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Above is a painting that has taken much thought and stretched me to the maximum of my abilities. It began with a request from my daughter for a watercolor, by me, for her wedding invitation.  I felt honored by the request and had visions of all the colorful things I could try. Visions of two hands clasping, flowers, a pathway through a beautiful landscape, etc. Then she said, “I would like it to be two horses touching noses, perhaps. Could you make one decidedly feminine and the other more masculine?”  I said, “But, it’s a wedding!”  She said, “We are trying to incorporate something for both of us that means a lot to us through the colors we choose and the invitations and the decorations.”  How could I argue that as I was the one who exposed her to horses, in the first place. Why not?

The first roadblock was finding reference material to work from. There are lovely photos of horses but there is a little thing called plagiarism. Thanks to wet canvas, I found several images that I thought I could work with. BUT!!!!! The light was poor on the subjects, the colors drab and I was going to need lots of help from my own background to pull this off.

The above image is my first attempt and may be the one they use as they like it very much.  I changed the colors of the original horses to gold. I wanted to pass on some hidden meaning that I hope their relationship is  successful and the best it can be as they bring the golden parts of themselves to work toward the best for them and their family. I chose to paint the background in varying shades of copper, like the copper penny, wishing them luck along the way. I had to elongate and bulk up the form of the horse on the right to fit the request for that one to appear as masculine as he does. My daughter pointed out that he ended up looking like her old quarter horse,” Buddy”, when I was finished. Perhaps a little memory of him slipped into my mind as I created him. I had to refine and change some lines on the horse to the left to make her look feminine.  By far, the most difficult task was sculpting the forms in their faces. I used yellow ochre, yellow ochre light, raw sienna, a little burnt sienna, halloween orange and even some quin gold and aureolin before I was satisfied.  The grays around the muzzles and eyes were mixtures of halloween orange and magnesium blue in varying strengths.

I have one more attempt using two other subjects for the next one and changing the color scheme so that she has two to choose from. I will post it if it should be halfway presentable.

Thank-you to fellow blogger and friend, June Malone, who has gone before me in wedding invitation illustration. Everytime my mind said, “I can’t.”,  I thought of her and the joy with which she moved forward and created a wonderful image for her relative’s invitation.


  1. Wow Have you been busy. I have been looking at all your work painted this year and I am impressed. I have been stuck in my studio for the last 2 months working on ONE painting. It was like having a tooth pulled to get it the way I wanted. Ha Ha

  2. They came out wonderfully loving, Leslie! Beautiful for a wedding. I admire your daughter for going for such non-orthodox theme, and her mother for making the image this soulful, full of love and connectedness.

    I also wanted to mention that I appreciated your negative spaces. As an artist I look at strange things sometimes, and that sliver of negative space between their heads is a beautiful shape.

    • Thank-you for pointing out that negative space shape. I remember being very careful about it but had not really concentrated on its’ shape. The horse heads also suggest a heart shape if you squint at them. Thank-you for some insightful comments, here, Alex!

  3. You very well connected to your daughter’s idea and this is going to be a one of its kind with wedding invitations with regard to originality and concept. You did a great job in bringing out the masculine and feminine energies out of those lovely faces, great job Leslie!

    • Thank-you for saying it looks as though I connected with the feminine and masculine part of her request, Padmaja. She surely is going to have a “one of its kind”. Thanks, Padmaja!

  4. I think your daughter had a great idea, and it was wonderful that you have pulled it off for her. The two horses are gorgeous and The one on the left is quite feminine. Love it!

    • She did have a great idea. She has incorporated some of both of their favorite things into their celebration and honored family members at the same time. She’s making memories. Thank-you for your comment, Debbie! 🙂

  5. Talk about an act of love – bravo, mom. I admit finding it difficult imagining you being nervous. I envision someone putting a paint brush in your hand and you going through your creative Rolodex to choose which one to paint.

    The invitation will be gorgeous (how can you top that one?) – that painting shows one definitely interested mare ready to nuzzle her favourite stallion. Course, he’s being cool. “Anyone looking?”

