Tag Archives: horse stables

Horses!

Drawing and painting horses is a challenge. Horse anatomy is quite difficult. One of the mistakes I always did was to make the neck too short and the body, or the flank, too long. Most important is to get the curves of the rear, the back and the belly right. Often, in landscape painting, the horses we paint are quite small so as long as it looks right, we’re good. It does not actually have to be right. There is a difference! I should trademark that..

As Richard Schmid rightly says, you don’t actually have to know anything about the thing you’re painting. But it is imperative to spend time observing and drawing it! In the end, the only way to fully understand an object, whether it be a horse or a car, is to draw it many, many times.
Only then will we ‘get it’ and I am not talking about intellectually getting what a horse is all about, just referring to drawing skills here. Horses are more challenging to draw than cows, don’t you think?

I recommend charcoal drawing for the simple reason that you can take it anywhere you go. It doesn’t weigh much and it’s a great way to improve drawing skills. I use Faber-Castell Charcoal Pencils and General Pencil Co. Vine Charcoal. These come in different hardnesses, from the super hard to super soft.

Here are a few good links:
~ Think Like A Horse is a great website covering horse anatomy
~ A Horse for Elinor has good pictures of dressage training
~ Equitherapy has horses galore

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What makes a painting beautiful?

I am thinking if people comment about a particular painting and call it beautiful, I have accomplished my mission. But what exactly is it that makes art beautiful? In the ’70s the word ‘kitsch’ was used for art that was considered…well, not beautiful, or substandard!

Wikipedia says:
‘Kitsch (/ˈkɪtʃ/; loanword from German) is a low-brow style of mass-produced art or design using
popular or cultural icons. Kitsch generally includes unsubstantial or gaudy works or decoration, or works that are calculated to have popular appeal.’

I guess that includes Thomas Kinkade! A winter scene with smoking chimney tops and lights on in *every window* of the house, yet somehow green and red trees? Yeah….kitsch! Not beautiful. In his excellent 1950s book Eye of the Painter & Elements of Beauty, Andrew Loomis listed 12 Elements of beauty. After all, it can’t just be one thing!

Here’s what Loomis wrote: Unity, Simplicity, Design, Proportion, Color, Rhythm, Form, Texture, Values, Quality of light, Choice of subject, Technique.

Definitely the bible for me when I first started long ago. Even now every teacher talks about these! They repeat themselves in traditional painting like the backdrop in a Flintstone’s cartoon. And forgood reason! The ones I struggle the most with is ‘Rhythm’ and since I am mostly watercolor painting nowadays, ‘Texture’. Texture in watercolor painting is very limited.
‘Rhythm’ is almost esoteric. You can’t put your finger on it. There’s rhythm in a landscape, the hills. There’s rhythm in a tree or a flower. Everything has rhythm, from the smallest forms to the cycles of the universe (to quote Loomis).

Choice of subject is relative, in my opinion. You can make a pretty drab subject look beautiful. That is when the artist comes in! Just look at Dean Mitchell’s work. Often far from pretty subjects, but beautiful art nonetheless. I’ll talk about some of the other elements in the next blogpost.

Positives and Negatives

Subject matter like this stable scene is very inspiring to me, simply because I love horses. But from an artistic standpoint, there’s more to it that made me want to paint it.
We have a brightly lit backdrop and horses with riders in the deep foreground shadows which creates contrast and lots of positive and negative patterns.
As a painter, that’s what I am looking for. It is almost more important than the subject itself: Light, shadow, positives, negatives and pattern. What exactly do I mean by P&N?

If you have a shape, any shape, it has an outline thus creates the space that makes the shape. It is filled with a certain value and color. It distinguishes itself from other shapes by value, color and form. Most people see only positives, for instance the tree on a hillside or a vase on a table. Artists see differently. I look for patterns. I am more interested in what the shape does than what it actually is. Sure it’s a horse, a vase or a tree. But how does it interact with shapes around it? What is it’s overall effect on the compo, the design, the line work, the energy it creates.. These are the important parts!

A tree has lots of branches, foliage etc. and we can easily see the sky showing through all the gaps and openings. There’s your negative space!
Oil painters often layer the sky into the tree and get the branches like that. Watercolor painters paint the sky first and are careful to leave gaps within the tree to get the same results. Or else, you work a darker value around and get the branches to appear that way. If you have problems ‘seeing’ negative space, try to look at a picture in black and white. The values will be easier to spot as well!

So, the enclosed spaces and openings between the branches of a tree are ‘Negatives’. Negative space doesn’t mean ‘ no pigment there’. It just means there are gaps with a big value discrepancy. (foreground dark, background light or vise versa!) In painting, it often develops a focal point!

If you want to see a true master of negative painting in watercolor, go visit my friend Brenda Swenson’s blog, take a look at this post ( http://brendaswenson.blogspot.com/2013/05/negative-painting.html)
I posted her floral painting above. Can you see the negative space that makes the stems and petals? A great example of the art of negative painting!

Happiness is 25 sheets of new paper!

