Simon Bland

A Blog About Oil Painting

A WIP of a New Horse Portrait

by Simon Bland / Sep 2, 2015 / Animal Horse Portrait WIP

Painting of a horse WIP

Block In for New Horse Portrait. 24x20, oil on linen. 2015

This is the block in for the commissioned horse portrait I'm currently working on. I did this in two stages: a careful drawing and separation of the light and shadow with raw umber, and when that had dried I applied layers of terra rosa/yellow ochre and terra rosa/raw umber. After letting it sit for a week I went back and made a few adjustments and refinements.

I took much longer to do this than usual as I'm trying to complete the portrait by a deadline. I can't afford the luxury of a re-paint if anything goes badly wrong so I need to get everything right from the start. That means taking more time to make sure that drawing and the foundation of the painting is done well. After all that extra prep work I will be able to lay down the final layers in just one or two painting sessions.

The red tones are meant to provide enough support to the next (final) layer so that I can get it in one go without the need for layering. You can see how I've been careful to work the edges from the very start.

The value sketch for this portrait is here:

http://www.portraitsbysimonbland.com/blog/post/charcoal-study-for-new-horse-portrait

Painting of a horse WIP

Horse Portrait WIP 1. 24x20, oil on linen. 2015.

Here I've started the final layer(s) of painting.This is about 5 hours of painting time. It's the most difficult and complex part of the painting so I made sure to take as much time as I needed to get it right. From here I move to the neck and body (another day's work) and then the background and edges (a final day).

Before I start on the final layers of painting, I make sure I have planned out the work so that I know what I'm painting and when.

I always try to take a painting to completion without taking a break part-way through. That means I usually try to start a painting on a Monday or Tuesday and work on it through the end of the week. I rarely start paintings at the end of the week unless they are small ones. 

Painting of a horse WIP

Horse Portrait WIP 2. 24x20, oil on linen. 2015.

Here I've painted in the rest of the body. I was able to do this much more quickly than expected, largely due to the simplicity of the palette I'm using. I also have a working color chart so I'm able to pre-mix all my colors before starting to paint.

Since I made such good progress I was able to get the background painted in on the same day. This made the edges much easier because all the paint is wet on wet.

Painting of a horse WIP

Horse Portrait. 24x20, oil on linen. 2015.

I used a simple background of purple and green grays, the idea being to make use of some of the same hues in the horse's coat. The gradation of light helps to bring focus to the face area.

After making a few adjustments while the paint was still wet, I let the painting sit for a week and did softened a couple of edges in the head area (these might not be noticeable in this small scale image).

Completed painting of the horse