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In the Studio This Week – A Magical Equine and Gesture Drawings and Self-Doubt

In the studio this week, I focused exclusively on the Milan Art Institute lessons as I’m trying to get ahead of the syllabus schedule. That and all the little life annoyances that have recently cropped up in my life. I had some ups and downs both in my artistic growth and my personal challenges.

The Magical Equine I Call the “Heart Horse”

The next painting in the Mastery Program uses a technique they call “Fat Over Lean” where you start with transparent glazes of color dripped on the canvas and then a subject is painted in heavier layers.

The program provides several references photos they suggest using for the painting subject matter.  All were various animals or reptiles, and I was drawn to one of a horse with a magnificent mane. I remembered how drawing horses was one of my favorite subjects when I drew as a child (that and fairy princesses)! I showed my husband and he said, “that looks hard.”

Photo of a horse with in profile

The initial drawing was a bit of a challenge but I finally created one I was satisfied enough to use. You can see the eraser marks as I tried to get the proportions accurate.

Then I chose three different transparent colors and made a glaze and loosely applied it over the surface. That was followed by an underpainting, focused primarily on the shadow areas. Another layer of paint and I still felt like something was off in the width of the head.

I ended up using another layer of cool purple to try and carve out the head shape and make it narrower. I like the way the purple paint almost looks like the horses breath near it’s nostril! All this was followed by applying cold wax medium, primarily in the mane area. I may have overdone that!

In the end, I was pleased with this painting and noticed several heart shapes had appeared during the process, leading to titling the painting “Heart Horse.” I count four, maybe five heart shapes. How many do you see?

Finished paiting of a horse head in profile done in oil paints and cold wax medium.

Gesture Drawings

Gesture drawing is a quick way to capture figures by focusing on the movement and not the details. I’ve wanted to get proficient at this for urban sketching projects but have struggled with it in the past. My current attempts were similar in that I get too hung up on the details and not on the gesture.  I did kind of like this ballerina.

Gesture sketch of a ballerina

The gesture drawings were followed by drawing a statue. The statues are good reference in that the muscles of the body are so defined, especially in the classical form. I did this one in charcoal.

Charcoal sketch of a classical statue showing a discus thrower


My exuberance from the Heart Horse painting was diminished with the gesture sketches and the statue drawing. That was followed by learning that paintings I had submitted for possible inclusion in an upcoming exhibition were not selected.

On top of that, I was dealing with the aftereffects of the automobile wreck, I was tired and feeling overwhelmed. What do I try? Why am I doing this to myself? Maybe I just need a break. Obviously, my work wasn’t good enough if it wasn’t selected. What am I trying to prove? Why do I feel the need to prove something?

I don’t have all the answers to those questions. I know in my teen years and early marriage, I was discouraged or even ridiculed from doing art. I suspect there’s some inner healing needed around being “enough.”

I plan to keep moving forward and even attend the exhibition where my paintings weren’t selected to look at those paintings selected with an unbiased eye. Maybe I can learn something to take going forward.


Art, like life, is a series of ups and downs. It’s easy for the inner critic to kick in because artists tend to listen to the bad and ignore the positive (at least I do). I remember when I was first learning to drive, my Dad took me to a abandoned parking lot to practice driving. He told me to turn a corner and I put on the brake and the gas pedal at the same time and shaved the door handles off the passenger side of the car. He got out, looked at the damage, and said let’s get back in and drive.

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