Wednesday, 3 August 2011


For several months emails have been flying backwards and forwards between me and Bertie's Mum.   I believe she has four horses which keep her very busy so it isn't easy taking photos.  However the first couple of ref pictures she provided were full body and so small that when I tried to enlarge them to see detail they pixelated horribly.   I received more photos but they were all of a similar size - not sure if they were taken by mobile phone?   Anyway, I decided that I'd just have to do my best with the ones I had as time is marching on.

This is the pose that Bertie's Mum liked best - he does have a lovely alert, cheeky expression here but from an artist's perspective it probably isn't the easiest pose as its easy to foreshorten the face because of the camera angle.   I've been working on this on and off for a couple of days but today I'm off to do my weekly voluntary stint at the Pilgrims Hospice eBay office so will have a break and get back to the portrait with fresh eyes on Thursday. 

This is the cropped ref photo I'm working from - as you can see it looks quite clear until you try to enlarge it.  I'm sure I read about a method of enlarging photos without them pixelating too much via PhotoShop but I can't remember where - any ideas?

apologies for the variance in colours - I'm using light grey Clairefontaine Pastelmat paper which is almost white and my camera doesn't like the black/grey/white/blue combination.    Its trying to turn everything too blue.

The initial outline - with a lot of 'guesstimating' with the bridle etc.  I've starting trying to build up facial contours using blues, browns and grey pastels

Getting there .... a bit more tidying up needed then I'll email Bertie's Mum to get her thoughts - looking at it on screen now I'm wondering whether to 'lose' the rein (on our left)  as it doesn't really add anything to the composition?


Sadami said...

Absolutely beautiful!! Oh, you do not know I have been a horse crazy since childhood. I sometimes go for sketch horses near a beach. Nice.

Bev said...

You have my sympathy Sue, I am trying to do a dog which has passed on and the photos are awful, blurred, small and dull. The joy of taking commissions hey?

Cant help with the pixalation problem, what I thought worked, doesn't. LOL.

I agree I would 'loose' the rein, it does nothing and is a distraction. Otherwise he looks great.

Jan/ said...

Hey Sue, this looks terrific for such a bad ref!

You got my curiosity aroused and I went searching for a means to enlarge photos (don't we all need that from time to time!). I emailed you one software program I'd found that was pretty pricey to buy but have since found a free software called the Smilla Enlarger. I've downloaded it but not tried it yet. Here's the link if you want to try it too:

(not sure how blogger works as far as links go so you may have to copy and paste the link into your browser window)

Jan/ said...

Just tried the Smilla enlarger and it works very well especially for a free program.

I enlarged your horse from the size you have posted to over twice the size with very little loss of detail. Overall, I'd say it would be worth it to download.

Oh, it's a bit confusing to open/install but maybe David can figure it out. I'd help you but I don't know if I could do it again!

sue said...

Thank you Sadami
I'm a horse lover but sometimes go months without getting an equine commission so its a treat to have 2 in a row!

Jan - thanks so much. I've just got in from my 'day job' at the Hospice charity so will take a look at the link later. I remember the method I used before had very complicated instructions but I just can't find where I filed the details (they'll be in a safe place somewhere) lol

Jennifer Rose said...

looking really good :D the angle can be a challenge and you are doing such a good job with it

Sally McLean said...

Wow! Gorgeous work Sue! Especially from a poor photo!

Deborah Adams,Long Beach, California. said...

Fantastic job!! I think you're right and would loose the rein. :-)

Love your work!

~ Deb

Chrissy said...

Sue, you are doing a great job...I really struggle with the pixelation thing so some interesting comments by otheres too can be so difficult. Agree with lossing that rein :)

hmuxo said...

WOW! Sue...incredible! Thank you for that WIP. Beautifully painted. Your love for horses comes through!!

Dors said...

Stunning job Sue. It's not easy when you have to draw from a bad photo. You did a great job and I am sure your client will be extremely happy.

tracey said...

Hi Sue It's Berties Mummy Tracey
I love love love what you have done and I can only apologies for the poor pics didn't realies it would cause you so much trouble !!! BUT you have done a fantasic job - you have captured Berties character to a T xx He is a checky loveable dude ;-)AND I am so glad you decided to loose the reins lol .... Again Thank you so much

sue said...

Hi Tracey

I'm really pleased that you're happy. I've emailed you separately re. mailing address.

Black (or white) animals are always more difficult from 'less than perfect' refs as its harder to pick out the other colours in their coats which stop the end portrait looking 'flat'. The more detail thats visible the better the end result will be. Although you probably can't see it, I've used blues, browns, mauves and even some greens in Bertie's coat.

I've worked from far worse refs by the way ;O)