Wiley horse portrait

Horse Portrait: Wiley

topdogPet Portraits

When I started this horse portrait of Wiley, I was fairly confident I could knock it out in a few hours. That might have been the case if I'd chosen one of the poses furnished by Mary, Wiley's owner, in the many photos she sent.

The trouble was that I didn't see any poses that were just right for this white Arabian.

So, like a fool, I decided to work out a pose of my choosing. I researched tons of horse images online as references for a sketch that captured the angle I was looking for.

Focusing on the pose and associated lighting took most of my concentration, and after the first proof to Mary, I realized I hadn't put enough effort into making the horse look like Wiley.

So it was back to the drawing board. But now that I had a pose that worked, I was able to focus on creating it with Wiley's distinctive features.

All told, I showed three proofs to Mary, but internally, I went through five versions getting to that finished point.

Five versions and about sixteen hours all together is not something I want to do on every portrait (my hourly wage would be around $3.50/hr at that point). On the other hand, my focus isn't just on making money (although that's important), I try to stay mostly focused on doing the best I can on each project.

The most valuable lesson here is to stick with it. I got thrown, but I got right back up on that horse.

Wiley final portrait

He threw me at first, but I didn't give up.

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About the Author


Topdog is Steve Merryman, a graphic designer (retired), and illustrator. Living in the woods, Steve can often be found working on portrait commissions. In his spare time he paints, writes, shoots guns, cuts trees, hikes with his dogs, savors a beer or two, and searches for the perfect cheeseburger. He studiously avoids social media and is occasionally without pants.

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