Friday, 15 April 2016

The Eyes Have It

As the weather is pretty miserable outside, I'm catching up on some long overdue blog posts.

You may remember the extreme windswept photos of Vaila, a little orange Shetland girl on the Archie post.
I was highly amused at the time, and I do remember glibly commenting that they'd make a fantastic portrait, never thinking that my client, Jo, would actually want me to work from them.
Well, sometimes, the chickens just come home to roost.

I photographed her two horses that day: Kerry, a lovely big bay warmblood cross mare, and Vaila of the mane. Once home, and having worked through the photos, I sent them to Jo and we discussed how I was going to do the portrait. Jo was determined she wanted them together, liked the heads-on shots, and much as I tried to gently dissuade her she was adamant. As 'the customer is always right', I agreed, but inside I was dying a death because I had no idea how I'd make it work.

Individual portraits are relatively simple. If the execution is good, all vagaries of light and colour are insignificant. Put two horses into the mix, and immediately you have several contrasting elements to consider.
The light needs to be (or appear to be) the same - both from direction of source and time of day. Light is colder (blue) in the morning or when overcast, and warmer (yellow/red) in the evening. Bright sunlight can be bleaching, and poor light loses detail.
The heads must be at angles that complement each other, and the colours of the horses compatible.
If their heads are markedly different in size, there's necessarily a fair degree of practice and juggling that goes on to make sure the balance works on paper.
Chestnuts are notoriously difficult to match with other horses.
Head on shots dictate that the eyes and muzzle have to tell the whole story, which is fairly tasking.
Wind blowing manes in different directions is also challenging.


I won't lie and say it was a walk in the park, because it wasn't, and I had the whole 'I can't do this' (artist's version of writer's block) running through my head a fair whack of the time. It was only really in the last few hours that it all fell into place and I knew I'd nailed it. I am more than delighted with the end result, and it's often the case that the works that test me the most end up being my most successful.

A huge thanks to Jo for pushing me (albeit unknowingly) out of my comfort zone, and to Kerry and Vaila for saving me with their beautiful eyes!