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Flag Horse Part 1   |   Flag Horse Part 2   |   Flag Horse Part 3  |   Flag Horse Part 4

The Painting of a Flag Horse

Part Three of a Four Part Series by Bette Largent

Selecting the colors for the flag horse was accomplished by a "formula" of no-choice colors and optional colors.

The flag is a no-choice. It is red, white and blue. The Eagle is optional. It can be as nature intended or gold. I eliminated the choice of gold due to its placement on the figure which was in the high wear ride area and the fact that metallic paints don't wear well.


If it had been placed elsewhere on the figure, such as behind the cantle of the saddle, gold would have been an option. Body color was "warm" so this will affect the other colors.

I mark all of these "selected" colors on my sketch. The saddle must be dark or lighter than the orange brown of the mane and tail. I chose a dark burgundy brown (which will pick up the dark shading in the flag). Straps: I chose a darker, blue-black for the front and horizontal straps. (The darkest blue in the shading of the flag) Belly strap will be the same as the saddle. Bridle strap will be the same as the saddle.


The next color that needs to pulled into other areas is red. I chose red for the round medallion on the back hip of the horse. I then took red and blue and came up with purple. A warm red purple, which I place as shading with the blue on the loops of the bridle design. The flag staff is a lighter golden brown which pulls it out of the composition from all the other browns, blacks.

The impact color is white, which appears in the head and back ground of the flag. The flag becomes the focal point, with the warm, dark shades surrounding becoming a good background without fighting for attention. I have also used a good "circle of color" such as shading the white stripes of the flag with the same gray as appears in the shading of the eagle feathers.

Applying gold leaf to Patriot
Patriot - painted and ready
for a trip across the country!

I decided that this figure should have the sparkle of gold. I gold leafed the star that appears on the back hip and the bridle circle. The bit, ring and end of the flag staff also will have gold. There is nothing that compares to the sparkle of leafing. On a carousel, the light will literally bounce from the brass poles and lights which make these focal points shimmer. Due to their location on the carved figure they will also wear well.


  1. Make sure the area to be leafed is as smooth as possible. A final sanding of 400 grit paper after a base painting of gold paint helps.
  2. Apply two coats of the sizing medium that will guarantee adhesion to the entire surface being leafed.
  3. Place the sheets of gold leaf over the entire surface and then brush across softly with a soft flat natural hair brush. Then back brush to clean up the edges.
  4. Don't be afraid to put on two coats of leaf if you are using the thinner imitation leaf.
  5. Seal the edges which will be jagged with the neighboring color of paint.
  6. Be sure to apply a clear coat or the leaf will tarnish.

I also wanted the look of stitched stars so I painted the stitching on the stars in purple. You can also apply glazing and stains to the leaf after application. This is especially effective on armored horses. The final touch to this patriot was top stitching. He is a rugged horse and small stitching lines were painted on all of the leather straps in a lighter shade of purple.

Patriot is currently on his way across country, and will soon arrive in Lancaster, PA to assist the effort of this community in restoring their carousel. We will show Patriot in his final destination, Lancaster, PA in our next column.

In my next article, I also share photos of other flag horses sent in by my readers.

For more information on gold leafing contact Houston Art at www.houstonart.com.

Flag Horse Part 1   |   Flag Horse Part 2   |   Flag Horse Part 3  |   Flag Horse Part 4

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Bette Largent is a professional carousel horse restoration artist from Washington State, and the author of Paint The Ponies, a guide for those who are interested in learning the art of painting carousel figures.

Click Here for information on ordering her book.

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