In The Studio: Starting Three New Small Works Of Mongol Race Horses

Mongol racehorse #1

I’ve started a series of three small paintings of Mongolian race horses and thought I’d share the step-by-step of doing more than one painting at a time. First up was to choose my reference photos, picking three heads that would work together in a group.

naadam race

I generally never post my reference images on the internet for obvious reasons, but in this case I wanted to show you the kind of photos I have to work with. The one above was taken at an aimag (province/state) naadam a couple of years ago. I was able to go out in the chase car for two races, so had a rare opportunity to shoot both stills and video not only as the jockeys, horses and trainers rode out to the starting point, but to travel parallel to the riders as they raced back. Looking through the many hundreds of race photos I’ve taken over the years I found a quite visible difference, which makes sense, in how fast the horses ran in the first part of the race and how much they’d slowed down by the last third or so. This really affected leg position and sense of the effort on the horse’s part as expressed in the body language.

But for this set of three I only wanted the heads, so was looking for variety in coloring, angle and generally interesting shapes of light and shadow. I started with drawings, thinking in terms of “notan” the Japanese method of simplifying an image down to two values….light and dark or light side/shadow side. I was also working on capturing the expression, the bridle and some of the shapes in the manes.

Mongol racehorse #2

I had originally intended to include the rider’s hands and legs in the frame, but those shapes seemed distracting, especially cut off at the edges, so right now my plan is to leave them out. But that could change…

Mongol racehorse #3

The top two pieces will be 8×8″. The one above will be 8×10″. So an arrangement of two squares with a rectangle between them.

The next step was to scan the drawings and project them onto the pre-toned canvas panels, sketching each one lightly with a pencil.

MR 1

The panels were toned with Winsor Newton raw sienna. I indicated all the shadow shapes with a mix of that and a little Winsor Newton violet dioxazine, which creates a warm brown tone that is still related to the background tone.

MR 2 (1).jpg

I scanned the panels with my Epson XP-830 printer/scanner/copier and then imported them into Photos for cropping, color correction and any other adjustments. This works pretty well for small pieces that I want to post to my blog or other social media.

MR 3.jpg

I like working this way because it gives me a lot of control over how much detail I add and where. I also like to leave “lost and found” shapes. What is important to me, though, is accuracy of both the horses and their tack, not detail per se. For me the game is to see how much I can simplify and leave out.

 

Available Next Week on EBay- Small, Affordable, Original Oil Paintings!

Like many artists, I’m trying to figure out what my sales options are given the current economic climate. I’m also interested in seeing if I can sell art directly on the internet. And, a few months ago, I was showing some friends some of the small studies I do to work on various aspects of painting and one encouraged me to try selling them. Taking this all together, I have decided to offer a “new line” of small oils that I am calling “Studio Studies”, because, well, that’s what they are.

As anyone who paints most days a week knows, they do stack up after awhile and I have a few dozen that I’ve decided I’m willing to find new homes for.

I plan to start offering them a few at a time on EBay, starting next week. Here’s a small preview, starting with one that I photographed in progress, so it’s a short step-by-step demo of how I do these mostly 6″x8″ studies that usually take less than two hours. The idea is to quickly capture a light effect, so detail isn’t relevant. This should look familiar to anyone who has taken Scott Christensen’s Ten Day Plein Air Intensive, because that’s who I learned this approach from and I really like it.

STEP-BY-STEP 8″X 6″ STUDY (from last Friday’s post)-

An image I shot up on Dunraven Pass in Yellowstone National Park at first light. What I was working on the was the color temperature shifts from shadow to light.

Photo reference
Photo reference
Initial lay-in
Initial lay-in
Starting with darkest darks
Starting with darkest darks and basic shapes
Adding light and medium tones
Adding light and medium tones; notice brushwork to create trees
Dawn on Dunraven Pass; 8"x 6"
Dawn on Dunraven Pass; 8"x 6"

Here’s a couple more. First a demo that I did in about an hour at the Marin Art Festival of a small kangaroo which I photographed at a zoo.

Little Kangaroo- 8"x10"
Little Kangaroo- 8"x10"

And a landscape a few minutes from our house looking east from Clam Beach to the bluff. It was summer and the foxgloves were blooming. They’re not a native, but they look like they belong here in Humboldt County.

Clam Beach Bluff; 6"x8"
Clam Beach Bluff; 6"x8"

Finally, since I strongly believe that artists should help and support each other, here, from Alison Stanfield, who runs ArtBizCoach, is some solid advice on “Community”. Thanks, Alison! (Hope it’s readable. Let me know if it’s not.)

community

ART THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

The artistic mind is one that takes years to develop. Painting never gets easier. Struggle is not something that one goes looking for. It will find you. Just give it time.

Scott Christensen, The Nature of Light