Bernice Ende – Lady Long Rider

Like most people, I have a like/dislike relationship with Facebook. One of the things I like is the random discovery of interesting stories through other peoples’ feeds.

In this case, Bernice Ende and her Norwegian Fjords, Essie and Spirit, who are at the tail end of an 8,000 mile ride around the country. Check out her fascinating story on her blog:

The photo shows Bernice and her horses in Padilla Bay, the westernmost point of their ride.

“Breakin’ Out ll”

One of my favorite places to visit is Western Montana – we go at least once a year, to visit family. We always try to get at least one good wander in on the back roads, looking for wildlife and painting subjects.

These guys were part of a small herd of mares and foals. The late afternoon light was breathtaking, and I’m so happy to have caught the moment.

Drawing a human head

One of my ongoing goals is to spend more time in my sketchbook – live sketching is a great way to get better at seeing what is essential in a scene or subject.

Lucky for me, there is a fairgrounds nearby, and there are horse shows there nearly every weekend. Riders do a lot of waiting next to arenas, so it’s a great place to catch a quick sketch.

While the horses are relatively easy (more on that in a future post), riders have faces, and those are not so easy. YouTube to the rescue! I found this great video from Art of Wei that shows an easy method for drawing a head & face from any angle:

Painting a dappled horse


Just starting a watercolor of a gorgeous Quarter Horse in the show ring. One of the reasons I wanted to paint this is the light dappling in the horse’s coat.

There are a couple of ways to create the effect of a dappled hide. One is to lay down a fairly strong wash of color, wait until the wash is just losing the shine from the water, and sprinkle the area with salt. As the salt dries, it pulls water from the paper-and pulls color with it to create spots. Very effective, but it takes a long time to dry, and is messy.

For the impatient among us, there is the technique I used. After laying down a strong wash of color and waiting a few moments for the shine to fade, I grabbed a spray bottle of water. Holding it about 18″ from the paper, I barely squezzed the handle, causing the nozzle to “spit” random-sized drops of water onto the paper. The water repels the pigment, creating a similar effect to salt.


Above, the first background wash has been dropped in, and the details of the face begun. The eyes, muzzle and ears are always the first place I go on an animal portrait. This is off to a good start, but if something doesn’t develop well, I’ll abandon the painting and start over…

Detail of the face. I'll work out from the areas that are started, creating and connecting the structure.
Detail of the face. I’ll work out from the areas that are started, creating and connecting the structure.

After about 2 hours of continuing to detail the head and body, the form is developing. I’ll work on the rider and tack now – need to see the relationship before I go any further with shadows.

The horse is rounding out; now it's time to add the rider. That will show me how dark to build shadow values on the horse.
The horse is rounding out; now it’s time to add the rider. That will show me how dark to build shadow values on the horse.

Now that the rider has been roughed in, all of the light values (and many of the mid values) have been established. The final steps will be to give the rider and tack a bit more detail, and to add some dark values to “pop” the horse.

The rider will get some form, but not too much detail - just enough to give context to the scene.
The rider will get some form, but not too much detail – just enough to give context to the scene.

One problem I’ll need to resolve is the background: the arena and stands cut the painting nearly in half. The transition will need to be lowered a bit for a better visual…


Little landscapes

Watercolor - 7" x 10.5"
Watercolor – 7″ x 10.5″

At the spring Samish paint-out, there is always a race to post paintings on the wall. Since I usually work on fairly detailed pieces, I rarely get anything finished enough to post.

This year, my strategy is to work on the detailed pieces, but also to paint small landscapes so I have something for the wall. At the end of day one, these little landscapes are my contribution…

Sharing: A talk with Frank Eber

I love talking with other artists, or reading their stories. It’s always interesting to hear what experiences or approaches we all seem to share, and what motivations and processes are so very different.

In this article from Artist Daily, Frank Eber talks about the importance of drawing, plein air painting, and inspiration.

Uncertainty by Frank Eber
Uncertainty by Frank Eber

It’s time for a refresh

Welcome! My site was a little outdated, and a lot hard to update. So I basically blew it up, and will be starting fresh. Even though it’s not pretty yet, I’m really looking forward to having the ability to talk with friends, clients and fellow artists, instead of talking at you.

To get things started, here is “Breakin’ Out,” a piece I just finished, and haven’t shared anywhere else.

The title was inspired by watercolor artist Jeannie McGuire. At the start of her demo, she looked at the group and said “I don’t paint like everyone else. I don’t follow the rules, and don’t really know what’s going to happen when I start.”

That was a lightbulb moment for me – I keep struggling to follow watercolor rules that never felt like a good fit for me. So, partway through this rules-based painting, I starting painting “my way.” Some of the scenery that “should” be in a painting of horses in a field stayed, but much of it became the layered, textural backgrounds I love so much.

Now for the talking with part: what did you hear in your work, hobby or passion that was a lightbulb moment for you?