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.

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