The Making Of An Equine Portrait

This is the first blog I’ve posted for a new website, one that I’ve been building in between portrait commissions.  I’m doing most work now in pastel as it seems really popular with my clients and I love being able to get to the detail, (otherwise known as the ‘heart of the matter’ or ‘just the facts, ma’am’, which I work up from photos, either ones people supply or my own. But this also brings me to my next point.

I’ve heard and read several times, “Oh, you ‘just’ copy from photos, (emphasis on ‘just)”  One man several years ago actually became quite vocal about it, went on and on, almost angry.  So I thought I’d clarify that point and say that it’s partly true and also not so true.  I do, as many other artists, work from a main reference photo and yes, when I’m creating a detailed pastel, I like to work from a clear, sharp photo  so I can see the anatomy precisely, then render in my own style, my interpretation.

The Transformation Process

Additionally I ask for the back story, a little history, how the horse came to join the people, that sort of thing.  It helps visualize who this individual is or was and I begin to ‘see’ a more clear picture.  And it has nothing to do with the photo at this point.  It gives me the “Ah hah” moment of the animal.   Usually people enjoy talking about their relationship too.  No one has ever asked them before.  It becomes part of the process.  And somehow that information then makes its way into the drawing or painting itself and that unspoken but now visual bond between the horse and his people is now translated into a tangible forever portrait.   Makes it all so worth it for everyone involved.