Today's guest artist is another Equine Art Guild member I've "known" for years. Karen is an Associate Member of the prestigious American Academy of Equine Art, and has always been very generous in sharing her knowledge and experience with aspiring equine artists. There is a wealth of information, as well as a number of examples of her beautiful work, on her website. You can also see some of these paintings develop on her blog. Thanks Karen!
Karen Baker Thumm
Karen Baker Thumm
I’d like to start off by thanking Linda for inviting me to be a guest
blogger on her blog this month. It is an honor to be chosen by an
artist whom I greatly admire.
In sticking with this month’s theme of growth, I decided to address
a subject that many of us traditional realist artists face at some
point in our development as artists, and that is the need to wean
ourselves from too much dependence on photographs. As equine artists,
it’s almost a necessity to rely on photographs to produce our art
since our subjects are not the kind to sit still for hours (or even
seconds!) while we capture their likenesses.The trick is to move
beyond the photograph at some point to make a more unique work of
art, and that is where the growth part of our development as artists
comes to the fore.
One of my recent paintings is a perfect example of moving beyond the
photograph. “Meet The Green Team” is its title, and so we shall. The
first image is my reference photo for this painting. I very much
liked the expressions of these two gentle giants, their connectedness
to each other and their mild interest in the viewer who has
interrupted their quiet moments together. In order to convert this
photograph into a work of art that was more of my own concept, I made
a number of changes.
The first choice I made was to change the left hand horse’s coat and
mane colors since I wanted the painting to be of a pair of Belgians.
Next I decided to eliminate the sweat on the horses in order to go
along with a theme of quiet relaxation.
Thirdly, I decided to pretty up the trailer by eliminating the rust
and broken railing and giving it back some shine.
Since I'm not fond of wide blazes that go over the nostrils, the
right hand horse got a blaze adjustment which worked out very well.
You can see that he actually has a very fine muzzle which was
disguised by that wide blaze.
The two ears almost touching in the center created a weird tangent,
so I changed one ear to a more forward position and eliminated that
But, the changes didn’t stop there. The wheel fender was eliminated
since it added nothing to the compositon. I changed the far side of
the trailer to show more openings and make better sense of it. And,
finally, I played around with different crops until I found one which
worked well and which allowed the image to fit onto a standard size
It’s a good thing that I like to challenge myself because, Boy! did
this painting challenge me! The first thing I did was to make a color
study in pastel to use as a guide for the oil painting. Other
reference photos were used for the highlights and shadows on the
horses and for reflections on the trailer. A couple of Breyer horses
and a mirror also helped show me where the reflections should go.
Using all of these tools helped me to create a painting that was both
challenging and very rewarding.
I’m so glad that I took the risk and created a painting that I can be
very proud of. Whether it wins any show awards or not, it’s already a
winner for me. Growing pains and all, it helped to build confidence
in myself and was one more step in my growth as an artist.