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Zane's Horse Barn

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"Zane's Horse Barn" started out much like any other painting, but I had no idea what lie ahead with this giant painting. I ventured out to take some winter scenes. I found this scene and and took a few shots with my digital camera. (A)

When I got home, I looked over the shots from the day, and I realized that the shot of this huge old barn was one of those classics that had so much charm that I'd have to paint it soon. Then, about a month later, I was in an art supply store and noticed a huge, damaged canvas, about 4 x 5 feet. I got it for a song and brought it home. But what to paint on it? After repairing it, I decided to attempt that big, picturesque barn. I love a challenge!


A

I played with the shot in Photoshop for a while and thought at first that I would create it in a very impressionistic style. But somehow, the scene was not ringing true for me with that particular look. (B)

B
It was such a quiet landscape and really needed a simple, quiet look. Finally, after messing around and lightening it some, I got the look and soft brightness I wanted. I printed out this version.(C).
C
I reduced the shot to black and white for a print out to project onto the canvas. I only wanted to capture the placement and main objects of the scene and pencil them in. (D).


D
After coating the drawing with spray fixitive, I began a series of washes. I wanted to really have some warm tonality to the underpainting to keep the scene from getting too cold and chose some unorthodox colors to do it with just for fun: rubine rust for the barn, cobalt and torquoise for the sky, lavendar for the foreground and a nice yellow wash for the lighter parts of the barn. (E)
E
Next, I went in with a wash of white to tone down the barn and sky. Then, I went in using burnt seinna and black to rough in the tree trunks and darks and a mixture of kelly green and cobalt for the pines. At this stage I'm painting extremely rough, just trying to get the shapes onto the canvas and see what I want to put in and leave out of the scene for balance. I like to leave myself the luxury of editing things as I go, so I don't want to spend a great deal of time now trying to perfect them, only to delete them later. (F)
F

I've gone in here and put in the gate, the hay conveyer, and just a wash of brown to show the horses. Remember, this is a large canvas, these washes take a lot of paint and energy. This is the second day. I'm starting to use dark purple and brown to deliniate the trees in the background near the horizon. I want those to be lost in a fog so I'm going to make sure they are the first thing to be painted and washed over. As well, I've put in the first glimmer of clouds into the sky right over my trees, but they give me some trouble later, as you will see. (G)
G


Here's what happened next: I ended up painting 2 completely different skies then what the shot above shows. I put in a new sky that I thought was reasonable, fluffy clouds, nice shapes, etc. But, they really got buried when I started putting in the tree limbs. They didn't match the flow of the limbs, so I changed it to what you see here. I added hills behind the trees, for added depth and space. I also re-worked the pines. This represents over a month of work because the trees alone were hours upon hours of painting.

I also moved the horses and their hay to the left, replacing the standing one with another horse from the same day's photos that I liked better due to his position. (H1)

I also took a tree and moved it on top of the barn because there was too much tension as it was positioned right on the corner earlier. I removed one large tree behind the barn to open up the sky a bit. (H2)


H2

H1

I

J


OK, I'll admit it, I was so engrossed over getting this right, I totally forgot to record many steps. Here are some details that show what was done. (I, J, K) At this point, I was getting lost painting limbs and branches, trying to make sure which ones crossed over correctly and correcting the wrong ones, shadows under them, perspectives... I realized that I had created a huge monster-mess of trees. I simply had to press on and finish it but it took me a few weeks. Sometimes enjoyable, sometimes... well, let's just say work.

K

With the trees whipped into shape, I decided to get the barn started. I did a series of washes over the underpainting, greys, whites, and lavenders, making sure to keep the face of the barn lighter than the side. I also went into the foundation and put in the underpainting for the concrete. (L) Remember, this barn is actually about the size of a large dog house on the canvas, so details help keep the scale correct.

L
As I was putting in details of the windows, I kept noticing that my reference was too small to figure out things and this led to me improvising the window frames as mitered corners. At some point, I just decided that this was not a good idea. I wanted to be accurate with those details, so I went out and shot some more pictures at a closer range. (M, N) I'm glad I reshot those because as you can see, those are not at all what I had.
M

N

O

P
Here is a shot of the corrected windows and some other corrected features that I had wrong. As well, I've finished the roof and foundation details and am ready to move on to the snow and foreground trees. (O, P, Q, Q1)

Q

Q1

Here I've gone in and put in the snow around the barn. Since the trees are on top, I'll put those back in over the snow and roof later. I use a bit of black and cobalt mixed with white to make the shadows and before the snow was painted in, I put in all the dark areas with black and sienna. This way, the snow buries the dark areas under it and it looks more natural. (R)


R

S
Just when I thought I was done with tree limbs... here are more. But I'm nearly halfway done at this point, so it's kind of exciting. Things are shaping up well and these trees took nearly a day to finish. I basically paint in the shapes with solid black and then build up the highlights. For the maple (the light grey one) I kept using layers of dove grey and white and ended with putting little red buds on the tips. Maples set their buds in the fall and hold them through the winter. (S)
I was finally ready to attempt the horses. I had not done many animals in a while and had never done horses in my life, wanting to avoid that particular area since I could remember in high school, the girls drawing horses endlessly in art class and the cliches that seemed to conjur for me. Well, I see now what they were taken by. Amazing bodies and structure. I had to study up on them before attempting this, and did some close examination before painting. My efforts were a bit off of the mark and you will see that in the next shot, I had to adjust the head size of the standing horse as it looked too large, even though it was pretty much to scale of the photo. (T)
T

Here's a shot of the finished fence in front of the horses and the weeds in front of it, as well, the snow has all been worked in. The fence was a challenge. I had to draw the lines in pencil and go back and paint each wire in and in some cases put the hi-lights on the wire. I basically used dove grey for most of it and went back over it with a wash of white to blend it back into the scene as it was a bit harsh. The posts were fun because anything with old wood and paint is great to get creative on and just make it as mangled and old as you want. (U)

At this point I figured the painting was complete. (V)


U


But wait! Something is wrong... how did those horses get from the barn to that area of scattered hay? Did they float over there? Were they air-lifted from the barn? Where are their tracks???!!! Arrggghhh!!!

Somehow, I was so close to this thing, I missed a very important detail. I would have felt pretty stupid if I would have let this one get out like this. So, it's back to the easel to put in their trail.


V
OK, this time it's really done and here's the final. I spent about 3 hours putting in the trail from the barn, using black, umber and sienna with washes of white. Looking back, I wish I would have remembered it earlier, but considering everything else I'm happy with the results.

Zane's Horse Barn

Acrylic on Canvas

4 x 5 feet