Skip navigation

I have always wanted to spend some time painting cows. Don’t know why. Perhaps it is that I am happiest when painting animals. This lovely lady lives to the east of me. Every so often I drive out in the country east of here hoping to snap a picture of the Amish and the teams of horses. They are always too far off for my camera capabilities. This Holstein, however, was very near the fence and didn’t budge when I got out of the car. Such luck!

I have been experimenting with a limited palette I saw in an article, recently, and like it very much. The colors are Winsor & Newton tube paints: transparent yellow, permanent rose, Winsor blue(green shade), Prussian blue,Β Winsor green(blue shade), Winsor violet and burnt sienna.Β  I am always looking for combinations of limited palettes so my students don’t need to purchase so many colors to get started. This list seems to work pretty well. πŸ™‚


  1. I love the darks you’ve got in this – gorgeous. As is she – I rather like cows, though sheep are my real favourites. I like too how you’ve handled the background.

    • I actually did the background, first, on this one. I splattered some masking fluid with a small brush and stroked in some lines with masking fluid and worked the background wet in wet with a very light wash of color. I thought keeping it light might help how the darks appeared on her. I will have to look for a sheep reference on wet canvas. I’d love to try one or two or three? Thank-you for your support and comments!

  2. I love this painting. The cow seems… wise, you know?

    • Hi Tacy. When I was a few years older than you some neighbors had ten dairy cows that they milked. They were all Holsteins like this. They are wise. Most of the time they were very content, also. They can kick but most of the ones I was around were very gentle. Thank-you for the comment. πŸ™‚

  3. Holy Cow, this is beautiful! Love the colors in the ears and body, and the expression in its eyes is priceless.

    • Thank-you, Ryan for noticing those eyes! That’s the way she looked at me as though she was saying, “Sure, lady, take my picture. I’ll stay right like this for you and not move a muscle.”. I was so grateful. You mention the ears. I have a confession. I was working away at shaping and mixing the tones and that started to happen. I couldn’t get rid of it because I liked it so much. Truly I think I went furthur toward discovering black, but it’s so hard to let go of the fun things water does to watercolor.

  4. Oh, she looks beautiful, and quite content ! I love her !

    • Thank-you, Isabelle. I love her, also, and wish I could have gone in that field and pet her to thank her, but that would have been trespassing. 😦

  5. This is amazing, Leslie!! I really love all the pink in the whites! Lots of lovely details, too!

    • Thanks, Beth. She honestly had a pinkish cast in the photograph. I think it was the fact that the skin under the white was pink. These were super clean dairy cows in this field.

  6. I grew up on a farm so I love the beauty of farm animals. We raised black angus beef cattle which have gorgeous faces (the arabians of the cattle world!) and coloring. Beautiful painting and I love the way the colors merge and mingle. Very interesting palette. I love the Winsor colors and their purity.

  7. Such a pretty girl she is, with long lashes and soulful eyes. I love cows… I particularly like the play of color in her ear that makes it transparent and the whole purple/green interplay you got going there. Your colors are a matter of envy, as always :).

    • Thank-you so much, Alex. I used the transparent yellow, permanent rose and prussian blue to define her shape. I did my mixing on the paper and it was interesting to learn that the black came out different every time I layered those three colors in a different order. You might want to try mixing those three colors on a piece of scrap watercolor paper. It is rather amazing to watch. I left the ears like that. That is one example of why I am fascinated by watercolor.

  8. I like how you painted the cow. Many times I wonder if real or not your watercolors are πŸ˜‰
    You have lot of imagination and I like that you use all the colors without having fear of it. I know people who really afraid of different colors…don’t know why.

    Have a great day, Leslie! πŸ™‚

    • Thank-you, Alina. You are correct. A vivid imagination. I think there are many people who want their work to look more realistic. I hope I never fear being colorful. Wishing you sunshine, Alina!:)

  9. that’s a animated catch for cows..

    a cow,
    a cat,

    happy Friday,
    happy everyday…
    cheers, πŸ˜‰

    • Hi Jingle. Thank-you so much for your jingle for my “wow-cow”! πŸ™‚

  10. you did a good job… it kills me that she’ll end up being hamburger meat 😦

  11. its a good palette.
    i like these softer colours.
    But i like how you toned it most.
    i often think that tone is far more important than colour

    • Thanks, Kokot.I agree with you. Value is of utmost importance.If I think about it, she could be a pink cow and all the values of pink! I thank you for noticing that I concentrated on the lights and darks of it.

  12. I love this! The muted color scheme in the background, as well as pushing the cow into the corner, makes for an eye-catching focal point. You captured a great expression, as well. Living in a city in the Midwest has its benefits: a great array of subjects!

