It was really born out of desperation.
A slight aside – I was doing a number of purebred dog pieces for a company starting in late 2004, and they were getting done way to quickly. I mentioned something about horses, and the then owner loved the idea. Told me to work something up and he’d be more than willing to take a look.
So, there I was with absolutely no idea of what I was going to do or which breeds I should do (with the dogs, just go to the American Kennel Club and you‘ll find all the breeds in order of popularity – not so with horses).. enter the Internet. I started doing searches of different breeds (because there was no all encompassing site – each breed had it‘s own following – bad for me, great for them) – if there was a ton of pictures and information, I assumed that meant this was a popular breed and wrote that one down. The series ended up with around 30 breeds, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Because the “company” was interested in doing coffee mugs, I had to work up a design that would work on mugs and t-shirts. Up to this point, I had been working exclusively in colored pencil… doing a lot of collages (4 to 6 images for each design) and was actually getting pretty tired of that particular layout.
Oddly enough, I have some of my BEST ideas either just before I fall asleep at night or as I’m taking my morning shower.. this epiphany started at night and followed me around the next day.
Because I love doing portraits of animals – that would just have to be in there.. facing right (because a majority of people are right handed – and they would pick up the mug with their right hand.. and the head would be looking at them).. but it needed more than that. What oh what would work.. EPIPHANY!! Why not use a foal in the foreground with the adult head in the background. That would work.. right??
The first breed I worked on was the Hanoverian. Wonderful looking animal… and here is where it gets a little weird. As I’m working on the layout.. nothing I’m doing is right. Everything just seemed all wrong! There’s a feel I wanted for the background that you just can’t get from colored pencils.. and the coloring on the horse wasn’t strong enough… and there sat my cousin’s watercolors.
At this point, I think I need to tell you something. Although I had done watercolors in the past, I hadn’t used them for over 40 years.. and the reason I had my cousin’s watercolors, all her brushes and all the paper she had was because she had passed away the year before (April 2004 at 54) from congestive heart failure.
So I gingerly started using some of the watercolors on that first piece very sparingly… because I remembered all the horror stories of how easy it is to make watercolor get muddy.. and how unforgiving the medium is.. it had me a little nervous and very tentative as to how much and where!!
Brought that first one in and they fell in love with it! I told them that I was thinking of doing at least 30 breeds and I got the go-ahead right then and there. So.. just imagine my joy.. working on the “gallery” layouts for the dogs.. now the horses and I still have some other odd ideas rambling around in my head. If there’s one thing I’ve learned after being an artist for over 40 years it’s that inspiration comes when it wants to without any input from you!! And so the horses began to take shape.
What was really amazing was the “washes”. At first, I would put a very light wash of the horse’s color but then I realized that it wasn’t enough. I added colored pencil for the detailing and realized that THAT wasn’t enough.. so I would layer the watercolor.. then the colored pencil .. then repeat… until I got the color and effect I was looking for.
The first couple of layouts had the foals with the “adult” head but then I started thinking that this could get really boring. I mean, what do foals do? Eat-sleep-and run?? So the idea of adding a full, adult body – doing SOMETHING – entered. And it didn’t seem to matter whether they were looking at “me” or looking anywhere in particular. It just seemed that – as long as they were facing away from the head – it worked. I discovered that working 2 of them simultaneously was a good way of keeping my “vision” fresh too. So, 35 pieces later, I have a series!!!!