Horse Painting Demo

Horses lend themselves to painting with glazes, or layers of color on top of one another to build up deep, rich colors. This sequence of photos shows how artist Patina Vaz Dias, who is known for her paintings of horses and dogs, uses watercolor for portrait of an Arab stallion.

1.  Start with an Accurate Sketch

When painting a horse in a realistic style, getting the proportions right is crucial. Time spent on getting your initial sketch accurate will save you trouble later.

Patricia says: “I start with a sketch in watercolor pencils, using Van Dijck brown for the outlines and bone structures, and sap green for the first careful shading. The lines are all softened up with a wet brush, especially the shadings.”

2.  Using Green as an Undercoat

It may feel odd to start with green when horses aren’t green, but when you’re glazing the initial color you select is chosen for the richness it adds to the ultimate color.

Patricia says: “I add more shading in sap green where the darker parts are. Sap green under bright brown colours enhances the depth of the colours. Also some marine green at the tip of the nose. I use marine green because the black skin shows through there and our eyes perceive a more blue shine to black. I add a touch of burnt sienna in the mane just to get a feel of the colour. It’s a bit too red at this stage and I will need more ochre and green to tone it down some.”

3.  Adding Browns


When the initial glaze or wash has dried, which doesn’t take long with watercolor, you then gradually add “brown” to create realistic colors on the horse.

Patricia says: “I do an overall wash of burnt sienna and yellow ochre. A gentle pink around the nostrils is made of burgundy red mixed with dark indigo blue and yellow ochre.


By Marion Boddy-Evans

Marion Boddy-Evans is an artist and writer living on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, an infinitely inspiring part of the world for landscape painting.

February 2008 Painting Project: Expressive Self-Portraits

From the Artist:

It took me a while to decide whether I was going to be fast and furious with this painting, as a lot of Expressionists’ work is. But I don’t think I’m ready for that, so I chose to paint an expressive expression using metamorphoses and symbolism to express my self rather than a quick expression. It was very hard to not get into too much drawn detail or make it too cartoonish. (I could’ve gone on forever!)

I hope it gives the casual visitor of the gallery as much joy as it did me. (Laughing out loud is allowed!)

From the Painting Guide:This is a fabulously inventive self-portrait though I’m not sure it’s a side of you I’d want to meet in a dark alley…

Things to Consider When Looking at This Painting:
Eyes:Given the angle at which we see your right eye and nose, I don’t think we’d see the inner point (against the nose) of the left eye. This would be hidden by the nose (unless it had a serious indentation in it). Also take another look at how much of the cheek you’d see past the nose at this angle.

Ear:There’s something about the light tones of the ear that make it seem stuck on rather than attached to or growing from the side of the head. I’d take another look at it with particular regard to the other shadows or darker tones you’ve in this area to make it consistent.

Also publised on

Selfportrait by Patti Vaz Dias

I was absolutely (over)excited again, with this month’s project. The first stages went brill. and I really managed to get the colors I was looking for. Then I left it a bit and decided to do a glaze to get more one-ness in the skin tone, and it went a bit downhill from there, but not too far. I’m pleased and amazed by what one can achieve with three colors and white; but.. afterwards I m gonna sneakily use a couple more colors to get a better result on the final skin tones.

The photo was difficult though and does not reflect the painting a 100 percent.

From the Painting Guide:Okay, so I’m partial to expressive portraits I know, but I think this is gorgeous! It’s incredibly moody and got a powerful sense of personality staring out at me. I would so not add any other colors for a more real skin tone, it’ll change the feeling. Rather do another one with more real skin colors, then put then side by side and compare how you feel about them. This one with its blue overtone is very distinctive, it’s not just another self-portrait, it’s one with soul. I think you could very well end up preferring it to a ‘real’ skin-tone one.

Things to Consider When Looking at This Painting:
Lost Edges:Look at how the face and hair merge into one another, a totally  soft edge. Yet you don’t need hard edges or defined detail to ‘read’ what’s going on in this section of the painting. Your brain interprets it instinctively, it knows from experience what’ll be here, it doesn’t need to see it to make sense of it.
Eyes:In this painting the eyes and bottom eye-lids don’t curve around the face quite enough for me. They feel a little flat, whereas the rest of the face has a lovely sense of it curving away in space. Not only are our eyeballs spheres, but eye sockets curve quite a bit around our faces, they’re not flat on the front. To convince yourself, put a finger on the front of your eye and another on the outer corner and you’ll feel how they’re not in a line with one another.

I’ve done a couple of a portrait sculpture classes working with clay to build up and cut away a face. I found it really helpful for getting a feeling for just how a face curves rather than being a flat surface features are stuck onto. Clay has the distinct advantage over carving that you can always stick a bit back on!

House of Dancing Colours

From the Artist:I paint a lot of Koi fish and painting them from this angle really helped me to understand the shape of the fish, its more robust than I thought. Koi fanatics however, don’t rate this picture much, you don’t get to see the bonny colour patterns on top! (The Japanese phrase means “House of Dancing Colours”.)

From the Painting Guide:You may not get patterns on top in real life, but that’s one of the joys of painting — as the artist you get to change reality if you want to!
Things to Consider When Looking at This Painting:
Composition:Look at where the fish is positioned on the canvas, how the curve of its body and tail fin pulls you eye along. Look at how the splashes of color demand your attention and pull your eye up towards the fish’s eye and mouth.

Notice the tiny bit of red just at the tail fin — cover it up with your finger and you’ll see how powerful and important this is as a visual element to both attract your eye and to unify the painting. It also creates the suggestion that the red continues the length of the fish’s body on the top where you can’t see it.

Background:I think the background is fabulous; the green-blues give me a powerful sense of water and, being dark in tone, let the light tones of the fish really glow and dominate. There’s a sense of movement in it, from both the brushwork and the hints of pond weed.