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Wonder Horse Part 1   |   Wonder Horse Part 2  |   Wonder Horse Part 3

Part Two of a Three Part Series by Bette Largent

The base coat
I stippled on the base color, a flat alkyd-based red-rust paint with a rust preventative. This flat luster will eliminate any need for sanding before applying the next layer of paint.

The customer, Lissa, has assessed the style of the pony and wanted a Western cow pony. A dark brown or Bay with black mane and tail. I made the mistake of preparing for "socks", but she again reminded me that she wanted it ALL brown. The poor little wonder horse had such small legs for its large torso that the socks would have grabbed your attention to the size of the leg.

The dark Bay-horse-brown paint was created by mixing equal parts of black, brown, and red enamel. I painted a layer on, shading by adding more black, wet-in-wet, as I stippled on the paint. I used more brown and red for the highlighted areas. It also received the first coat of the white blaze and the eyes were roughed in. With the white of the eye exaggerated and the dark brown in place, it began to gain a personality.

A second coat on the body was done after the first coat of body color was dry in the same method as the first. This second coat adds to the depth of body color. The muzzle was dry stippled to give the soft, velvety effect of an actual horse. Do this by barely touching the surface with a bare minimum of paint on the tip of your dry stipple brush. If you do this when the base color is wet, you end up with a muddy look and the paint will blend. Do this with the a black-brown and once this is dry, do it again with the dark pink. The pink for the nose, ears, tongue and frogs of the hoof is made by mixing white enamel, Winsor-Newton Rose Madder tube oil paint, and some of the dark brown body color. This will make the pink in the proper shade for our body color. It is also used to paint the lining of the eye and tear duct. It is slightly lighter in shade for the eye, tongue and roof of the mouth.

We discovered that our baby only had teeth on top, so we will add a row of teeth on the bottom by painting them in after this layer of paint is dry.

The blaze was painted again once the first coat was dry with shading to look like hair by painting wet-in-wet with white and body brown. We will add the individual tendrils of the mane when this is dry. Any over painting on the bridle or other trappings is merely wiped off with a dry cloth. We will tighten up these lines as the painting progresses.

The hooves were painted with a flat ox or natural bristle brush with strokes running vertically. Again, the body brown was used with added streaks using black, yellow, and a touch of white. The hoof is like a fingernail and it should look like a dark nail in need of a manicure. The hooves will also require two coats. Paint sequence is frog, hoof, hoof, and then frog again. It is easier to tighten the lines by doing the frog in the scooped out area last.

The mane was painted using the wet-in-wet method. It is basically black with dark brown streaks. Just as your own hair is not just one color, a mane should not be, as in our case, all black. The brown is used for streaking and highlights. I prefer to use a "round" brush for this - Ox #6. Paint it in long strokes in the direction that the hair flows. A fine sable liner can be used to pull down the points and some individual hairs on the neck and forelock.

As I have been painting these various parts, I have also worked on the eyes. Using a small sable round, I have painted a black outer ring on the brown eye and a round center pupil. Then I added a white highlight to the pupil. I also snuck in a dark blue as a reflected light in a half circle in the bottom of the circle of the pupil. The outer amount of white of the eyeball has been reduced to eliminate the frightened or angry expression. A wide-eyed, large pupil makes the horse have a friendlier face.

No horse comes without long, luscious eyelashes
No horse comes without long, luscious eyelashes. Paint a few lashes at the upper corners of the eye, top and bottom, and smudge them a little with your fingertip. We don't want a porcelain doll effect and the smudging will soften the edges. A soft dark shading on the upper eye lid adds depth to the eye, very much like a woman uses eye shadow to accent her eyes.

A medium brown is placed on the saddle and bridle to begin the leather faux finish. I want to achieve the look of the well-worn saddle of a working cow pony. Since the blanket area is so small, the tooled area next to the belly strap will be done in blue to bring in more color and to break up the large torso area. We need distraction from the large body. The first step of our leather is to paint a coat of medium to light brown and stipple it. I have added a little yellow and orange to make sure it is different in shade than the body brown. The tooled flap area is painted a light blue and stippled also. We accent the tooling design leaves and scrolls by making them lighter by adding white to our blue enamel. I use a flat or low-luster white enamel, which when added to other enamels, dull down the paint finish to eliminate the need for sanding between coats. You can also add white primer to the enamel and achieve the same effect.

Lissa's choice of colors
Lissa has supplied me with her choice of colors at this point which is to match the colors in her bedroom fabric. It is a Victorian flower-garden print with a dark blue background, sprinkled with mauve, pink and yellow flowers. The green leaves are stylized from a soft Grey-green to a dark green that is nearly black. The lapels were base-coated a dark teal in preparation for the plaid treatment. The one thing teenagers like as much as sleeping in is anything plaid. It would also be a good sample to show the workshop class. This same dark teal was pulled up to the bridle to continue our circle of color.

The Lapel
When my larger stipple brush is too large for an area, I use either a natural bristle round in a size from 8 to 12 or a soft natural bristle stencil brush. To stipple, the brush needs to be supple with some spring, a sable brush would be too soft, a synthetic brush is too stiff. It is not uncommon for me to have a brush in hand to apply the paint for each color, and a stipple brush for each shade. This way I do not end up with mud which is when your colors actually become so blended in the brush that you have a new color. Or I will stipple, wipe my brush, stipple and wipe, and so on.

After your first coat of leather is dry, you can apply the final leather color which is a darker brown. I applied the darkest shade at the outer edge of the saddle and lightened it slightly as I worked toward the center. The paint was applied with a 1 inch ordinary trim brush, natural bristle and cheap. I can get the paint on quickly and thick. A small round was used to tighten up the edges. Then a crumpled 4" square of newspaper was used to pounce the paint to blend and create the leather texture. I change the newsprint frequently. The leather effect can be also be done by using a stipple brush or a wadded piece of lint-free cotton cloth. Another leather effect is done by painting the dark base color first. Then painting on a lighter thin coat, and while wet, laying on a piece of plastic to cover the entire area. After smooshing it, wrinkling it on the surface and pressing the wrinkled plastic into the paint it is slowly peeled off.

Belly Strap
The outside edge of the belly strap uses the same lighter leather color as the center of the saddle, but a small stipple brush is used instead of newspaper. I then painted the flowers and leaves in the lighter shade with red in the center of the flower. Highlights were stippled into the leaf design. The background of the strap was then done in the darkest brown.

I used the same method in blue for the flap. The base enamel of navy blue was darkened with Thalo blue oil paint and black. The lighter blue is the same mixture with white added. It was easier to do the designs than the backgrounds because you can push the brush up into or along the raised edges, rather than do a tight line as you wrap the brush around the top edge down.

The next step was to paint the blanket and the front drape. The shading is painted just as if I were painting on a flat surface. The small stipple brush is used to soften some of the edges of the shadows and folds. You can paint a blanket with folds and create depth where it is actually flat, as shown in the photo.

Blanket and Saddle
In our next column, we will explore adding more embellishments, paint the plaid lapels, and reveal the new name of our wonder of a baby horse. If you have any questions, be sure to e-mail me by clicking Here. To order a plastic or fiberglass horse, please refer to the previous column.

Wonder Horse Part 1   |   Wonder Horse Part 2  |   Wonder Horse Part 3

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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