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November 14, 2008

Lori's Horse Portraits Explanation of Painting Style

What is this Watercolor/Guache painting style?

In order to paint the amount of detail you see in the horses' faces, I use a combination of watercolors and opaque watercolor (called guache, which rhymes with squash) paints on arches hot press paper. 

Using a high quality, smooth (or hot press) paper allows more detail work.  Rougher paper adds interesting texture, but the finer strokes get lost in the lumpy surface.  Smooth, heavy paper not only allows finer quality work, but also absorbs pigment more consistently for more even, vibrant hues.  You'll note that the finished portraits have deeper, more profound coloring than most people associate with watercolor paintings.

I start with a line drawing and assemble my palette, choosing pigments that best represent the horse's coloration.  The paint is painstakingly applied in layers with a fine brush to build up the pigment and texture so the finished product looks velvety and rich.  I pay special attention to highlights, shadows and textures, noting the shapes created by the muscles and veins.  Also, a horse's face has different lengths of hair: their noses and mouths have excremely fine, short hair, if any at all.  Around their jaws, ears and neck, the hair is longer.  Capturing this change in texture is critical to presenting the horse's look.

An 8 x 10 painting represents over 30 hours of work.  If you do the math, subtracting the $65 per painting for materials, that comes in at under ten dollars an hour for the artist!  Most fine artists and commercial or graphic artists bill out at $30 to $100 an hour.

So why am I doing it?  It's fun! People love the pictures, and admit, I'm nuts about the horses!