This series of photos shows the process of taking a blank canvas to completion through 17 pictures. The subject is Backtalk winning the Remsen Stakes at Saratoga for Paul Bulmahn’s GoldMark Farm. The source photo was taken by track photographer Adam Coglianese. The canvas is 48 x 66 inches and took approximately 4 months to finish.
Backtalk Progress 2
The canvas is tinted to a middle tone gray; in other words, it’s not warm or cool in tone nor is it light or dark in intensity.
Backtalk Progress 3
The drawing on the canvas is transferred from paper to canvas buy drawing a blue pastel line drawing.
Backtalk Progress 4
My painting process is based upon building layers. To begin, let’s just get the first layer down over the canvas.
Backtalk Progress 5
Each layer will bring more detail, refinement of shapes, richness of color, and continuity throughout the picture plane.
Backtalk Progress 6
A couple definitions: Intensity – the range of light and dark. On a scale of 1 to 10, white being 1 and black being 10. The first layer works in the mid level intensities. Subsequent layers will push the light areas more towards 1 and the dark areas more towards 10, but the first layer is about establishing mid tones.
Backtalk Progress 7
Second definition: Hue – the actual color, there is red and then there are a million shades of red, each of those are a different hue . . . that minutia of color becomes retooled and enriched with each layer.
Backtalk Progress 8
I am a sight painter. I learned to draw what I see, but when it comes to color I combine sight with a keen knowledge of the color wheel. In short, I trust my eye, but know how to trick my brain.
Backtalk Progress 9
Very specific hues can be crafted via the building of layers if the artist is patient and willing to use orange with blue, instead of black.
Backtalk Progress 10
Yellow is the quickest way to unveil whether an artist knows how to mix color. If you listen to the brain, you will use black and create mud; but if you know the color wheel, then every shade of yellow is possible and able to be deepened and enriched while keeping the pigments neat, clean, and fresh.
Backtalk Progress 11
The painting of Backtalk happens to feature not only a lot of yellow, but three very distinct hues of yellow and each of those have to go from light to dark in each of those yellow hues.
Backtalk Progress 12
Once the first layer is complete with subject and background, then the “real” painting begins.
Backtalk Progress 13
Start to notice the shapes on the horses’ bodies begin go from being flat, two-dimensional shapes into curved forms pieced together.
Backtalk Progress 14
By the third layer the bodies begin to have mass. They are no longer just painted surfaces, but have substance . . . muscles emerge. Flat surfaces gave way to curved shapes and those gave way to solid objects like legs, heads, and in this particular case – look at the mass of muscle developing in Backtalk’s hip and butt.
Backtalk Progress 15
As we move into the final layers, let’s revisit that early point about spreading out the intensity range and refining hues. What might appear to be a finished painting still needs to get a final layer of the brightest highlights and the darkest darks.
Backtalk Progress 16
The layering of paint in combinations of thicker opaque layers and thin transparent layers helps build solid forms of vivid color. When done correctly the objects in the painting look like relief sculptures as the shapes appear to protrude out from the canvas as background recede away from the viewer.
This final layer also is the time for the tiniest details. Reflections in the eyes, veins on the legs and face, and nails in the hooves. The dirt was already there, but now it appears wet in some places and dry others. It’s the fine details that transfer this canvas from being a nice painting of a horse into a portrait of the owner’s horse winning a specific race and thus immortalizing a moment in time.