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The above is the second and final attempt at an illustration for my daughter’s wedding invitation.  I tried, once again, to choose my colors to send a message within the painting and tried to make one more masculine and the other feminine, but think they could be either in this depending  on the energy of the individuals.  I chose to represent gray horses as they are born a color and slowly turn white over the years. Much different than a truly white horse that is born white. I hoped to represent the idea that we all have gray areas in our lives that  become more clear and less gray as we steadily grow. I wish for them this growth in their relationship and shared journey together.  I chose the colors of blue and yellow running together in the background.  The yellow representing knowledge of self and the blue to represent truth. Through their self truths running together,  they begin to blend and come forward as green(stands for the heart chakra) and filled with unconditional love. For these ideas I went loosely with the different chakra colors for what they represent.  There are many interpretations of what color stands for so I understand the colors that I chose could mean something different to another.

For those that like to see the steps in creating this image, I have included the steps below.

The above is the drawing with the first washes of color to the horses. I made a gray from cerulean blue and halloween orange for the darker shadow shapes. I included light washes of permanent rose for areas of warmth where I saw it on the forms. I also used frisket to save white hairs as well as light gray hairs from this wash tone in the horses’ manes.

In the second step, I made a bluer gray from manganese blue and halloween orange and defined the faces of the horses and some of the strands of hair in the mane. I mixed ultramarine blue and halloween orange to make an even darker gray for the points of their ears, mane hairs and to define the muzzles and nostrils. The eyes were created using combinations of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna. The pinkish areas were created using light aureolin and light permanent rose. This gave me enough representation of the forms to go ahead and work my background.

I made soupy wet washes (large) of aureolin and cerulean blue and fed them into the background very quickly and very wet so that they began to run together.  I then picked up the board and tipped it this way and that so the colors began to run together and hint at a bit of green. I allowed this to dry overnight before going on.

Next, I removed the frisket on the mane and forelock areas and began working in strands of gray in all shades. I also detailed the eyes and furthur grayed the pigment around them. This was the stage where I tried to balance everything and punch my darks.

   final painting

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66 Comments

  1. Hi Leslie, I like the golden horses. But it is up to your daughter to decide. It is after all her wedding! LOL Enjoy your week!

    • I think she likes the gold ones better, also, Jan. At least that is what she said the other day. She wants both paintings, however! Thank-you for your input, here. It will be interesting to see which wins out in blogland.
      I usually do two paintings for people with requests like this. I think that comes from my own lack of confidence in being able to reproduce their request.

  2. I like the gold one,Leslie. Really beautiful 🙂

    • Ha! Thanks, Marinela. I guess we have a vote taking place here…what fun1 🙂

  3. You are such a special mom, and and awesome person, Leslie! I love the idea that you choose the gray horses for the explanation you had given. And the other colors for their meaning, make this whole painting perfect for the occasion. Your daughter and future son-in-law are very blessed to have you in their lives to continue to teach them; for your heart is full of love and kindness.
    I love the other one you created just as well (Golden Horses and “Other” Things”, but the meaning described for this one is the one I would choose. You sure know how to create a memory.
    Excellent work, Leslie!

    • You have just made my day, Debbie! Thank-you! That is the same thought I had about gray horses turning white represented the coming together of two individuals and beginning their growth together throughout the years. I liked the colors for a June wedding, also. This was sort of an attempt at something that challenged me and that was to work with grays in watercolor. I chose it as my second attempt due to that challenge. I am still learning just as you are. That brings me to another thought. I want you to know that I am thoroughly enjoying your exploration into this medium…..truly!

  4. What a special Mom you are ! So thoughtful !
    Yes, I do like the golden horses better as well, but these are striking ! Lovely tones!

    • Thank-you, Isabelle for the comment on the work and the “Mom” statement. I’m chuckling about how these individual attempts are turning into a vote between the two.

  5. Wonderful! The gold is more dramatic. The gray has a more spiritual feel … etherial… perhaps in its lightness more appropriate for a wedding. I hope you’ll let us know what your daughter chooses.

    Happy Sunday, Leslie.

    • Thank-you, Jamie, for the thoughtful comment about the difference of the two paintings. I agree with you. It has to be the tone differences in the paintings. They are two different renditions for the same request. I will let everyone know through this comment section what she decides. Happy Sunday returns, Jamie!

  6. You have put a lot of thought and work into this painting Leslie – I love how you have really thought about the colours and what they represent too:-) Another good piece! I can’t wait to find out which one your daughter chooses 🙂

    • Thank-you, Lynda. Sometimes “thinking” totally ruins the experience for me. I did not mind so much with this because they were horses. I have always liked playing around with images of horses.

