Tag Archives: Horses

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!

Beautiful silence

peaceweb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“In the ultimate stillness
Light penetrates the whole realm;
In the still illumination,
There pervades pure emptiness.
When I look back on the
Phenomenal world,
Everything is just
Like a dream.”

Han-shan Te-Ch’ing

Peace (2013)
Original watercolor on paper
Approx. 14″x 20″
Unframed/ matted
Exhibited at the 2nd Int’l Watercolour Biennial, Belgium August 17 – September 7, 2014.

The horse handlers

horse handler near Los Olivos, by frankeber 2012 horse handler, detail, by frankeber 2012

When painting near Los Olivos, we came upon this horse farm tucked in a hidden valley far off the beaten path. I was so psyched to paint there, I just drove right in. My painting buddy went ‘you sure you want to just go on their property?’ Of course, you can’t do that so we asked if we could paint near the horses. Unfortunately, the owners were nowhere to be found and the horse handlers felt they couldn’t make that decision.
Plus, there was a bit of a language barrier, because the modern day cowboy is, not surprisingly, a Mexican man! The only person who spoke perfect English was someone’s 15 year old kid who helped out!

Horse farms are definitely a subject matter that I want to explore more. I did this piece from a value study of the horse shoe barn (if that’s what they call it) and a plethora of pictures.

Notice how there is a unifying color to the work. In reality, the sky was a solid ‘Walt Disney blue’ and there were patches of super green, artificially looking English meadow here and there. However, I went with the colors of California hillsides which are a wonderful golden hue that is very unique to our area.
I think it’s important to remember not to copy the place as it is, but paint it in ways that makes for a good painting. Even outside, it’s all too tempting to copy what’s there and end up with an area of bright blue, and a squeaky green foreground with little or no color harmony. That’s not to say that color is bad, but just like everything else in a good painting, it should play a supportive role and not create sections of different colors, completely unrelated. Cartoons look like that!
For my color mixes, I use quite a bit of cadmiums (or the new equivalent of cadmiums, without the toxins). Cadmiums (yellow pale, med yellow, orange and red) are very strong, but when mixed with earthtones will give the punch that is necessary to make a statement. I try to avoid painting too wishy-washy.

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.

Vienna calling!…and Salzburg

horse carriage, Austria by frankeber 2011       nice raincoats by frankeber 2011

The reference materials for these scenes are from my friend, a music professor who has played in Vienna and Salzburg many times. He travels there quite a bit and was able to take some great pictures for me! I am quite taken with these work horses and carriages! To think how long horses have been part of street scenes in those old cities! Long before cars and bicycles they were there already, easing the lives of humans by providing transportation and delivery.
You may argue that this type of horse does not look as graceful as, say, an Andalusian. But to me, these are beautiful in their own way. They may look awkward and big, but once they are moving, it is easy to see how strong and resilient they are!

I love that they put plastic rain coats over them when they are ‘parked’. Huddled together at ‘Residenzplatz’, they are awaiting their next ride, these days only to carry tourists with cameras around the old town. Still, they are in need today as they once were. Some things never change!

I know I put the two horses smack dab in the middle of the compostion, but I don’t care…I feel it’s working just fine, and rules are really there to be broken. I was thinking of putting a figure somewhere to the right of them, walking into the scene but I am not sure the painting needs it? What do you guys think…figure or not? There is sort of an opening between the tall building and the car.

Thanks to all of you who were interested in my work this past year, I really appreciate your visits! Wishing you a Happy New Year and many great paintings! Never stop slinging paint!!