Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Mystic Mustangs - The Creative Process

Mystic Mustangs by J. Binford-Bell
19 x 44 Mixed Media on Artists Canvas
I have been wanting to do a larger version of an earlier wild horse painting for some time. It required more horses. I did this sketch one horse at a time. And then transposed them onto a larger sheet of tracing paper. I didn't have a large enough light table so I used one panel of my studio French doors.

Once the horses were overlapped and positioned I outlined them and then put the sketch on the table to fill in background features and elaborate on manes and tails. I also had to erase and re-position some legs for clarity.

Beginning of the sketch

Then stretch the canvas and transfer the sketch. Not easy with larger paintings because of slippage which can occur. Then all the tops of the horses had to be masked off so the sky could be poured. A long thin sky isn't easy to pour especially with the added details of manes and heads and mouths. I work on the flat in this part of the process. The table was once white.

Trying to get the sky right

Still not happy with sky but moving ahead
I have made myself a functioning easel using my flat files. Not everything at this point can be worked vertically but working details horizontally can be a bear in a painting this size. So the manes were worked on the easel and below the foreground was worked on the table. Salt was added to the washes of ground for texture. Once it is dry the salt will adhere to the canvas.

Background and foreground base filled in

Coloring in horses

Filling in the foreground using oil sticks

This was personally my least favorite part of the process. I still hated the sky. The detail of the horses seemed to only make it worse. There was entirely too many legs.

Sky improved

I got to the point I was going to toss the painting if I could not get the sky right. So back to the horizontal with the painting tilted just a bit legs up so I could control where the paint ran. The ink stick shrubs in the front began to draw the horses together, but still too many legs.

Getting close enough for ravens
In fact this next step was about the longest. I added shadows across the legs of the mustangs and pale washes over the mountains to get them to recede behind the herd. Brought in more colors into the mesa and vegetation. And used fine detail brushes to bring out details in the horses heads. The differences between the unsigned version above and the finished and signed piece at the beginning are often subtle but very significant to me at least. There are still just as many legs but they are not distracting from the spirit and movement of the piece. The painting is about horses but it is also about the mesa they inhabit.

A friend that followed my progress postings on Binford-Bell Studio remarked that it took me only four days to get from the pouring of the sky to the painting just above this one. But the sketch had taken a week even with reusing some horse drawings from the smaller painting. And the tweaking took another week. I used inks, watercolors and oil sticks.


  1. You have, as I have said many times before, an amazing talent. Jacqui, sometimes you just blow my mind.


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