  7. It’s no surprise the depth of purpose you put in to your choices of colour and stance.

    I like the “energy” of the mare in the Golden painting better – her ears present a sort of eagerness that I like.

    I like how you have detailed the eyes on the horses in the Grey painting. Oh dear.

    It will be quite a decision for your daughter. How fortunate she is to have a mom who has given her two exquisite choices.

    • Thank-you, Amy. I think that golden mare in the other painting is like a figurine she is so refined looking. The ears tilting forward is a sign of eagerness or alertness. I wonder what she will choose. She may wait until we take that trip to the printer’s and see what they can do with these images for her. Thank-you about the eyes on this one. The eyes and the muzzles were slow going.

  8. That’s a wonderful idea/inspiration to work from.
    I know every day my grey areas are lightening up.
    Excellent painting. the bit i like the most is how the head are angled towards each other, almost like they are about to have their first kiss. lol

    • Hey! I like that. I, too, liked that angle, especially of the foreground horse. Your eyes are keen, Richard. I thought this looked like a kiss, also. Thank-you! 🙂

  9. I’m going to go with the one on the left is more masculine. I really like your reasoning for picking the colors you did! Please let us know which one she decides to use. What a hard choice!

    Thank you for putting the step by step up. I really appreciate that!

    • Good choice, Littlelynx. Good choice on the masculine. I think he has a quieter more patient feel about him, so I do think it is anyone’s guess. The foreground one appears to be a little flirtatious? more refined? I will let you know through this comment section so it appears at some point in your My Comments on your blog. I was hoping, by posting step-by-step, that it would be helpful for others. I like them when I visit blogs. They help me to learn new things. Thank-you for your comment in that regard.

  10. I really like the way you think through things. Your discussion on gray horses was very sensitive.

    I think I like how the heads are touching in this one a little more. These seem more “in love”. And I think I can see more of a male/female horse in this one too, but maybe that’s because I knew to look for that in your earlier post.

    I do like the warmer colors of the golden horses though. However, both paintings are quite beautiful. Has your daughter made a decision?

    • I’m thinking the same thing you are, Carol. I like the gesture in this gray one better, but the warmth of the gold in the others is a little more eye-catching because of their warmth. What fun! This has certainly been an exercise for me. If my daughter was a corporation requesting artwork, I’d probably be asked to use the image in the second one and change them to gold. Ha! I am totally glad I am not a free lance illustrator. I am feeling a strong need to get out of this think “mode”. Thank-you for your kind comment, as always. I know horses frighten you. 🙂

  11. Hi Leslie
    These are so beautiful and thoughtful. It is such an intimate picture.
    Wouldn’t it be great if you were to put a note behind the card with all these thoughts.
    Imagine if they could turn to the painting and be inspired in those times in married life when it all seems so tough – maybe the a book with all of your thoughts and preliminary work.
    What a beautiful act of motherhood.

    • Hi Stephen,
      Oh. This was rather intimidating, actually having to put the pieces of another’s vision together. As I said, in the previous post, I had visions of painting two hands clasping or something generically flowery and colorful until she informed me they wanted the horses. I like your idea about somehow including the thoughts behind the painting. One of my sisters actually suggested that, also. Thoughts considered and we will try to figure out a way to do that. Thank-you for the positive reinforcement on these, Stephen!

  12. I love to follow each step Leslie, it’s almost like watching a birth of an idea, bearing it’s fruition when the painter is satisfied and cannot do another stroke…The finished water colour is almost a delicate trysting of the Grey horses heads, such a fantastic use of shading which makes the faces come alive…I love it, and I’m sure your daughter must be tickled pink, or should that be tickled ‘gray’? 😉 xPenx

    • You are so good! with words. I marvel at all you writers that I visit! “Tickled Grey”. I like that. You also outlined exactly what it felt like as I drew and painted these from reference material that was a different color and even differing gestures. Thank-you, Pen! 🙂

  13. Oh my! How are they ever going to decide?? Both of them (this one and the previous golden one) are just awesome. I love the color meanings and the idea behind the gray horses. If I was to pick something that jumped out for me, it’s the demure expression on the right horse in this painting. Giving in, is such a critical part of any marriage and each of us takes turns conceding to the other. I also think either horse can be either gender. Well done!! Beautiful and touching, Leslie!

