Horse Portrait, Monty 9×13 inches in pastel

It’s nice to get back to the equine portraits for a little while. Out of all the pet portraits I paint dogs are by far and away the most common. After dogs are mans best friend! I do love to paint a beautiful horse portrait.

This week I am starting on Monty, a lovely bay horse. My client wanted a head and shoulders portrait, but she was struggling a bit with the reference photos. This can always be hard when you are trying to sneak them or sadly the subject has passed away. You would be surprised what I can work with and whilst high quality reference photos for pet portraits are preferred it is always worth checking with me.

We decided this was the best photo we had to work from and my client had said she wanted a 10×12 inch painting we decided 13×9 inches would be better as suited the photo provided and made sure I could get as much of the Monty in and less background.

Reference photo for Monty’s portrait

We decided a background similar to Jester’s portrait would work well. I will have to fade the neck out like Jester as most of Monty’s is hidden behind the stable door. Jesters portrait can be viewed in the horse portrait gallery.

Here is Monty’s portrait all sketched out ready for me to start pastelling later today!

Above you can see I have started blocking in the viens and colour of Monty for me to get the basic proportions in and correct, also to work on getting his colours correct.. Bays can be quite tricky to get right and like a lot of animals their colours can vary. He also looks like he has a winter coat so that makes it a little trickier, combined with the not so great reference photo.

I am using a selection of umbers, sienna’s, burnt ochre, chocolate and venetian reds to get the correct colours. This is a slow process but once I have the right feel for what colours where the process shall be a bit speedier.

In the next photo you can see I have worked more on the shape and building up colour. The mane is pretty much blocked in using a combination of indigo, paynes grey, black and a cold grey with a hint of chocolate and burnt umber. The finer details will be added later.

Certain parts of Monty’s face look too harsh at the moment but that will be all softened as I get further along and blend more. I have mentioned before I don’t generally bend with my fingers but the pencils as I use them. That is easier to do when you have two or three layers of paste down. One later there really isn’t enough pastel down to work with. The beauty of pastelmat is it takes many, many layers which is perfect for detailed pastel work like pet portraits. Even better it is easy to remove pastel if you need too without damaging the surface. More about that in another blog.

Today has been a successful painting day. I was up fairly early as my client was coming to collect Badgers large, no huge watercolour portrait on canvas. I really hope I get more of these to do as they are so much fun to do.

Anyway I digress. I have made great progress on Monty’s portrait today. Fresh eyes tomorrow should see him finished.

I worked more on the layers, building up colours, as you can see in the photo below the hard lines are becoming softer as the growing layers of pastel enable me to blend. Not one single finger has been used to blend him at all!

They are still a little hard in places, but the next layer should soften them just enough and also careful placement of colour and shading. You want enough contrast to make a pet portrait ‘pop’ but not enough to make areas look hard or harsh. It always pays to sit back and look at the portrait or return with fresh eyes the next day. Often areas will stand out to you. Even looking at the final scan on the computer can reveal areas that need work.

Speaking of the final scan all being well I well get that done tomorrow and emailed to my client. Check back her for it too!

As I thought with fresh eyes this morning, there were some very small amendments to be made. A small one to her nostrils and some placements of detail. I needed to tidy up her mane slightly also and the background a bit. But here is Monty’s portrait all finished. I am ultimately very pleased with how it has turned out with not having the best reference photos.

My client was delighted with the final scan of Monty’s portrait so all that was left to do today was to sign and frame him which I did this afternoon.

A lovely dark wood frame was chosen to compliment his portrait and it works really well. I have taken a photo of the frame so you can see. It picks up Monty’s colouring really well.