Horse painting (oil)

Jenny Yu, oil painting, horse painting, Colorado

I decided on painting from this photo of two horses because it felt very Colorado. The picture was taken at a ranch somewhere in Louisville, CO., next to the place where I used to work. It was a sunny summer morning, and I couldn’t help but noticed the two horses formed this visually-appealing shape while enjoying ‘brunch’. I managed to snap the picture before they turned away.

To start off – I drew the general shapes and background on a 14X18 canvas using charcoal  before I tone it with thin paint. A note to myself not to use charcoal next time, because it smears easily, and leaves alot of lines visible even after I apply paint to the surface.


  • For the white in horse in the picture above, I used different values of blue-gray by mixing ultramarine blue, titanium white and ivory black.
  • For the brown horse, I used burnt sienna and titanium white to establish the values of the shape. I used a similar color mixture to cover the ground.
  • The foliage in the background did not have much of value change, so I just laid down a thin layer of color composed of sap green, ultramarine blue and titanium white.

The sky is simply a combination of cerulean blue and ultramarine blue. After blocking in the big shapes, I focused on the horses.


I prefer to establish my dark values first. For the brown horse, I chose my favorite color purple (ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson, plus a dab of titanium white). For the white horse, I used earlier block-in color mixture as a starting point and added gray to it, also included ultramarine blue for the half tone on the side of the horse. Just for fun, I threw in some cadmium yellow to accentuate the skin texture for both horses, followed by adding the highlights on the backs.

Horse_painting(4)For the picture shown above, I started to refine the features. I applied a thick layer of gray for the clouds, lightened the value of the shadows to better match the other elements, and added the grass between the two horses. This was close to finishing, but I still wasn’t happy about the head of the white horse and the tail of the brown one – they seem too stark for my eyes.

Horse_painting(6)I applied different values of bluish gray to the head of the white horse to achieve a ‘softer’ look. And touched up on the tail of the brown horse to show the reflected light. Lastly, I added in the fence in the background, dabbed some gray and blue paints to bring out the clouds, and mixed in some yellow ochre and ultramarine blue with the foliage.

The most exciting thing about painting is that when I start I don’t know what the finished work will look like, and seeing it all come together after struggling is simply an amazing feeling! Right now, the painting is drying before it can be scanned, and I will upload the high resolution image once it’s done.

Still thinking about the title for this piece.


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