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  • Writer's pictureLinda Shantz

Fifty Shades of Chestnut

(Greys are so overrated!) 😂

"Eye Spy," 12 x 24 oil on linen

Last week I talked about the limited palette I use to paint chestnut horses. This week I’m going to continue discussing chestnuts, but cover one of the more complex palettes I use for my more involved paintings. I’m going to use a recently completed example, “Eye Spy,” seen above. I realize I included this one in a post a few weeks ago, so sorry for the repetition!

As I look over my notes for this painting, I do have to laugh. I've written, "various from palette!" meaning, no doubt, I took what was there from whatever I'd been working on before, and started mixing and slapping stuff on! Not very scientific, sorry. 

"BS, CY, CR, BU, RU, TW; UB etc.!" (Translation: Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Yellow - light? medium? Who knows! - Cadmium Red (light, because it's all I have), Burnt Umber, Red Umber, Titanium White, Ultramarine Blue.) Yes, sometimes I take better notes than others. 

When I'm working over an underpainting, it's like having a roadmap, but not exactly paint-by-numbers. What the above colours give me are a few options for that orange we talked about last week, and this gives the painting more life, more form. This past weekend I had someone comment on my work saying, "It's like you've sculpted it." It made me so happy to hear someone say that, because that's exactly what I'm trying to achieve with these more involved paintings. I want you to feel the anatomy, not just see the colour!

So we have Burnt Sienna (which is quite orange on its own) and Cad Yellow (I'm going to say Light, because it's what I've always mixed with BS before for bays and chestnuts) to start. Then Cad Red and Burnt Umber, like from my limited palette for a redder orange. Then Red Umber is also pretty orange on its own, in a nice dark glowy way. Add white for lighter areas. Add blue for darker.


Some artists you'll see working quite meticulously from the get-go. That would not be me. I'm all chaos to order, slapping down paint, then blending to even things out, then building on that.

Blended to some semblance of order.

The next round sees the introduction of some other colours. This time with Burnt Sienna I have Cadmium Orange, with some Viridian Green in there to tone things down. My lights are Alizarin Crimson and Naples Yellow...and Titanium White. 

A lot brighter, yes? Of course there's some environmental light playing a role in the difference in colours between the two photographs, and the background and other elements also influence the final result. From this last image to the final painting above, I've brought the background up to speed, painted the fence rail, finished his mane, which is a cool flaxen...and added those snowflakes which insisted on being there. The details of all that is kind of beyond the scope of my discussion on painting chestnuts here, but feel free to ask if you have any questions about it!

Next week will be the final instalment of my chestnut discussion...but definitely not the last of the palettes I've used to paint them!

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