse commission

Today I'm going to share the process of painting my latest horse commission.  This is "Toby", commissioned by the owner's sister-in-law for a 40th Birthday present. (Shhh, it's a surprise!)

Toby was much loved, but alas, had to be sold and the owner misses him terribly.  The emotional energy behind these commissions really fuels me.  I love being in on these wonderful acts of compassion and generosity.

Not being able to meet him, I had to work from photos.  After looking at several, I chose this one, as his ears were up, his expression alert, and I loved the red halter with the complementary greens in the background.  The horizontal and vertical lines in the background help the composition as well.  My problems were to remove her hand pulling on his halter, and the rest of her body.  His eye wasn't well defined either, but I zoomed in for more info.

This is the original photo I had to work from.

I often put the photo in photoshop elements and break up the values to see them clearer.

 I start out with a sketch in charcoal, placing his head as I want it.  The paper is 11"x14" Richeson Premium Pastel Surface in Terra Cotta 24 taped to a foam core board.  The eye is the focal point and is very important to get right. (the window to the soul!)

The red halter was too exciting to wait in it goes....loosely defined.  I gently lay in the first layer of darks with very dark blues and browns.

The background is more important than you'd think.  It helps with decisions on the subject.  I decide on the shapes of the clouds - taking clues from the photo.  Soft blues and mauves were used....later very light gray greens too.

More work on Toby....dark purples were added for glow and was reflecting on his mane and ears and the front of his head..the buckle on his halter really glows too.

Hours later, this is my finished artwork for Toby.  Blue highlights reflecting the sky were in his eyes.  I let the warm browns glow in his face and nose.   Keeping the background soft and unfocused brings even more attention to his face.  Working with pastel pencils for details in his halter...figuring out what it would look like without her hand was tricky.  Finally, a signature and photography so you can see!

Hope you liked my journey with Toby.

Contact me at if you have a loved pet, dog, cat, horse or any other wonderful animal you'd like to honor with a portrait.  Christmas is coming!

Thank you.


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