    • Thank-you, Bree. You know your composition. The photo actually had her placed dead center and I knew I had to change that or add some other things going on like the barn or a tree or something. Instead I tried to place her near eye near a focal point area and lighten the background to “pop” her dark form.

  13. Awww. She’s lovely. My grandfather kept cows for years–Herefords. I loved feeding and brushing them. Your painting is great. She has a sleepy but patient look. Thanks for sharing it.

  14. Another wonderful painting of animal. Love this gentle creature, I did see a Holstein cow back in 2006 when visiting NZ at the time. Really like the hair coming out from the side of the mouth and nose and the contrast of the dark body againt the light.

    • Thank-you, Francis. I scratched those hairs out with a razor blade. I tried hard for black this time without losing the other colors completely.

  15. This is really good. It has a real emotional punch. The viewer can sense the atmosphere around the cow, and the form of the animal; the darks are in the front and lights are in the distance.

    • Thank-you, Jay. I think I like painting animals like you like doing portraits. This was fun, trying for the black and getting “stopped” by the color. πŸ™‚

  16. There is a beauty in this painting that I’m convinced comes from your love of the subject. When we engage with the painting and its subject we feel a little of what you feel about the cow. It’s delightful. I particularly like the way you have painted the sunlight in the background.

  17. Hah! Cows never seem to budge when confronted with people. They always tend to be more curious. I love this painting Leslie, and really like the leg kicking out. I also love the folds in its skin.

    • Hi Heather! I thought that leg made for nice composition and helped the serene look. Thank-you.

  18. Awww, she’s a cutie. I do think you like painting animals. And you’re so good at it.

    She’s a beauty. I like your limited palette too. You’ve managed to get great darks with it.

    Ms. Holstein looks happy and content. I like her.

    • Thanks, Carol. I do love painting animals. The limited palette is working out fine. I have tons to learn!

  19. I love this painting! Maybe it is the cheerful colors you have used for shading that make the cow seem even more content.

    It is interesting that using a limited color array has provided such colorful expression for something that is normally black and white?

    • Thank-you, Nancy. I can’t tell you how long it has taken me to find some colors that are just plain flexible. I am having a blast with these!

  20. This is lovely Leslie – I like how you have captured the sheen on the black skin – cows are a great subject – I hope you do more.

    • Thank-you, Stephen. I’m trying two new things. Working with a limited palette and achieving black from mixtures of other colors, mixed on the paper. Your comment about the sheen on the black skin just made my day! Thank-you. πŸ™‚

  21. I saw this post so late! I am in love with this cow.Your limited palette has worked. Painting a cow has been on my wishlist too. One of these days Leslie , I’ll do it. Your painting tempts me too much.

    • I must be getting pretty sneaky to have slipped a big black and white cow right past you, Raji. πŸ™‚ Honestly, I didn’t mean to. I will watch for your cow painting. Was sorry to hear about your scanner. I keep visiting. We will all still be here when you get up and running again. Can’t wait to see the pastel.

  22. I love cows… and yours is soooo amazing… beyond amazing… i want to hug it… if thats a good idea… we’ll just have to guess… but that is soooo beautiful!!!

    • Thank-you, Tristan. The fact that you think she is beautiful enough to hug pleases me so much. That is how I wanted her to appear…..:)

  23. I like your color palette for this piece.

    • Thank-you, Littlelynx. I like this palette too. I used it for the previous post and for the robins and Sarah’s sheep. They all look so different by how I mix the colors and what I choose to be dominant. It has been great fun.

  24. Leslie, your cow is beautiful.

    I used to live in Amish country and have a few photos of Amish draft teams. Not many, but you’re welcome to use them. I’ll send them on if you like.

    • Thank-you, Anne! That is very generous of you! I would like to give it a go. I will e-mail you.

  25. Hello Leslie,

    I would like to buy the rights to use this painting 1 time for a 8.5×11 cover for an organizations annual report. Around 250 copies will be printed for this report. Thank You.


    • Hi Kenneth,
      Thank you for your interest. I will contact you via email.

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. By Blog Archive « Kirstyfliesfree's Blog on 23 Jan 2010 at 6:40 am

    […] by this post I have decided to post this photo taken a few days ago, on the same night as my previous post […]

  2. By Belgians at Pasture « Leslie White on 24 Aug 2011 at 11:23 pm

    […] in this area and I was out and about gathering photos of scenes I wanted to paint. The “Holstein” painting I posted, last year, came from this excursion. This was painted on toned masa paper […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: