Two Beauties is my latest commissioned painting. It’s of a beautiful girl who I have known for almost 20 years and it was a surprise for her birthday, as arranged by her Mum.
The painting has been both a pleasure and an artistic stretch for me. A pleasure firstly as I love the subject and she is very easy to paint. She’s a beautiful young woman both inside and out, and happens to be at the top of her field in the horse world. Here comes the stretch, the painting is of Courtney and her Champion Small Hack, Magnifique.
Being a professional in the horse world means that I needed to get the horse right to ensures she loves the painting for the rest of time. This is not easy, so with help from her Mum (Francesca) with countless phone conversations,messages and emails,and a few photos I started by creating a sketch of my first ideas of the painting’s layout.
This is a photo of Courtney on Magnifique.
After considering the options for the painting layout for a while, I began thinking about Courtney as a person, what she loves, her relationship with her horse, and where she is in her life as a young woman. I felt very strongly that the painting should be a blend of her in her horse world and her in the rest of her life as so often the horse world can become all-consuming.
I wanted to capture the love between Coutney and her beautiful horse, Magnifique, but show her in her true colours as well.
After a few ideas,I came up with this sketch and pitched it to Francesca, getting the go-ahead to start painting.
Courtney is a beauty, with long, wavy hair, beautiful eyes and a cheeky attitude. It was important that these parts of her shone through, so that is why I wanted the riding hat paired with the long flowing hair as a way to capture this wonderful mix.
I also wanted Magnifique to look a little wild to match Courtney so her maine is free and flowing also.
Francesca initially wanted the bridle to be put on her and I think it could be a lovely mix of a wild and also highly disciplined animal.
Once given the go ahead, I started on the painting.The following pictures are a succession of photos of the different stages of the painting,clearly showing the layers and changes made along the way.
Usually this sized painting will happen over approximately 4 to 6 weeks, but this particulr painting was racing against the clock so the majority of it actually happened over a seven day period.
I didn’t realise at the time but the ears on the horse were in the wrong position so thankfully I had some assistance from my mother and sister to correct them (both horsey people). I needed to move Magnifique’s left ear completely as you will see in the next few photos. I also had to lengthen the nose, widen the nose at the end (it was too pointed), work heavily on the eyes to make them more pronounced, and change the colour three times to get it right.
This is where I moved the ear, but realised the colour of the horse was too dark so alsoneeded to change that aspect.
One thing I am loving in this painting is the departure from my usual plain background, with the textured sky and the blades of grass in the field. I took a big leap with these additions as it seemed the most appropriate backdrop for these two best friends, but i think i will start to work more into my backgrounds where appropriate from now on.
Here is Magnifique with a rich red/brown coat and a lot of work done around the eyes (with a lot of feedback and assistance from Francesca and Mum). Being a show horse, they do use make-up to exagerate certain features and I have embraced this a little here.
After much deliberation and various channels of advice,we agreed that it would be best if we left the bridle off as it shows that these two are truly friends and Magnifique spends time with Courtney because she wants to and not because she has to.
Finally, after widening the nose, fixing the maine and horse’s colour, adding some funky nailpolish for Courtney, along with some pearls and finer details, she is complete.
Two Beauties was presented to Courtney on the night before her birthday and I received a lovely call from a very happy birthday girl. It goes to show that it is certainly possible to paint things outside my comfort zone but only if I am a very good listener as the steady stream of feedback and ideas was crucial in my success.