Next harness racing painting under construction

Next harness painting (first one still underway)  This is to be a generic painting.   I do not want any horses or humans to be recognised, therefore, I am changing the horses and humans from what was in the photo.

This particular painting is on linen.   I normally use canvas or board, but splurged on a small roll of linen to have a go.   I have taped it to a board.
I know the painting is very dark at this point,   I will be lightening it.    I have been working mainly on the darks until now.
I used Raw Sienna as a base for the painting.    It is showing through in the highlights on the horses at this stage.   *??  Rather than mixing lighter red/browns and trying to slavishly colour check the photographs I am working from, I am wondering if I should work with what I already have and just add some mid tones where necessary?  Then use the odd dab of T white for eventual highlights?

Another question is *??  the sulky cover in the bottom left.....?   I appreciate racing people will understand what it is.    Otherwise, it is a confusing pile of two tone vinyl.   Should I turn it into a folded horse rug, a bag of gear, or some buckets or perhaps hay instead...?    

Have shifted the off hind leg of the mare in the stall, to be stepped forward at a slight angle rather than straight as in the photo.   It looks awkward now, but am hoping it will resolve as I fiddle!  The near fore leg will be shifted as I have it in the wrong place.     
*?? This horse will probably have blue harness (not yellow) to counteract the jeans.....any thoughts? I do not intend to have the human unharnessing it in view.

*?? Should the sulky wheels be red?  If so, should the red be elsewhere?
If not red, should it be the same colour as whatever I have in that pile on the bottom left?

*?? I understand the corrugations on the roof do not match the dark hollows underneath.   I just want to give the idea.   I think if I try to paint each one individually, I may loose some of what I have gained....not sure....?  Also the inside corrugations are narrower than the roof ones, which may be an issue.....?

As I say, this work is probably not even half constructed.    The foundations have just set and I do not yet have all the plans for the finished building, so any help, would be gratefully appreciated.  Once again, I failed miserably to do proper initial sketches!!!!   What is wrong with me that I can't learn from my mistakes???

Photo as it stands today,

Resource photos

Stages so far

Photos shown at night with light above.   No proper setup.  Just a record for me as how it developed.

If you read this far, Thanks.   Please suggest how you would like to see this develop.


  • dencaldencal -
    edited January 19
    Looking good.
    This is a literal interpretation of composition on the hoof.
    Definitely must be a red wheel.

    With the inspirational photos in view. Draw four 3in squares. Pick the three things you like. Outline them in four different arrangements. Choose the one you like best. Can develop four variations on this best one if needed. Use two colours + white (flow of light, greatest contrast at focus etc). Scribble notes next to each box noting good, bad and opportunities.


  • Thank  you very much @dencal.  That site is very helpful. 
     I will try mine thumbnails by hand as I don't have any programme I can use.   There is always so much "stuff" lying around in piles at a day like portrayed, that there must be something simple and recognisable I can find..... (Ihave considered downloading something, however, the time taken to learn how to use such a programme, is time I have (so far) spent actually learning how to apply paint.  Perhaps one day I will find time to learn how to use photoshop or something like that).

    OK, a red wheel it is then.....!
  • What a great source photo.

    Interest, activity, behind the scenes, light & shade, enclosed space, stories... brilliant.

    Your painting would already stop me in a gallery.

    Good work.
  • edited January 19
    Looks good so far. I'd say, don't be too harsh with self-critic, rather enjoy the process of this beautiful creation. I'm sure it's been pretty immersive experience even till stage of the painting. 

  • @toujours - You are really good at this! You sketch in paint really well. I like the composition. A few questions: what is the main focus you intend - the horse or the red wheel? What is the overall color scheme you want for this? If the wheel will be red, then I suggest you put some other reds in the image via clothing, tack, etc. 

    Critical quibbles:
    The left rafters are set at a different angle than the photo, are attached to vertical beams close to entrance of space which makes that space too small for a horse to fit in, and are too dominant a feature because of their value contrast to the deeper space - they detract from the horse. 