    • I think it will be interesting what they decide. I like the gray horse, also. Yep, the horse on the right is actually showing interest. The other looks patient and kind, to me. Good thoughts about the giving in and taking turns conceding. I liked that about the gender being able to be either way. Thanks, Beth! Very insightful and helpful! 🙂

  14. Soft and accepting is what I see here with what seems to be a deeper understanding of loving. Ofcourse I love thehorses, all of them, but I gravitate to the grey. I think when I was Corey’s age I would have gravitated to the more physical level appeal of the palominos 🙂
    It is good to grow and appreciate the wisdom that accompanies experience.
    Both colors beautiful and again, I am always amazed at your diversity of talent!

  15. Love the new version! Especially the thoughts that led to this solution. I actually like the new version better as a stand-alone painting, but I like the gold one better for the purpose of the wedding. It is more celebratory in its colors and feel if it make sense.

    • Oh. I know what you mean. I think it might have to do with the idea that the golden horses are warmer colors. Painting grays is a real challenge. I have used them before but not to this extent. Thank-you, Alex!

  16. Wow both are amazing paintings, but I get more of a connection between the two horse with the gray ones. They seemed to be more caught up in each other, but either one would be wonderful. Beautiful clean colors!

    • I agree with you, Ryan. That gray horse on the right, with the curve to the neck and the nose toward the other suggests a little more than the two in the original painting. Thank-you for the comment on clean colors! The grays were quite a challenge. I did not use tube grays but mixed them from other color combinations.

  17. While I think both paintings are very nicely done, I am attracted to the golden brown version. Although, I appreciate your explanation of the colors you used and what it represents in the new version — I feel more connection, warmth and closeness with the golden brown painting. But regardless, as always your paintings are beautiful. 🙂

    • Good observation, Emily! The gold horses are zoomed in on and more bold in their format. All the colors I used, with the exception of the blue to mix their gray muzzles and around their eyes, are warm colors. I find comments such as yours so interesting because it has been my first opportunity to get feedback of this nature that teaches me about the use of color and composition. Thank-you!

  18. O wow,Leslie. What a show stopper this pair is! Great work, Artist. I also appreciated your comments about colors –heart chakras as green and connected to unconditional love. Now there’s a rare thing indeed–unconditional love. Somehow I doubt that Gov.Scott Walker is getting that from lots of folks in WI. LOL. Sorry, that just popped into my braincase at random. Horses, chakras, and love all in one painting process. That’s a lot of awareness, Leslie.

    • Thank-you, Eva! Wish I could get my game on to come up with a way to take some of my horse reference material and render something Native American looking. I tried a couple times and it just hasn’t had the “feel” yet.
      Hey. I have been following this Wisconsin thing. I was a teacher in the public schools (way back when, before children) and was married to a teacher. I remember when it became mandatory for teachers in our state to “have” to belong to NEA. My husband fought it with a small group of others. They lost. It is interesting that 30+ years later this is getting turned around. He had even served as part of the NEA prior to making membership mandatory for all teachers. I’m just saying we, as a family, survived with and without. It is other factors that make or break us.

  19. This is stunning and evocative, Leslie. The concept surrounding the gray horse works on so many levels. I’m amazed by the creation power here, especially with being able to flesh out gender in watercolor. My father-in-law and I can’t determine gender without looking elsewhere 🙂 For it to be done so smoothly here…wow.

    • err…must have had an accidental deletion in my comment. I meant my father-in-law owns a horse farm and I can’t ever determine horse gender from a distance. Again, that detail amazes me.

      • I think gender, in a horse is not so difficult if the male horse is a stallion. Especially one who is exercised, regularly. I think an artist can enhance these distinctions in their subject material. We stretch the truth just like photographers enhance their photos. Great fun!!! …and great observation. Thanks, Bbrasseaux!

  20. This is lovely too Leslie. Choose one? Maybe the gold one, or… difficult. But we will leave that to your daughter.

    • Jill A. England
    • Posted February 22, 2011 at 11:18 am
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    Oh my gosh, Leslie. Both sets of horses are gorgeous!! I am drawn to the grays for many of the same reasons others said they were, too. Mostly, I think I am drawn to the grays because the look you gave to them, especially the one on the left, is such a perfect reflection of how the burdens that horses must often endure can weary and age them too quickly. I also think, however, that it is the prospect of love (and maybe a treat, too) and acceptance – by another horse (as in your piece), or a human (Corey’s situation)- that keeps the hopeful sparkle in their eyes. You have captured the soft eye sparkle here beautifully. I’ve read all of your comments and am amazed at how in tune your viewers seem to be to the nuances of every stroke you make with brush and color. All of those who commented on your Gray Horses seem like true followers of both art and horses. Bravo. The world needs more of those folks. And, for bbraseaux, I’m Leslie’s old, old horse friend, and I never could tell horse gender from a distance, either. It doesn’t matter – just love looking at them – that’s what matters, and I’m glad Leslie gives us the chance to do that so often!!!!!!!

