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White horse painting in pastel

equestrian painting

I’ve finished my white horse painting. It’s 12×16″ in size and mounted to fit a 16×20″ frame.

white horse painting

As always I took lots of work in progress shots to explain a little how it was created. I adapted this from a reference by JK Marko (with permission)

I used pastels pencils and anthracite pastelmat. As the horse was so pale I decided a dramatic dark background was in order. I used umber, seal and grey pastels to do this. I then smoothed it out to give a lovely seamless finish by gently blending with my hands. Great to get a bit messy every now and then! I have to be honest, it was the bridle which held my attention in the reference photo, it just sparkled! Combining that with a beautiful white horse and it just had to be! As you can see I started work on the bridle early on, I used various brands of pastel pencils to create as dark a leather as I could to make the metal pieces really contrast. As you can guess, my next visit was to the eye which you can see just started above. I feel better when my subjects can see what they are doing!

white horse painting

I also loved the curly fringe on this horse. I’ve been informed by a knowledgeable horse owner it is really known as a foredeck. I used a very dark layer underneath the foredeck first so the highlighted hair would really stand out against it as it had caught the light in the reference image. I used umber (pitt) for the darkest underlayers, then realised it was ideal for an all over layer which you can see added above. Even though it’s about to be mostly covered up I still ensured the pencil strokes were in the direction of fur, for the areas where this umber layer shows through it would still look like fur.

white horse painting

Next was the cheek. To create the rounded effect, once more the strokes of the pastel pencils mimicked the fur, so short and in the same direction of the fur all the way through the layers being built up. I also used the umber to add the shadow from the bridle and on the lower side of the cheek.

white horse painting

By now I had worked out the correct colours of the horse so it was simply a matter of adding them to different sections using the same mimicking of fur technique.

white horse painting

It’s quite hard to meet the pale fur to the sharp edge of the bridle without having a few stray pencil strokes, however with pastels you can simply tidy them up. I took the dark colours of the bridle and reworked the edge so it was crisp and sharp. This meant it looked like the bridle was in front of the fur, where it should be.

white horse painting

So now for a little variety of colours, the muzzle had a lovely soft peachy-pink colour to it. I used very small strokes to give the appearance of short but soft fur, if you’ve ever rubbed a horse’s nose you will know exactly what I mean. I had to use the strokes to create the 3d shape of the muzzle, then used shading to define the wrinkles.

white horse painting

Above you can see how the muzzle has been built up and highlights added to the edge of the nostril, again to make it look 3d. I’ve also added the teeth here.

white horse painting

So now onto the neck area. This was pretty dark compared to the face with a few highlights. I added many layers to build up the fur all over the neck area, at times I felt at war as it was taking forever! Luckily I took horsey with me to a dog show so was able to have a few breaks in between as I was talking to everyone!

white horse painting

Above you can see a few more layers being added to the neck. It was all about applying the layers in lightly pressured strokes, the paler areas simply created by adding extra layers of the same shade pastel pencil.

white horse painting

You can see where I left some areas darker for shadows. I stood back at this point to see how far out my contrast was, it’s easier for me to do this as I become blind to things when it’s right in front of me for so long. I decided the neck needed more work to even out the tones.

white horse painting

And here you can see I added many more highlights as the neck seemed much too dark overall, even though in the reference it was much more shaded.


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6 thoughts on “White horse painting in pastel

  1. Thank you Fuzzy Dragons!

  2. Thank you so much. I hope you find my blog interesting and full of tips!

  3. As a horse lover this one is just amazing! I’m looking forward to analyzing your progress photos with your description of how you tackled the piece.

  4. D She, I didn’t know that! I am not a horse owner so had no idea! Thanks for the comment!

  5. Lovely work. Super tones.
    I must try that pastelmat. It looks great for fur.
    Oh, by the way, the horse’s fringe is usually called a forelock. I think a foredeck is part of a boat?
    Anyhow, thanks for a great tutorial ūüôā

  6. that looks very soft, well done ūüôā

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