So, from start to finish ...here are stages of the painting.....
I started this one with a white canvas, no toning. I used an ultramarine and burnt umber thinned with odorless mineral spirits for this drawing that was done directly on the canvas with this thin paint. At this point....the general blocking in with geometric shapes, checking proportions, and the placement of the subject on the canvas are the goals. Gathering old black and white photos and a few color shots of Snowman helped me to understand how his head was structured and what specific markings he had. Years of studying horses enabled me to draw Snowman in a pose that wasn't already shown in any one photo reference.
Now that I have my sketch done....blocking in the dark background is my next step.....I check to see that the shape of the dark mass is going to work as a design element in the painting. If it doesn't work at this stage.... you had better change it now before you progress because a bad balance in design at the beginning is not going to get fixed by the details. It's like building a house on a good foundation.
All along I knew that I wanted to make this a back/side lit design. Add your darkest darks into the subject. This is where you start to really use your ability to squint your eyes! That really helps...because as I said...this is where you want to check on the general pleasing nature of the design...does it flow, does it have balance? Does it lead your eye around the canvas and the subject?
Satisfied with the major design decisions....I went ahead and started layering some color onto the background to make it more opaque. I stuck with ultramarine blue and burnt umber, making some areas heavier in the blue tones and some in the brown. At this point, I know that when I sign this painting, I'll be scratching my name into the last wet layer and revealing the lighter layer....here you can see that I've blocked in that lighter layer at this point in the lower left hand side.
Here I am going back to Snowman's head and layering some half tones into his structure...starting to "carve" with the paint and show where the light is landing without being quite so hard edged. Softening the transitions between light and dark at the point.
I went ahead and layered the last layer of dark background around the painting and scratched my signature in while it was still wet....revealing that lighter color that I placed there earlier. Who says you have to wait until the painting is finished to sign it? Also...slowly delineating the drawing with color...picking out the structure of his head with cooler bluer shades of white and grey. Beginning to block in a bit more detail such as the exact shape of the eye and the construction of the halter.
Knowing that I've checked and double checked the drawing and feel good about it's accuracy by this point, now I can start layer some coat color, major markings ( flea bitten grey in this case). You may be able to tell that I made a change in his fleece noseband and muzzle area.... lengthening it just a little. Yes, that meant re painting that whole area...but as I said...better now than later!
details are starting to drop in. Notice that I softened the harsh lines of his body so those lines and values would not compete with the head / face as the main subject.
Feeling a little pressure to lay down the last details of this painting at the site of the auction, I absent- mindedly forgot to snap a good shot of the finished painting. In the steps that came after the last photo, I concentrated on the little details that included dropping in the warm highlights...glazing in some reflected light and some darkest small shadows. I especially wanted to drop in the details of his warm soft eyes. So, there you have him....... Harry's beloved Snowman.