Friday, August 13, 2010
Just finished, my first horse portrait in graphite pencil - this is Kallie the mustang.
Kallie - graphite pencil on Bristol, 6" x 8"
I've created other horse portraits, but I used ink & ink wash on scratchboard for those (click here to see them). I wasn't working in pencil when I did the previous equine portraits. I'd worked in pencil ages ago, stopped for many years and then started using it again when I began creating ACEOs (miniature drawings). When this commission came in, I wanted to use pencil for it and my client agreed. The main reason for wanting to try this one in pencil is that it's easier to draw a smooth, flat, short-haired area with pencil than with the ink on scratchboard. With scratchboard, I have to make a lot of small scratches to achieve the same look. Scratchboard is great for animals with fur texture, but capturing the smooth blend of tones on the surfaces of a horse are more time consuming.
Below is the reference photo for the portrait. I'll describe the tweaks I made to it for the drawing and point out where I used artistic license. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I work from reference photos, but I have to be aware when to make changes during the drawing process. What may read fine in a photo doesn't always work well for the portrait.
The photo provided by Kallie's owner. Those are her hands in the lower right. I asked her if she wanted Kallie's mouth open or closed, she requested closed.
I rotated the photo slightly for a better head angle. On the left is a line I added to approximate the curve of Kallie's neck where it goes out beyond the edge of the photo.
I converted the photo to greyscale to help me see the tones better. I also lightened it to see more detail.
I only took one photo of the work in progress. You can see how I tidied up her mane. I liked the way her forelock looked, so I didn't change it very much. To fill in detail that was hard to see in the photo and to see how her mouth would look closed, I sifted through my archives of other horse photos where their heads were at a similar angle. I also posed my own horse and took a couple of photos.
The mane and forelock were a challenge because Kallie is a grulla (greyish) color with a black mane and the photo is dark. The ends of her mane/forelock hairs are faded from the sun, so they're lighter. And I wanted to make her mane smoother than in the photo. So this is where the artistic license came in - instead of trying to copy the photo exactly, I used contrast and texture to render these areas and have them stand out from her head.
You can see the lighter ends of the forelock in this detail.
Detail of Kallie's muzzle.
I'm very pleased with the way this portrait turned out, but if you'd like to see equine pencil art taken to the next level, check out the amazing work of Karmel Timmons.
Strathmore Bristol A heavy weight paper
Saral Transfer Paper I use the grey (graphite) for tracing the initial line-work to the the Bristol
Faber-Castell 9000 Pencils I love these - they're smooth and rich. I start with a 2B and then darken areas as needed with 4B & 6B. I used an F in the light areas of the ear.
Kneaded Rubber Eraser I use this for lifting areas where needed. I don't "erase" as much as "blot" or "lift". I can shape the eraser into a point or an edge to lift out small areas. I also use it to erase any smudges on the paper.
Workable Fixatif To set the graphite when the portrait is finished so it won't smudge.