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Part 1 |  Part 2 |  Part 3 |  Part 4 |  Part 5 |  Part 6 |  Part 7

The Painting of Rooster

Part Six of a Seven Part Series by Bette Largent

Painting Rooster

"When up on the roof-top there rose such a clatter,
I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter"

Our Santa at the annual Wishing Star Christmas Party
Our Santa, who loves to ride carousels, is shown at the annual Wishing Star Carousel Christmas Party at the Spokane Looff Carousel. As we come to the close of this year 2000, the International Year of the Carousel, I hope we all can remember or even help this marvelous organization that brings wishes, big and small, to children throughout the United States.

To paint spots on Rooster, Levi and Bud, the question always come up as to how to paint the hooves of spotted horses (or any horse, for that matter). I have tried to come up with a tried and true formula for painting the hooves and have been unable to do so. In scouring reference books and pictures, I discover that a hoof can be any color, such as dark on a light horse, and light on a dark horse. I have seen pintos who have spots even on their hooves as well as non-pintos with spots on their hooves. Sometimes a horse will even have 4 different colors of hooves.

A rare reindeer by Charles Looff
I am including some "holiday" examples of how it is approached by other painters. This rare reindeer by Charles Looff is part of the collection of the International Carousel Museum in Hood River Oregon. In original paint, you will notice the hoof is dark at the base and lighter at the top where it joins the ankle or leg. This reindeer has marvelous turquoise and teal colors with a dark brown saddle. How bright it must have been when originally painted. There are detailed scrolls, stencils and tole techniques used on it as well.

A Dentzel deer in Toronto, Canada
This realistic deer rides a lovely Dentzel (1900-1910) machine in Toronto, Canada. Wearing the golden summer coat of a white tail, the hooves are painted in the same shade as the body. Realistic? Perhaps not, but very attractive. This carousel is packed with menagerie, and is on Centre Island which is serviced by a ferry from downtown Toronto. It is a magical spot on any summer day.

Photos show camels as having darker hooves than bodies
We also have to have a camel, which I doubt has made many trips to rooftops, although they are known to carry gifts. All of my photo files show them as having darker hooves than bodies. The camel pictured here shows a marvelous new example by Carousel Works of Mansfield, Ohio. It will soon join many other new and unusual wild creatures on a carousel at the Denver Zoo.

I've tried to come up with some "formulas" to go by. They are:

  • Work from actual photographs if possible. This eliminates all the guess work.
  • If the horse has stockings, the hooves are lighter in shade on the legs with stockings. even if it is a black horse. So if it has 3 legs with stockings, those hooves are lighter. The fourth hoof would be charcoal black.
  • If a pintos spots go down to the base of the ankle, the hoof will continue the pattern. Please refer to one of my previous articles, The Painting of Rooster.


  • Method A: To select the color, take the body color and add white to make a lighter shade. When this is applied, pick up a slight amount of gold-tan color or even yellow on the tip of your brush and streak this down the hoof, wet-in-wet.
  • Method B: Apply a very light shade of the hoof color at the top of the hoof, apply the body color at the bottom of the hoof. With a dry brush, stroke the colors together to blend, resulting in a hoof that is shaded light to dark with horizontal strokes.
  • Method C: Apply the two different colors as in Method B, but instead of stroking the brush horizontally to blend, use a stipple brush and pull the color up, or stipple the color up to blend it softly.

And now, speaking of gifts...
In the past years I have had many inquiries on the availability of plastic, fiberglass, aluminum and wooden horses. Wonder horses are no longer available other than through Rotocast. They also require a minimum order, which means that you may have to get several friends to join your project. Always be on the look-out for them at garage sales and flea markets, still your best source.

Aluminum horses are being mass-produced in Mexico and are becoming easier and easier to find. Please be sure that someone who is trying to sell you an "original Coca-Cola horse" is not really selling you a Mexican casting. Contact me or this site's Webmaster if you have any doubts on any horse's originality.

I have also located a source for small, wooden carousel figures. Similar in style to early Herschell-Spillman horses, they would fit into your home nicely due to their smaller size. They also can have some limited personalizations in the trappings. You can contact me for photos and more information.

And my last gift suggestion is a gift certificate under the tree for this summer's "Paint the Ponies in the Pines" workshop. This is a marvelous way to weather the winter, by planning a week of summer carousel painting with other new carousel friends.

Part 1 |  Part 2 |  Part 3 |  Part 4 |  Part 5 |  Part 6 |  Part 7

Click to order

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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