Daisy Chain

Daisy Chain Original watercolor by Laurel Anne Equine Art

“Daisy Chain” is a fanciful painting I made around March to capture the essence of spring. The background of this painting uses a very loose technique with lots of bright, fresh colors. The bay horse nibbling at his buddy’s flower wreath is the inspiration for the whole scene, and provided a great opportunity to practice drawing new horse expressions! The bay horse is based on Felix, a horse at my barn who can never resist a snack!

Daisy Chain Original watercolor by Laurel Anne Equine Art
Daisy Chain
Original watercolor by Laurel Anne Equine Art

Prints and other products featuring “Daisy Chain” can be purchased at Society6.com Daisy Chain

Cat Sketch Boot Camp: How To Get Better At Drawing And Draw Realistic Pictures From Memory

Before and After From Cat Sketch Boot Camp

Have you ever watched Bob Ross effortlessly paint a beautiful landscape in seemingly just a few strokes? Or perhaps you’ve seen a street artist sketch out amazing human likenesses in almost no time at all? Yet, whenever you try to draw without a reference it looks cartoon-ish. How come some artists are able to conjure up life-like portrayals on the spot?

I found myself in this conundrum recently when I started to branch out from my usual subject of horses to a new subject: cats. While I can usually sketch up a realistic looking horse without much trouble, much trouble, something about my cat sketches just didn’t look right.

Before Sketches of Cats
Some of the sketches were ok, but kind of cartoon-ish…
Bad Cat Sketch
Others were… Yikes!

I realized that my problem was my lack of familiarity with the subject matter. You see, I’ve been drawing horses for years. Years of sketching. And studying. And revising. And correcting when something just doesn’t look right. As a result, I’ve developed the skill of drawing horses free-form. The reference of how a horse should look, the shapes its body is made up of, is in my head.

Once you have memorized and mastered the basic form of your subject, you can get creative with it, experimenting with poses, positioning, or lighting to create new artwork, and maybe eventually be able to draw those realistic pictures straight from your imagination!

The key is to start practicing. To improve my cat drawing skills, I embarked on a cat sketching boot camp. After taking a ton of pictures, of my own cats and the cats around the barn, I started intensive sketch practice. Not just copying the images, but breaking them down and studying the underlying shapes and angles. And here are the results:

after cat sketches
Cat sketches after boot camp. Much better, and no chihuahuas!

So here are my tips for you to improve your own drawing:

  • Study References. A. Lot. If there is a particular subject you want to be able to draw well (people, birds, cars…) find lots of pictures of that subject and practice.
  • Learn to find the underlying shapes in your subject. For instance, cats are composed of three roughly equal size circles:
    Preliminary sketch of a cat
    Preliminary drawing of a cat. The whole form is built around 3 circles, head, chest, and haunch. The other lines connect the circles to flesh out the form. In this pose, the lower circles overlap because of the way the cat is sitting.

    The front of a horse’s body can be broken down into wedges:

    Preliminary sketch of a horse
    The forequarters of a (somewhat sullen) horse, composed of 3 roughly equal wedge shapes; head, neck, and shoulder. The foreleg is a narrower wedge. Here, the head is a bit smaller than the others because the horse is looking away from the viewer.
  • Break the drawing down into smaller stages. This ties in with the previous point. You’ve got your subject broken down into circles and lines, how do you make the transition to fully-shaded final product? The answer is to break the image down again, this time looking for the shapes of the light and dark spots. First shade in the darkest areas:
    Cat sketch with rough shading
    The same cat drawing, now with rough shading added. It helps to vary the pencil strokes to show the form of the subject.

    From here it’s just refining and darkening the darkest spots until you get the results you desire:

    Completed cat sketch

Completed Cat Sketch. The detail is achieved by expanding on the loosely shaded areas from the previous stage, darkening the darkest spots, and blending everything together.

I hope anyone who is looking to advance their drawing skills will find this post helpful. Practice, the product of time and effort, along with trial and error (and a lot of erasing!), really is the best way to become good at drawing. If you have any questions or tips for other artists, please feel free to comment, I’d love to hear from you!

Take it easy, like Taz!
Take it easy, like Taz!

A Murder in the “Hayfield”

Hayfield by Laurel Anne Equine Art

Today marks the end of the Saxonburg Festival of the Arts as well as the Saxonburg Fine Art Show. Every year the art show chooses a theme, for 2015, “country life.” Nothing says country life, especially in late summer, than a hay field. Especially, a hay field that’s newly baled, on a fresh morning full of crows or blackbirds gleaning for whatever goodies have been uncovered in the grass.

