A Portrait Of Dutchess: A Memorial

Belgian Draught Mare original watercolor by Laurel Anne Equine Art

This is going to be a sad post. Going through some older work that I haven’t thought about for a while, I came across one of the first portraits I ever painted. The portrait was a gift, completed in spring of 2014. The subject is Dutchess, a Belgian Draught mare who was one of the most important residents of our farm until a couple of weeks ago when she tragically passed away.

Dutchess was a whole lot of horse, physically and personality-wise. The day we brought our horses to the farm, we put them into stalls to let them unwind from the move. Iris’s stall was next to Dutchess, and the Great Creature raised her nose over the 6-and-a-half-foot wall between them to greet her new neighbor. Iris who was barely 2 at the time, stretched her own head up in reply, in a moment my mother describes: “Was like Adam reaching to God in Michelangelo’s painting.”

In the over six years from that first day until her passing, Dutchess was a great teacher to our horses. As a trail companion, Dutchess spent many hours helping Belle get over her fear of crossing water. She helped Iris even more, being Iris’s coach for her first trail rides. Dutchess gave Iris the courage to ford streams, scale steep hills, and blaze through thick vegetation, acting as an emotional (and sometimes physical) wall. Their relationship wasn’t perfect; Iris didn’t always appreciate Dutchess’s steady stream of flatulence in her face and would pin her ears to show it, but my horses did consider Dutchess “an acceptable companion,” the highest honor they can bestow.

Dutchess was the queen of the farm, but even a queen has her not-so-graceful moments. I can remember two occasions when she fell flat on her side. The first, I surprised her carrying a hose to the water tub from behind some trees. As she heaved her huge self to turn and buck, she fell sideways with a splat in the mud, quickly recovered, and stood swishing her tiny tail with an expression that said we should never mention it again. On the second occasion, I made the mistake of trying to bring Dutchess’s companion Robin in from the pasture first. Her Majesty responded to this breach of etiquette by galloping full tilt towards the gate, trying to stop in the mud too late, and sliding her full-ton self into the gate (which subsequently smacked me in the head)

That great force of weight that gave me a concussion caused other issues as well; as Dutchess often leaned on her stall door to rest her joints, breaking it. This led to one of the barn owner’s proudest contraptions: Dutchess’s Butt Bar – a reinforced 2″ x 6″ piece of wood that could be swung out of the way to help spare the poor door some of her weight. When the Butt Bar was in use, on quiet days, you could often see flaxen tail hairs squished through the stall bars as she rested herself.

The stories I’ve shared here are only a few of my most prominent memories of Dutchess. As such a big part of our lives, her presence has been greatly missed. She may not be among us, but her spirit lives on, and there will be more portraits of her to come.

If you would like a memorial portrait of a beloved lost pet, or just one celebrating the ones you have now, you can hire me to paint it on Etsy.com

Belgian Draught Mare original watercolor by Laurel Anne Equine Art
Belgian Draught Mare original watercolor by Laurel Anne Equine Art

Holiday Deals On Christmas Cards And More!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope everyone has a safe and wonderful holiday. However, after today, the countdown to Christmas begins in earnest! If you’ll be sending cards to your loved ones this year, how about something a little more unique? Head over to my shop: https://society6.com/laurelanneequineart/cards where I have these designs, and many more, for sale in packs of three, five, or ten. Starting today at 1:00 PM PST and through 11/28 11:59 PM PST, these and all my products will be 20% off AND feature free shipping! Don’t miss this opportunity to give your friends and family a gift they’ll truly treasure this season, and follow me on Facebook and laurelanneequineart.com to stay on top of all my newest artwork! Cheers, and happy holidays!

Laurel

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Peek A Boo

Way too long since my last post, and way too long to upload this picture! This painting was  inspired by midsummer; tall grasses, butterflies, and blooming Queen Anne’s Lace. I named it “Peek A Boo” due to the black Percheron filly peeking through the tall grasses. This filly is Ivy, one of the horses at my barn. I took the reference photo of her for this painting when she was two years old and a very tall, very heavy toddler. Sitting on the ground under a tree, the curious young horse came to investigate, sniffing my shoes, providing the perfect opportunity to snap some shots!

The original painting of “Peek A Boo” is not for sale at this time, however, prints and products featuring the artwork are available at Society6.com

Peek A Boo, original watercolor painting by Laurel Anne Equine Art
Peek A Boo, original watercolor painting by Laurel Anne Equine Art

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How To Paint Chiffon Fabric Like A Pro: Another Craft Tutorial

Hi everybody! I’ve taken a few weeks off from posting because I’ve been on vacation. Being away was a fun and exciting change, but one of the first things I had to do upon coming home was to stencil the scarves for an order that was placed right before I left.  I’ve described in detail how I make the stencils for my scarves in an earlier post, but I’ve never gotten around to explaining how I use the stencils on the fabric itself, so that will be the topic of today’s post.

