I met Norman two days ago - he's a Clyde-cross owned by the local Riding For the Disabled Program. A group of us had the opportunity to sketch and photograph him. One photo with him on the lunge showed the power in Norman and made me want to play with some ideas. He brought back memories of one of my own horses from a different life. After a few sketches I decided to try a large painting in acrylics - 30x40 ". I wanted the feeling of the gentle power that Norman displayed to us.
Using the photo reference I placed Norman on the canvas using red water-soluble pencil. Once I got to where I thought the position and proportions were close I committed to my drawing using a black China Marker. I find black China Markers to be ideal for drawing below both acrylic and oil paints - both cover it really well. The downside is that you are stuck with it - no easy removal. But I make my first sketch with it fairly light until I am sure. Then I water down the canvas and wash off the water-soluble pencil and consider my drawing.
In this case, changes were still required. I have two choices - use the China Marker applied heavier for the corrections or go darker - using a Sharpie pen black. I have worked with Sharpie below acrylic for years. It hides very well below layers of dark transparent but is a bit of a challenge below opaques which don't cover nearly as well - but it can be done with persistence. The Sharpie is a much cleaner and darker mark than the China Marker so the final sketch is easily identified.
Now I am committed. I now mix up my under-painting. In this case, quinacradone violet mixed with medium and a bit of water. Using a large, 6 in brush ( the new Liquatex brushes are great) I quickly cover the canvas quite dark. Then using a wide rubber colour shaper I scrape off the violet trying to create three values; light, mid-tone and dark. This is done fast and crude - there is only a couple of minutes of working time. But it gives a crude value pattern to begin to work from and a final chance to check my shapes and drawing. It also forces simplification and abstraction to a degree which is something I am wanting. Seeing still some refinement required in the drawing I make final corrections using a white china marker - and we are (exhausted but) ready to go. Feeling the need to warm the under-painting I rub in some Indian Yellow fairly randomly.
The start continues, now refining the shapes using acrylics. First the darks are filled in with dark transparents - a mix of warms and cools. I can use the shaper here as well to refine. Then the fun begins. Using the opaques feels like the illusion jumps off the canvas - you can feel the three dimensionality (is there such a word?) starting. Finally cutting around some of the shapes, the limbs etc, and then it reaches what I would call the end of the start.
So I pop it in a frame and hang it along with some other works I am critiquing and decide what to do next. This is a large painting for me and I will probably not rush the next stage. Need to thoughtfully consider my next moves.