    The kind of gift that is stored in the heart and lasts forever…

    • The nervous part always happens when someone has a specific request. I think that is just me. I can happily create and render and try, but put a specific request on the table and that old worry machine starts up. I guess it is akin to “am I good enough?”. I love that about the “creative Rolodex”! That’s the way I felt about you talking about what to do with the lady in the red coat! Ha! Great fun this creative journey we have allowed ourselves to take.
      Thank-you for a very insightful comment! 🙂

    • PS Yes, he does look like he’s being “cool”! Ha!

  6. aloha Leslie – yeah – i caught the sense of female/male right off in this – way before i read what you had to say… and the composition feels like there is a heart in it in some way – altho i know there isnt (i dont think i’d want there to be one – but i like the idea that it feels like there is – and that is enough) – so i think the feeling of this is spot on for the intent. i like the reasonings you often go through on color and composition – much as you’ve done here. in my own world i’ve been thinking about paintings and/or drawings and cards and the idea of combining what i do on paper once i get it into a digital form, with digital workings too. it seems to me you have a lot of possibilities in this way as well… fun. and good wishes on your daughter and S-I-L’s (to be) wedding and life.

    • bwahahaha – i just read through some of the comments now (after writing my comment above) and see, that you too felt that “heart” presence in the image. cool. and yeah, i also agree about regarding the power of the negative space/shape between the heads in the work. excellent.

      • Thank-you for your good wishes for the couple, Rick! …and thank-you for your insightful comments. I am glad you did not miss the hint of a heart in this composition. I wondered if anyone would see it. You have confirmed that it is there. The noses make up the base of the heart and their jaws the bulky upper portion. My daughter saw it right off in the drawing. Thank-you!

  7. Oh my gosh, Leslie!! This is so wonderful! I applaud your daughter and her fiance, in their creativity in making their wedding truly their own. You did an amazing job on bringing the genders into play and provoking emotion, along with using symbolic colors to represent your wishes for them. It’s an amazing gift you are giving your daughter and son in-law to be! I am so touched! 🙂

    • Thank-you, Beth. I have warmed to this request as I realise that they have really sought to include something of themselves and others they love in this moment in their lives. Once I got going with it, I actually became thankful tht they had requestedthis. As you know, I’d rather be painting animal portraiture than anything else. Thank-you for your comments, here! 🙂

  8. Oh, Leslie! What a beautiful idea and execution. I love the copper background with the golden horses, and you certainly depicted their sexes perfectly. Such a unique and inspiring invitation!

    • Thank-you, Kate! I am really appreciative of the positive feedback everyone is giving this. Now thatI think of it. I would have preferred horses on mine, also.

    • Sandrine Pelissier
    • Posted February 15, 2011 at 12:35 am
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    This painting worked out very well, I am not surprised they liked it very much 🙂
    The design, the colors !! everything is great.
    The horses look definitely like male and female.

    • It is so hard for me to attempt to put another’s request on paper. I don’t think it is so much that it is their idea but more like an unsurety that I can even “do” what they want. Your comment means a lot. Thank-you, Sandrine!

  9. I’m learning something everytime I come here, from you and your readers. I’m learning to see colours, shapes, methods, symbols and meanings etc in your art. Even your daughter’s request is also a lesson for me on creativity and uniqueness/originality. I love the gold colour and it’s obvious it’s a wise and appropriate choice. In fact, all colours work. Maybe it’s the shape but the eye of the male horse also caught my attention. This is beautiful work, Leslie!

    • Wow!!!!! I love it that you are learning, here, Earthianne! Your comment reflects such!
      The eye? The eyes were placed in what an artist refers to as “sweet spots” or a good place to locate a center of interest for the viewer. The fact that there are two eyes places a significant challenge for the artist to draw the viewer to one or the other. I accentuated the shape of the eye on the male horse so his eye became the place for your eye to settle for awhile. See how observant you are!!!! Thank-you!

      • Oh, ok, I’ll add “sweet spots” to my “critiquing vocabulary”. 🙂

      • 🙂 You actually HELPED me with the comment you made!