Hayfield by Laurel Anne Equine Art
Hayfield by Laurel Anne Equine Art

Prints and other products featuring “Hayfield” can be purchased at Society6.com–Hayfield

Mother’s Love

Mother's Love by Laurel Anne Equine Art

Unlike some of my other pictures like “Quiet Summer Wood” or “Maiden and Unicorn” that take weeks of painting, thinking, and revising, “Mother’s Love” was completed rather quickly, in just a couple of hours one afternoon. The main inspiration for this painting for me was the opportunity to play around with the appaloosa coloring: the dark spots on white, the white spots on dark, the roan-ish blending between the bay and white areas, and the speckling around the mare’s muzzle, were all exciting for me to work on. However, the main draw for people who see the painting is the interaction between the mare and her foal, reaching around to gently reassure her baby, a tender moment that seems to transcend species.

Mother's Love by Laurel Anne Equine Art
Mother’s Love by Laurel Anne Equine Art

Prints and other products featuring “Mother’s Love” are available for purchase at Society6.com Mother’s Love 

Summer Night

Summer Night by Laurel Anne Equine Art

Sitting here tonight on a hot late-summer evening seems like the perfect time to look back on “Summer Night,” a painting completed around this time of year in 2014. Three horses under the full moon, quietly grazing and bonding in a tall meadow full of fireflies. Crickets are chirping, horses munching, and the soft breeze blowing through the grass cools the evening air.

Summer Night by Laurel Anne Equine Art
Summer Night by Laurel Anne Equine Art

Prints and other Products featuring “Summer Night” can be purchased at Society6 Summer Night

Quiet Summer Woodland

"Quiet Summer Woodland" by Laurel Anne Equine Art

Completed in the summer of 2014, “Quiet Summer Woodland” (or “Quiet Woodland”, or possibly “Summer Woodland”, the name seems to keep changing) is a representation of a little patch of trail that is one of my favourite places to ride. The wood is open, like a cathedral, under the canopy of widely spaced trees and the ground carpeted with vegetation, much of which is wildflowers. Our trail meanders, cut by the deer that often rest here in the afternoon, their fawns hidden in the under-story. Sunlight filters through the canopy and illuminates patches of wildflowers like stained glass. Burgundy bee balm, golden buttercups, or creamy Queen Anne’s Lace, depending on the time of year. The mist of a hazy summer evening often settles near the ground and the song of the wood thrush echos from the tree-tops. Truly a magical experience.

"Quiet Summer Woodland" by Laurel Anne Equine Art
“Quiet Summer Woodland” by Laurel Anne Equine Art

Prints and other products featuring “Quiet Summer Woodland” can be purchased at Society6 Quiet Woodland

The Greeting

"Greeting" 11"x14" watercolor by Laurel Anne Equine Art

Sometime in the month of May of this year, I had one of those magical evenings that seem to leave an impression long after. It was that time of the day when the sun is low and everything looks golden. As I was cleaning the water trough for my equine creatures, I left the gate open to allow them to have some time with the spring grass. Their activity on the lawn attracted the attention of the horses in the next pasture who came by to say hello. Dutchess, the ponderous Belgian mare, had no difficulty hanging her head and heavily arched neck over the gate to sniff at the newcomers. Iris accepted the greeting and extended her finely-formed swan’s neck, and for one moment they shared a gentle moment of sniffing nostrils as they acknowledged each other. (The moment directly afterward consisted of nipping and squeals)

“Greeting” is a painting I made to try to capture that refined moment of horse etiquette.

"Greeting" 11"x14" watercolor by Laurel Anne Equine Art
“Greeting” 11″x14″ watercolor by Laurel Anne Equine Art

Prints and other merchandise featuring “Greeting” can be purchased at: Society6 Greeting Laurel Anne Equine Art

Flower Color Study

Black Eye Susan Flower Color Study: Clockwise from left, purple, blue, green, and red.

One principle in color theory is that layering basic colors close to another so that they are visually mixed by the eye leads to a richer result than mixing the colors together as a solid block of pigment; for example, lightly sketching red, blue, and yellow together to create the impression of brown rather than only using a brown pencil. Artists are encouraged to use this principle by carefully observing the color of the subject’s undertones and shadows to bring depth and life to the picture instead of just using black or white to darken or lighten a picture. The sister to this principle is the one of complementary colors: the color of the shadow will usually be opposite on the color wheel from the color of the highlight. A scene with blue shadows, for example, will have orange tones in the highlights. Usually the shadows will be dominated by a cool color, but warm shadows can lead to interesting results!

        Here is a quick sketch of some black-eyed-susans. Each one uses a different color for the shadow and highlight undertones. Clockwise from left are purple and yellow, blue and orange, green and pink, and deep red with light green. Which result is your favorite? Tell me in the comments!

Black Eye Susan Flower Color Study: Clockwise from left, purple, blue, green, and red.
Black Eye Susan Flower Color Study: Clockwise from left, purple, blue, green, and red.