I was in the middle of doing some experimental and landscape paintings when I saw one of the most gorgeous photos of some horses in Iceland.  Fortunately, this photo belonged to a longtime client of mine.  She travels a bit too and takes amazing photos of her journey.  For some reason, I was compelled to ask if I could paint this photo.  I was moved by the beauty of the family of horses and the way they were positioned.  Each was very individual yet they all interconnected with each other.  And it reminds me that the concept of family goes way beyond humans or even animals.  The love of family keeps life alive, and can never be underestimated.

photo credited to R. Goodfriend

Phase 1

The painting started with a dark grey oil coat, which was challenging enough as I took some white chalk to create the first outlines of the horses.  It was the first time I used white chalk to create a drawing.  But this is the foundation of the whole painting, so it must be proportionally correct.

glowing horses

The glowing horses


Phase 2

Time to put in the large splotches of color and create the shapes.  The detail goes in later so everything looks pretty flat, doesn’t it?  It’s ok for now, this is the prelude to the detail coming up.

Icelandic horse family 2

Color them horses!

Phase 3

So now comes the detailing, which is always the most fun and hardest part of it.  I have drawn human hair way more than horse hair, so I knew I had to be patient with this part of the process.  So I took a big brush with light yellow color I mixed with white and a touch of red to make the mother’s hair.  Same with the baby’s hair.  The father’s hair took the longest because it was the most complex.  I used big and small brushes, and used a palette knife in some areas, including the hair and his body.

This part of creating the bond between mother and child was a sensitive process too, and wanted her expression to be as genuine as possible.  And creating the baby’s eye was as detailed as I could get.  It had to be in the right spot of the head or it would look way off.  Luckily, I wasn’t thinking “make or break” moments, just trying to get it right.  This wasn’t my first time at the rodeo.

Phase 4

Icelandic Horse Family

‘Iceladic Horse Family’
11×14 oil on panel

To conclude, the mother’s hair and ears were among the last elements for completion. It came out better than I thought. I added the reddish colors to the father horse towards the end (no pun intended) that made the skin texture more authentic and beautiful. I knew where the darkest and lightest parts of the painting were going to be, and that was helpful too. This was my first horse commission and hopefully not my last. It was good fun to do.

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