    The main horse's back end and back: legs too far apart for me (right rear hoof is way higher than the left rear hoof), but I know this is a thing for you so your stylistic preference. Back end: croup and stifle too small. Back is hunched up a little rather than curving down a little. 
  • Thank you @heartofengland, all the things you mention are why I took the photos to begin with (many years ago).  The light/dark was a big draw.   I have close to 100 photos of that day and the comings and goings associated with each race, preparation and the after race pack up.  Many of them have so much stuff lying around it is far too complex to contemplate replicating in paint!

    Thank you @osiosbon, for your kind words.  Yes, your choice of word "immersive" is a good one.

    Brilliant rundown, thank you @Desertsky. Critical quibbles are really helpful to get me thinking about what others are seeing.
     A front leg on that main horse was also out of proportion when I tackled it in more detail last night.   I am sure to find you correct when I get to the back legs.   A bad habit of mine I need to look out for when I do my initial sketching in future.   
     I may not be be too fussy this time, they are standardbreds and that breed often have pretty wide, wonky hind legs and odd conformation overall, anyway (or so we riding/ thoroughbred people think!!....joke.  I currently own a standardbred.)  Yes the back is going to be odd eventually because I want to try to have the dark and the spine blur into each other and just have highlights on the odd metal bit of the harness saddle and the odd buckle of the crupper and dock.  They do not follow the same exact line, so it may look wrong, and my idea may need to change there.  I also hunched the back a bit (not wanting to copy the photo) and was imagining of some horses I know which do hunch up as the shafts of the cart are touching the rump, as I did so.  Too complex, and not well executed it seems....?

    Focus and main colour scheme.   Oops, you got me there.   This painting preparation is clearly where I let my art down, isn't it?  I don't know!!!!!  I suppose my focus was only doing a painting to barter, I found a moment in time I had captured digitally and ran with that.     Where do I want people to idea?  The more I look, the less it leads the eye anywhere.   Probably the light on the rump,  but being dead centre, that is a mistake, so perhaps the wheel to draw you up the shafts....?  Not my area of expertise.   If the wheel is red, something in the bottom right will have to be red, as will something in the shadow near the bucket perhaps?  Any suggestions? What would Caravaggio have done with this I wonder?
    I wanted to have the horse blending into the darkness, and parts of it to stand out with the sun on its coat, the cart etc....  I am aiming to try to play up the dark/light theme.  I rarely use red in paintings.    A NZ artist swears by a touch of red in every painting, and although it works for those paintings, it is something the public took to heart.     I have always steered clear of it for that very reason (perverse, I know) hence thinking of a blue, yellow, white or non covered wheel originally.   ...but, if red works here, then I will have red elsewhere also. 

    I darkened the rafters last night and added one in the shadow area.      Because I am working from 2 photos, and not one, the rafters were painted not to match either photograph.   That is why you will see a difference.    As long as the painting works on its own, I don't really care what I used as source material for this painting.   As I say, I took many photos that day, and am sure the angle will be different in every photo since my distance, and camera height etc...will have changed; or is my limited physics knowledge very flawed?   I will have to check on that....
    It is not actually a stall.   It is a narrow covered area where people in nearby stalls store their gear undercover.   Some people gear up there, others in the stalls.  I think that horse had been in stall 136, and was brought out to hitch up.

    Grrrr, this painting lark is always harder than I think it is going to be as I begin each painting. I have a pig painting I am also struggling with, which started well and is going nowhere fast.   

    Thanks again for your helpful comments. 

  • Love the horses’ leg anatomy. I always have trouble with that.
  • Love the horses’ leg anatomy. I always have trouble with that.
    Run your hand down enough legs, brush hundreds, tend to many wounds, cut hooves and look at at least 4 legs every day (checking for swelling or cuts) for a lifetime and you get to know a horse's leg.   However, I still get it wrong more often than not!
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