  10. Leslie, this is very beautiful. I got the feeling of “Heart Light” immediately. It glows with love and warmth. I had a friend who was in the same situation. Her daughter also used her painting for bookmarks that were given as tokens at the reception.

    • Thank-you, Linda! That is such a cool idea! Do you mean she cut up the original painting into pieces and made the bookmarks that way?…or she had the bookmarks printed from the painting? I like the idea of everyone getting a piece of the real painting. I am going to remember that idea!

      • My friend used a digital image and had bookmarks printed. Your paintings are so beautiful, I hate to think about them being cut up but I understand the emotion and desire to share your joy.

      • Thank-you for the idea. The daughter is thinking about possible bookmarks as favors and wants the printer to print them. She also wants to have one matted and use it as a guest book, asking the guests to sign the matte. Thank-you, Linda!

    • asmalltowndad
    • Posted February 15, 2011 at 9:13 am
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    So unique and beautiful, what a great idea. Tell your daughter good luck and best of wishes!

    • I certainly will tell her, Ryan. Thank-you for the comment!

  11. This is great!I love your watercolor.Specialy with the horses.
    Thank you for share it with us,dear Leslie!

    Have a nice day! 🙂

  12. Wonderful!

  13. Beautiful painting with such attention to the request. I love your symbology of the golden parts of the bride and groom and the luck of a copper penny.

    • 🙂 Had to get that copper penny idea in there someplace! Thank-you, Nancy!

    • napabelle
    • Posted February 15, 2011 at 10:06 am
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    Oh, what a beautiful rendering ! And a fabulous idea. It works very well Leslie, they are so sweet! My ! You must be quite excited ! You did a fantastic job, it will be for ever so special to your daughter !

    • Thank-you, Isabelle. You are so correct in saying this will be special for her as for me to feel grateful that she asked me. One more attempt and then she can have her favorite of the two.

  14. I love the Golden horses Leslie! There are so many connoctations with weddings to be derived from horses (I’m thinking ‘love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage 🙂 and horseshoes for luck ..or even a lasso lol). It’s a pity that the negative space couldn’t incorporate a heart shape 🙂 But the ears would have to be altered I suppose. I do hope they go with these golden horses – they are delightful and so gentle 🙂

    • You are so creative! I need to e-mail you when I get requests from people. The “lasso” idea had me laughing! I think the heart shape is there in the jaws of the horses and noses. The negative space between their heads looks almost like a stretched diamond but I see what you are saying. That would have been so cool if it had been a heart. Thank-you for such an insightful comment and making me laugh!! 🙂

  15. I find these absolutely beautiful..unique 🙂

  16. Leslie, you do wonderful things when you claim to STRETCH your abilities. What a lovely gift! You just keep on extending your self proclaimed “limits” until there are no limits at all!

    • Thank-you so much, Eva. Made my day and probably a few more, this comment has.

  17. Leslie, you executed your task beautifully and expertly. Of course, I would have expected no less! It is a lovely piece and I love the way you thought out the colors you used and what they symbolized. I think using gold for the horses was a great choice as they have this wonderful quality of light – sort of like they are glowing from within. Kudos!

    • Wow. I like that about glowing from within. I think this is one reason blogging helps me. I get more ideas and help from all of you! Thank-you, Kathleen!

  18. Stretched to the limits of your abilities.
    I dont believe it.
    Do you have any limits with watercolour?
    I think this is great. quite intimate in a way

    • Val Erde
    • Posted February 16, 2011 at 9:15 am
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    This is lovely, Leslie. May I suggest some gold ink as a border for it?

    • A gold border sounds lovely, Val! Thank-you! 🙂

  19. Fantastic Leslie. Showing off some fine skills as both draughtsman and painter. The light is beautiful and the composition works wonderfully well. I know how difficult it can be to make a scene from many different references. You however seem to pull everything off. I think this is a beautiful piece of work and I can see why your daughter is so delighted.

