I've been excited to jump in and start painting horses on the rusted metal. A good friend of ours, Emma Brown, is an amazing photographer and gave me permission to use some of her photos from her time with her horses. The photo I worked from with this piece is of a horse named Rocky, who they rode on a ranch doing cattle work this summer.
Usually I will spend a few days thinking about a design and how I want it to look. I really liked this photo because the focal point was on Rocky's nose, and I wanted to put a lot of detail there with the background being more of a suggestion than perfectly rendered details. I love the textures and colors in the rust, and wanted to use those to my advantage in the piece.
Working on the rusty metal is a bit of a challenge. If I use anything that is waxy or oily for sketching out the design, it is permanent. So I settled on vine charcoal at first, then as I had the image mapped out better I used a white colored pencil.
After deciding where the image would lay on the metal (deciding which textures and colors that were already there would interact with the design), I picked colors based on the colors that were already there. I wanted them to blend in with the background to some degree, but I also wanted contrast so that the image would pop out. I began with oil pastels, filling in colors and shapes.
I found that they made a very rough line, so I took turpentine and lindseed oil and a paintbrush, and used the brush to fill in my details. The blacks weren't black enough and the whites weren't white enough, so I used a little bit of oil paint to define the details in the foreground.
I don't usually like using black, but in this case it was necessary to create enough contrast. I did use purples and blues for shadows and depth as well. I the end, I was pleased with the initial focal point being his nose, and then the stirrup to the left. There were two big bumps in the metal (I don't know what they were for originally) that I was able to incorporate into the design, particularly the stirrup. It is hard to see the depth and dimension from a photograph.