Siblings, 10by11 webP1040545

Just arrived in the mail! I am very honored to get this wonderful paper. Thank you so much, Ed!  The washes stay open for a while, which is something I really need for my work. I remember at the Pasadena Expo a few years ago, I heard: ‘no one’s using rough paper, you’re the only one! Everyone wants cold press!’  That’s ok, it works for me, that’s all that matters!

Those of you who visit my blog know that I love painting horses! This is a small
sketch painted using the three primary colors.  This painting is a value painting, there’s no color to speak of, yet it works! That shows us that if we get the values
right, we have a successful painting regardless of color. Color is important, but it
is of less importance than value!

Various Horse studies on location

San Pasqual I   San Pasqual IIReady to ride 14by2030 min horse sketch

Horses are not easy to draw and paint. When on location (plein air), I am using my little point and shoot to capture certain positions. Yes, I am cheating!

There are two reasons for me that convinced me to do it that way: The first one is time. I am always in a terrible hurry when I paint outside, so the last thing I want to do is spend 45 Minutes on my preliminary drawing to get it right with the light constantly changing on me. I’d rather just paint after 10 or 15. The second reason is accuracy. Without a still picture, it is very hard to get the proportions right in a few minutes, so instead of painting I would spend too much time drawing. Now, if I just go there to draw, it’d be a different story! Drawing for drawings sake. I guess in the end, it all comes down to time.

Horses, cars, cows, buildings…treat it all the same! They are just shapes and objects. The key is to do them with as little work as artistically possible. It all hinges on the shapes. If you get those right, it will look right! If the shapes are off, well, then no matter how pretty your wash and colors are, it just won’t look right.

At Santa Anita Park

the hotwalkers, by frankeber 2013

the hotwalkers, by frankeber 2013

Last week I got up at the crack of dawn to visit Clockers’s corner at the Santa Anita Race track in Arcadia.

From 5am to 10am every morning, the trainers take their horses out on the track for an early morning workout routine. I was teaching in the area and my hotel was literally right across from it.
I managed to get up at 5:30am (with great difficulty, I might add!) and met a few fellow artists for a bit of early morning sketching of horses. While I am not exactly a horse race fan, I tried to stay open minded and see what this outing brings. I do love horses, so that was reason enough to go!

It is quite the spectacle to see them come out! Santa Anita is a very picturesque race track, with swaying palm trees and the San Gabriel mountains serving as the perfect backdrop in the rising sun. So we all tried to capture some rider and horse positions with more or less success. Well, they don’t pose much, let’s just say…

I couldn’t help but be impressed. The jockeys are tiny people, but they are kings when on horseback! It is absolutely amazing what they can do! Since it was Saturday, we went on the tram to do the barn/ stable tour as well. That was when I got really excited! For me, there was just something magical to see the goings-on behind the scenes! The horse handlers, the stable buildings in the rising sun, the magnificient race horses and the enormous logistical machine with hundreds of people hard at work. There is simply no better subject matter!

the hotwalkers, detail

the hotwalkers, detail

The only problem is: you can’t paint there! There is absolutely no way to get into the stables, other than the official tram ride. Authorized personnel only. I was quite disappointed at first, but come to think of it: there are horses in there that may be worth a few million dollars, so they can’t just have anybody walking freely about!
I was content to take loads of pictures and work from those for now. One of my artist’s friends knows someone who works in there, so we might have a shot at plein air painting when the season starts again this fall. What a treat that would be!!

Subject for this painting are the ‘hot walkers’. These are the guys and gals who walk the horse around in a circle after a morning workout. The horse needs to cool down and they walk it for about twice the time of the actual run. I saw some horses close up right after a run and it was absolutely dripping with sweat and panting heavily, so this is an important job!

horses, dressage

early morning dressage, by frankeber 2012     total concentration, by frankeber 2012

A new subject matter for me, but I am really getting into it. A horse is such a magnificent creature and dressage is a hard discipline that takes enormous focus on the part of both rider and horse.

As an artist, I am fascinated by the movement and elegance as well as the artistic side of this sport.

As a painter, I am focusing on the feel of the scene, i.e. the early morning workout, the manege, the vapor, the light situation  etc. The horse and the rider are just part of a bigger scene, part of something special…to capture all that would be quite an accomplishment!

I am less interested in doing horse and rider portraits. In fact, the goal for me is to paint it in ways that the viewer sees all parts without ever really painting them!

A word on painting process: I very much believe in subtractive watercolour techniques, so I try to stay away from white paint as much as possible. It must be stressed that this is a personal decision, I am not about to lecture anyone or play ethics police. If you want to use white paint, go for it.
I just think there is no substitute for the brilliant white of the paper and it cannot be brought back with chinese white or gouache. Enough said.

The second painting was done ‘alla prima’, all single washes, adjusted while still wet or damp. The only ‘underpainting’ I did was the arena’s light areas. I did not bother putting blue for the sky, it does not need it.

The riders on the track is a different story, but even in this piece, there are no more than two or occasionally three washes layered. I like to see the white of the paper coming through at all times.

I have a friend who is a dressage rider, so I will have the pleasure of watching her and work onsite in the near future! Stay tuned.