Western Cowboy Art Demo - Early Spring Chase

In this western cowboy art demo, I’ve decided to attempt a painterly (or loose) approach. After completing some pencil drawings, it feels good to be painting again. I stepped away from the drafting table, put on my painting apron and I’m ready to go!

The Layout - tones and washes

The mood is a cold, very early spring day, when the snow is receding but new grass hasn't started poking through last year's remnants. I work from top to bottom, quickly laying in the colors from a primary palette of muted reds, yellows and blues (which are all grayed down to create distance and a more somber mood).

I like how the grasses appear where the snow has melted, creating a mosaic of shapes, introducing warm colors against the cool, greyed blues of the background.

Beginning the horse's head, establishing the eye

Right now I’m not worried about much detail. I’m establishing some values to see what I need to do next. I’m liking this quick approach to painting vs getting hung up on details in the early stages.

It's time to start painting the horse. Because the horse is the subject of the painting, I like to start by establishing the eye, then the muzzle and how the light is hitting the face. I also start indicating the bridle and reins.

The Western Cowboy Art Demo - Details

Laying in the mane, bridle and saddle

Oh, those details! I try my hardest to keep the painting loose, but I can see I’m fighting a losing battle. The breast collar is a challenge, but I find a way using just dabs of color to make it appear to be tooled leather, rather than trying to paint in every little thing. This is fun!

The western cowboy art demo - the cowboy's gear

Here is where my attempt at painting loosely pretty much went off the rails. I have so much fun getting that saddle to look real that soon I am lost in detail. You can almost hear the saddle leather creaking as the horse breaks into a gallop.

The finished painting - "Early Spring Chase", 16x20 inches

After completing the cowboy’s chaps, leg and his canvas jacket, I decide to remove the multi-tool on the chaps. It's just too distracting. Ah, that feels better. It's important to indicate the stirrup leathers and cinch - we've got to keep the saddle on! Some final touches on the jacket and this painting is done.

I named the painting “Early Spring Chase”. I hope you enjoyed this western cowboy art demo!

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