An International quarterly publication dedicated to presenting fine art
and the equestrian lifestyle inspired by the majestic beauty and love of the horse.

A lot of artists tell me they are intimidated by painting anything black. And, yes, the color can be difficult to photograph or paint because it tends to absorb all the detail that gives an animal or object its contour and shape. Just follow along with this project, and you’ll pick up several tips and tricks for portraying black horses. The most important of these tips is: Do not touch a black pastel until later in your painting.

[PALETTE] Black, dark blue, dark gray, light gray, light greenish blue, dark greenish blue, purple, reddish brown, and white Step One. On a piece of light blue velour paper, I transfer my sketch of a Friesian mare running on the beach using carbon paper and a 9B pencil, which I also use to add more detail. I then use a hard white pastel to map out where the whitecaps in the ocean and highlights on the horse will be. Starting with blue paper offers a distinct advantage for the background of sky and ocean in this particular painting.

 Step Two. As an undercoat for black, I always use dark blue or purple (or both) in a soft pastel. I build on top of that with a very dark gray and layer it over all of the dark blue that we just laid down. Since I have a large dark area to cover, I use the side of my pastel to gently begin layering color. This method produces a broader, smoother stroke. With a soft pastel in a light greenish blue, I start to build color in the ocean and sky. I stay away from the white areas as much as possible, but if I accidentally go over some of the white with blue, it will still be workable later.

The initial stages of a painting are a good place to lay down big blankets of color as an undercoat for a later build up of detail. For the sand, I use the side of a warmish brown soft pastel as a base coat of color.

Step Three. I start to define the darkest areas of the horse’s coat with a NuPastel black, which I also use to fill in the eye sockets. This is a very gentle, soft black that feels more like a dark gray. Once I’ve built up a dark tone, I start adding detail to her head and face with a light gray NuPastel that’s sharpened to four keen edges. I carefully bring out the highlights in her face using a very light rubbing stroke.

Here is a good place to use a soft light blue pastel to fill in the area from the top of the paper down to the blue we have already added, just above the whitecaps, for the sky. Then using just a darker tint of the same light blue, darken the sky near the whitecaps just a bit. Step Four. Using the same technique and light gray from the previous step, I now add highlights throughout the rest of her body. These highlights define her form, and the large area of dark color now begins to look like something recognizable. I also sharpen my NuPastel black and start stroking some of her forelock out away from her forehead.

 I find that with water, less is more, so I only use three colors for the ocean: light greenish blue, dark greenish blue, and white. I use the smooth sides of my pastels to lightly and quickly lay in color. To achieve the light, airy look of the spray that the wind blows off the top of waves, I choose my softest white pastel (a Unison) and just barely touch the surface so the pigment lightly attaches itself to the paper. This area can very easily be overworked, so I do not go back in and add more pastel.

Step Five. I take the liberty to give her a longer tail, mane, and forelock, again building these areas starting with dark blue and dark gray before using a soft black. Pick out the highlights in the hair with a very sharp light gray hard pastel. Be sure to stroke the color in the direction the hair is flowing. In the final stages, I bring out a Rembrandt black, known to mystudents as “Almighty Black” because it is so wonderfully rich and dark. I only use this in the darkest areas to give the painting more contrast and punch and not throughout her coat. I also bring up the light grays a bit using the edge of my pastel. Here we can finish the sand too by first covering the whole area that we tinted a dark brown with a dark gray soft pastel.

 Then using a white hard pastel, up on the end, put in the streaks of white that represent the glaze of water that is left on the beach after the waves go back out. Use the same white to “kick up” some wet water and sand around her feet.

Use little, short, choppy strokes to get that effect.



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