So I began with a wash of ultramarine blue, bleeding to a pthalo blue red at the bottom. The ultra is a cooler blue, and the pthalo a warmer one. Cooler colors = distance, and I wanted that balance from the get go.
Then I started roughly blocking in the shape of the horse and jockey. I'm not worried about nit-pickey details, just rough forms, and beginning to establish values. It's not important to even have the right colors down now, because so many more layers will go overtop.
I modified the tree line from the reference photo. I needed a diagonal to sort of intercept the trajectory of the horse. Too many horizontals can overwhelm an object that is moving in that same direction, so I wanted to break it up.
Now I'm adding broader strokes of color - more realistic or correct in both tint/hue/value - and paying closer attention to details and proper drawing. I do a lot of relational measuring at this stage - I'll compare the head's length (usually the first thing I firm up drawing wise) to the rider's forearms to the thigh to the neck - and just continue on building their relationships based on size.
I'm trying to build up the entire surface of the canvas simultaneously at this point. I don't want to end up with a halo-effect background (you know those ones where you can tell the background was corrected/finished after the foreground/middle of the painting). I am continuing to model the shapes and make drawing adjustments, too - like I noticed the horse's head was too small. Notice also that I've only indicated the placement of the bridle and reins - they will be the last pieces to get painted, so as to allow for smooth and loose brushwork underneath.
I'm also setting the reference photo aside mostly by now, and trying to imagine the scene in front of me. What is my time of day and how does that impact the sunlight? How will the light glance off spots? what other colors will collect in the shadows? I squint at my painting from across the studio - does it have the proper sense of depth?
I step back and use my thumb/hand to block out different areas of the painting from across the room. Does it all work well together? that's what I'm trying to determine.
The biggest test is if the shapes balance each other out. This is a totally different concern than questioning if the subject looks like the reference - I'm studying instead the relationship of the forms in the painting, and looking for adjustments that will make for a better composition. I'm never so concerned with creating an exact replica of the photograph - we already have a nice photo, so why try to recreate it? I am using the photo as a starting point to create a moment in paint that is tangible. For instance, I made the horse's face the brightest point in the painting because the piece is about him (not the jockey's pants or the blanket number, which were equally bright in the photograph).
I continue to lay down paint, working from a large brush to a smaller one in the final layers. I also am mixing my colors using the same palette - pulling from pools mixed in a prior layer. This retains harmony throughout the painting and makes it easier to go back and touch up or modify previous marks.
And now the piece is done. Working title "#3 Warming Up," 8" x 16", acrylic on canvasboard, $529. Inquiries may come to me.
Thanks for following along with today's Preakness pARTy,
Here's to a safe trip for all,