Jetta: Commissioned Horse Portrait in Oils

This portrait was painted from a photograph, as it was a surprise gift for the client's wife, and it would have been very difficult to arrange a visit to see the horse first-hand. I only had one image to work from that wouldn't be missed for the month or so while I was working, which was an annotated photographer's proof, with a rider and full tack obscuring some of the detail. The horse looked very good in the photo, but it was a very dark exposure, so there was a reasonable amount of detective work involved, and a few secretive phonecalls to make sure the the colours on the horse's flanks and back were going to be accurate.

The client and I decided to paint the horse's portrait in a slightly romanticised local Somerset landscape, with the contrasting gold of the corn stubble. I also added a slightly stormy darkening of the sky in the background to bring out the horse's beautifully dark coat.

Oil paint is an ideal medium for a horse portrait of a dark-coated specimen like this because you can build up the paint and varnish in many thin layers, which gives the coat a translucence and makes it stand out from the canvas, rather than vanishing darkly back into it as is more likely to occur with matt watercolours or pastels.