Trooper, a.k.a. “Milkshake”, “The Shake”or “Boifren” is a gorgeous piebald Clydesdale/thoroughbred mix with small, expressive eyes and a large head and ribcage, but high and shapely hindquarters. He does not have feathered feet like a purebred Clydesdale, but he is gentle, strong and smart. Everybody who meets him falls in love!
He takes a treat from your hand very carefully with his lips, without slobbering, taking care not to nip with his teeth. Though he likes apples, carrots and bagels (with or without cream cheese), he is almost aggressively eager for Pakham pears. While he eats everything else with good manners, Pakhams made him drool all over the side of his stall at first. But he quickly learned to tilt his chin up to keep from losing the juice!
If someone who is angry gets on his back, he ejects them immediately, as if to say, “Nuh-uh! Don’t even THINK about working with me if you don’t have yourself in the proper state of mind for it!” He recently gave me a nuzzle on my arm followed a few minutes later by a nip that left a small bruise, but that is his equine way of saying "Let's play" or "I like you!" His orange-hazel eyes are rare; the vast majority of horses have brown eyes.
The painting is comprised of a light orange-pink initial underpainting followed by other patches of general color, then followed with many, many layers of tiny strokes of various colors using extremely small-size sable-hair brushes. Trooper’s owner commented that “you can even see the cat hairs”. I don’t know what a cat hair is, but I assume it is a very fine hair in a horse’s undercoat. In any case, if I could see it, I painted it.
A big challenge
One big challenge in painting a picture like “Trooper” was presented by the fact that I chose to make the painting many, many times larger than life. That obliged me to paint everything I could see in the 8" x 10" color photos I used to plan and execute the portrait; nothing could be left out and I dared not generalize without a good reason, especially in the final layers. Besides the number of hours required to paint in every hair, it was a big challenge to paint the texture of the bare skin next to his eye. Skin is NOT really smooth, but is criss-crossed by tiny lines, and they had to be included. I couldn't just gloss over this or the marks I made in those areas would appear to be hairs rather than tiny lines in his skin. The color of this dark skin was not black, but included all sorts of colors and was generally inclined towards a slight purple-blue-charcoal color.
the eyes are the windows into the soul
Some say "the eyes are the windows into the soul", and Trooper's eyes summarize his tenderness, intelligence, and vulnerability. Although he is a gorgeous horse overall and I might have chosen to focus on some other aspect of his personality or physique, there was no need to muddy or expand the message by depicting more than a single eye surrounded by part of his head and his jeweled bridle. In Trooper's case, just one of his eyes and a tiny part of his bridle told the entire story I wanted to tell in this picture. He's a prince of a horse! I might very well paint him again one day.
If you want to know more about this darling horse, contact me at my email address and I will pass your questions along to his caretaker. If you have a very special companion animal in your own life, please do share his or her story with me and let me know if I may share it with others via this website. Thank you!
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