Stenciling fabric is very similar to stenciling on wood or other surfaces. The biggest difference between stenciling a soft surface like fabric and a hard surface like wood is the stability of the object. Stencilers working on a piece of wood or applying a stencil to, say, a wall usually use tape to secure the stencil to the surface. This is not practical for stenciling fabric for a couple of reasons. First, tape doesn’t really like to stick to fabric all that much. Once you get to applying the paint, the stencil will be moving around on the fabric causing your image to distort. Second, unless the fabric you are working with is stretched canvas, even if the taped stencil does adhere, the fabric itself is fluid enough to be moving around from the pressure of the brushes as you paint. The more light weight and sheer the fabric is, like my scarves, the more it tries to move around.

So we can’t use tape. what can we use instead? Weights! Usually, when I paint scarves I use a combination of pressure from my left hand and tile coasters (left over from that project I mentioned in “Three Musketeers!“) as weights on both the stencil itself and the fabric to keep everything from shifting around. With that, it’s usually safe to use the stencil brush on the fabric. However, my skills with this method were tested to the max this week when I tried my technique on chiffon scarves.

Chiffon is a particular weave of fabric with very thin fibers creating a kind of sheer veil that drapes well. Chiffon can be made of many different fabric types besides the traditional silk, such as polyester, and even cotton. I’m using polyester chiffon. Cotton chiffon is very difficult to find, and silk chiffon is best painted with fabric dye; the acrylic paint I use in my projects would wreck the smooth quality of silk, however, the techniques I am going to describe will work just as well with fabric dye on silk fabric

The chiffon I used was much lighter weight than the fabric I usually use with has a a larger polyester thread. As such, even weighted down, the fabric moved too much to be used with a regular stencil brush, and I substituted a regular paintbrush instead.

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Stencil brushes (left) versus regular paint brushes (right) The heavy technique used with the stencil brushes was too much for the fine fabric!

Using gently strokes with the regular paint brushes worked much better than the heavy scumbling of the stencil brushes.

The fibers of the chiffon fabric tend to channel paint along themselves. This creates a splotchy, watercolor effect. This can be very beautiful, but it isn’t what I had in mind for this project, so I used my paint sparingly and stopped short of the edges of the stencil.

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Painting the chiffon. Notice the up-down stroke I am using, this is working with the weave to reduce bare spots.

Working with this material was a great opportunity to practice new skills. To close, I have a short list of steps to help anyone paint chiffon like a pro!

  1. Make sure you are using the right brushes. Soft paintbrushes like you would use for art painting work better than stiff craft brushes.
  2. Use the right paint. Fabric dyes work well on silks but won’t penetrate polyester fibers. Conversely, acrylic paint works great with polyester, but will ruin silk’s softness.
  3. Weights are great to keep the fabric surface steady as you work. You can get creative with what you use for weights!
  4. Use a good work space. Make sure the fabric is spread all the way out, so that there are no creases or overlaps. If you can, the best way to do this is to set up a kind of screen so that the painting surface has nothing but air beneath. This lets you picture the final effect much better as you work. If this isn’t possible (it wasn’t for me) at least make sure that the surface you place the fabric on is wide enough to stretch all the way out.
  5. Paint with the weave of the fabric. This helps you get full coverage and avoid bare spots for a more even look. For a rectangle scarf you will probably be working long-wise, for other cuts, test a small area to which way goes easiest.

There you have it! Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or advice regarding fabric painting. Have a great day!

The Pony Set: Chestnut Pony

Chestnut Pony Original Watercolor Painting by Laurel Anne Equine Art

This post is the final part of a series that contains three previous entries: “Three Musketeers,” “Pony Kiss,” and “Grooming Ponies

Finally, I’m getting around to the last entry in the Pony Set series. “Chestnut Pony” is the odd man of the Pony Set. Ironically, he was the dark horse from the beginning. The lone pony peeking at the viewer beneath his shaggy mane and long eyelashes never seemed to fit into the group of other pictures with ponies interacting with each other . He never even got uploaded to Society6 with the others. Not knowing what to really say about him, I pushed the project to the back of my mind as the weeks turned to months with no update. I’ve realized now that his story is just as it is, no frills, no excitement, just The Chestnut Pony.

No prints or other products featuring “Chestnut Pony” exist, however, the original can be purchased at Etsy.com

Chestnut Pony Original Watercolor Painting by Laurel Anne Equine Art
Chestnut Pony Original Watercolor Painting by Laurel Anne Equine Art