    • I am always intimidated when I have to try to put together something someone requests. I think that is that old lack of confidence thing at play. I always want to please and not fall short. I have a second one about halfway done. They are two different horses but it is actually a little interesting how not too much looks drastically different. I used a different format on the second one and different horses as well as a different color scheme. We’ll see. Thank-you for your comments on this. At least I know she likes this one so the pressure is off. 🙂

  20. Oh, I love horses and this is beautifully executed. You know, Leslie, another thing that comes to mind with this as a theme for the wedding invitations is the suggestion that your daughter and her hubby-to-be are “thoroughbreds.”

    Wonderful job. Congrats to your family on this pending happy event.


    • Oh how my daughter and son-in-law-to-be will be overjoyed with this comment, Jamie. You have made their day!!!! 🙂 Thank-you!

    • caroline
    • Posted February 17, 2011 at 3:39 pm
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    Of course i think this is wonderful! The 2 horses…perfect for Corey!

    • Hi Aunt Caroline! Thank-you for this! We would not have minded either, don’t you think!?

  21. The horses look so gentle and calm. I like how you capture the animal spirit. You are the master. Great painting.

    • Hi Francis! When I saw this comment, I hurried over to your site to see if you had posted but you are still celebrating Christmas over there! 🙂 Thank-you for the comment and, more than that, it is good to hear from you!!

  22. A lovely painting and beautiful colours. This will be so special for your daughter. And isn’t it special that she asked you to do it!

    • Absolutely and totally special, Cecily. 🙂 Thank-you!

  23. Leslie, you can and you did!! Just look at the painting of the two horses ( in love )for the wedding invitation. And it is so special that your daughter asked you to do it for them! You all will remember it for a very long time. Well done, again!

    • Thank-you, Jan! I just learned, today, they want to have this matted and ask their guests to sign the matte around the painting. Guess it is going to serve as a guestbook, also, to be framed as a memory. She is so innovative.

      • Hi Leslie – I told you – the kids will remember you as well as your beautiful painting for a very long time. Great!! Enjoy the weekend.

    • aswirly
    • Posted February 18, 2011 at 4:57 pm
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    What a special thing to paint for your daughter’s wedding invitation. This is so very special AND beautiful. I love how you can tell which one is the boy and which one is the girl 😉

  24. I love the beautiful colors in this painting. I don’t know if I would have gotten the male/female horses since I’m so unfamiliar with them, but once explained I saw it immediately.

    This will be a very unique wedding invitation image. Best wishes to your daughter and her beau.

    • In the second one, I don’t think I created a distinct difference between male and female, either. Maybe this was just beginner’s luck. Thank-you, Carol!

  25. Congratulations to your family. I feel this image would make a wonderful Valentine!

    • Thank-you, Al. I think it would make a Valentine, also. 🙂 Thanks for pointing that out.

  26. It came out perfect for the wedding card. Look forward to see the second version. This is the first time I am hearing about using a watercolor painting to design a wedding invitation.

    • Hi Raji,
      It is the first time I have heard of it also. I went online and looked at many examples of invitations, however, and found some done tastefully with images on them. We will see what can be done. I hope we can come up with something like that. I think we can. Thank-you so much for the comment!

  27. Beautiful painting! I could tell right away that the horse on the right is the male and the horse on the left is female; even before I read the description. I thought a different color background could have made the horses ‘pop’ more, but I like that it represent luck. Great job! And Congratulations to your daughter. 🙂

    • Yes. I think the gender is easier to tell in this one. I agree with you on the color of the background. I just wanted to get that in there. At first, I thought about making the horses a coppery red and then changed my mind. Thank-you, Littlelynx! 🙂

  28. there’s such love and mutuality oozing from these beautiful golden creatures, leslie. this is perfect for your daughter’s wedding invite…for all that represents the best of marriage. strength, grace, face to face…i love it!

    • I like how you describe that, “strength, grace, face to face”. You are so good with words, JRuth! Thank-you!

  29. What a wonderful story and opportunity! How nice to be stretched, and I want to say, I think this is one of your best animal paintings. I’m sure your daughter will treasure it always.

    • Thank you, Yousei. She loves it. Next Saturday we go to talk to the printer.

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