    • Well, HI! old, old horse friend! Guess we both gravitate to the grays, this time, at least. The male palomino? The one in the foreground? “Buddy”. Remember him?
      This is a wonderful blog group. Each and every one of them are creative and writers, photographers or artists. They inspire me and I hope I return the favor, so thank-you for saying what you did about them !AND! for this comment and visiting! “Old, old friend!” 🙂

  21. This really turned out beautiful. It’s fascinating the meaning behind the color choices.

    • Thank-you, Amber. I think, much of the time, I just sit down and record what I see and how I feel about what I see instead of create from a vision that takes more thought like these paintings required.

  22. That’s simply amazing Leslie, and I’m sure your daughter will be blown away… and I think the genders are so clear too..

  23. These are so beautiful. You really have something with these horse portraits! One of my students who visits your blog was going on and on about them. Nice work!

    • Thank-you, Jay. I absolutely have loved drawing horses since I was little. That is all I drew until I attended a formal drawing class.

  24. They’re both beautiful, Leslie! I agree with Jamie Dedes about the gold being more dramatic and the gray having a more spiritual/ethereal feel. In this version, I feel the horse on the left is the male one. I like the addition of the eyelashes and depiction of sweetness/tenderness/romantic closeness of the horses. Comparing the two, I preferred the gold one at first, but since noticing the pink overtones (?), which for me seems to show the love that emanates from both of them, and being a sucker for love, I think I’d pick the grey for the wedding invitation. But that’s me. 🙂

    • My daughter should read your comment, Earthianne. I think you could help her make up her mind. 🙂 This is all great information for me, though. I am just thankful that you, amongst others who have commented, here, are supportive of these images. Thank-you so much! 🙂

  25. Another great rendition,Leslie.I also agree with most of the comments here. The step by step helped me understand how the painting came about.

    • Thank-you, Raji! Sometimes it is just fun to see an artist’s progress through a composition even if we don’t try what they did.

  26. Both the gold and the grey horses are stunning, but i think your message from the grey horses stands out, i feel inspired on how you choose the colors that is meaningful and how the horses changed colors when they are older. I bet she will be very happy to receive her gift from a very thoughful mom.

    • Thank-you for your comment about the color choices. My daughter likes both paintings and has said she wants to try and use both of them. Now, I don’t know which one will be used for what. 🙂 Thanks, Francis!

  27. Beautiful!
    🙂

  28. Your daughter’s wedding invitation???!!! What what what???!!! OH!!! Congratulations! HOW WONDERFUL!!! and what a glorious, sweet invitation! Sigh. Thank You and Cheers and Namaste. 🙂

  29. I choose this one. I like the way the foreheads touch – it shows an intimacy so appropriate for a wedding invitation. Such a lucky couple to have you do their invitation painting!

    • The gray ones are my favorite, also, Kate. They are closer, as if they have a connection. Good point. I had not thought about that. I suppose I was going on the gesture the foreground horse was making, so thank-you for that new insight. Thank-you, Kate. Had she not specifically requested horses, this painting would have been quite different. As is, it will certainly be somewhat unique to their celebration.

  30. Ok, i have finally read all the beautiful comments from everyone, and i have made my decision. But first i would like to thank everybody for their thoughts on both paintings. It helped alot. Thank you for being such wonderful followers to my moms awesome artwork. I have been very blessed to have such a wonderful artist as my mom. Many of her paintings are hanging in my house, so i’m surrounded by her warmth. My decision is to use both of them on my invitation! I love the gold ones for the boldness and the male one looks like my old horse, Buddy. The gray ones are more artistic and do seem more in love.

    • Thank you so much, Corey. This touches my heart. It was well worth the time spent just to read how much you appreciate my efforts! Tears of joy.

  31. I’m not sure how I stumbled across this page when searching for blue hair dye, but I’m so very pleased I did! This picture is so beatiful, what a gift to be able to share with others and how pleased must your daughter have been to be the special recipient 🙂 Hope wedding went well?

    Are there prints available to purchase? Sorry if this is mentioned on the site somewhere, I’m trying to read it all but keep gettting sidetracked viewing your work – love it all 🙂

    • Well, thankyou! 🙂 I think it is a hoot that this came up under blue hair dye! I don’t have prints of my work. I have sold my work but it is for the originals. I have no online site to sell, at this time.


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