Monday, 10 May 2010

Fast Horses

Front Rank (left) Elite collectors series (right) undercoated with 2 light sprays of tan, in this case from Army painter
Work has taken over lately so my painting output has plummeted, however, a few of you have expressed an interest in how I paint horses using oils. This is a very fast method for getting an effective look on brown horses without too much fuss. It doesn't work for grey horses, and black horses....well, I just paint them black.
 I did do some pics a while ago when I painted the Austrian dragoon regt but they were a bit pony....Pony?...oh dear, sometimes I'm just too funny...Pony...Geddit?...(For those of you not familar with rhyming slang...), anyway, these are from some more recent general figures.
So, the first pic shows 2 horses just after getting a couple of coats of tan paint. It really can be just about any brownish paint. Whatever you use for the base will ultimately dictate the predominate colour for the end horse. For most cavalry units I would do some in this pale tan, and some in a darker  brown to get a bit of variation. The method doesn't change at all irrespective of what you use as a base (as long as its some sort of brown).  Add in some blacks and greys and you get a mixed unit.
Once the basecoat is dry I block in the leather work and mane/tail in black. On  the Elite horse on the left I've left the mane and tail to be coloured later.
Now the main event, applying the oil paint: I use good old Windsor & Newton Burnt Umber. You can get it in any art shop.It needs to be thinned with white spirit to a thickish wash sort of consistency. You will just have to experiment with this. Then, just brush it on. It doesn't matter if it slops over the black bits you've just painted, just make sure you get a decent covering.
Then, you need to leave it a little while. Depends a little on air/room temperature, but 5 mins is probably about right. When you first apply the oil it will look wet and glossy. Quite quickly it will begin to dry a little, and start to turn to a more satin finish. This is the moment when you need to wipe it off. For this you need a dry clean soft cotton. I use an old Tee-shirt.
This needs to be done fairly gently, just lightly rub over the flanks of the horse. Use steady, LIGHT touches, removing the top coat of the oils. This will leave the undercoat still stained a little, and also leave heavier deposits in the folds and defined muscles on the horse. I usually leave the front and underside of the horse. This adds a bit of shadow.
I've wiped the Elite horse on the left, but not the right hand nag. See how there is still a bit of paint in the folds and on the underside.
Now I've wiped the Front Rank horse on the left. This looks a bit pale. If you are not happy with the result the solution is a very simple one; repaint with oils, just slap on another coat, and repeat the process.
So, thats it after a single coat and gentle wipe. Looks alright. This horse I want to have a pale mane and tail so I've now blocked those in with Vallejo ivory. 
The Ivory is now washed over with a burnt sienna wash.
Next, the black, reins, is dry brushed with Vallejo German Grey, which is pretty dark, and the tail/mane dry-brushed with ivory again.
The Front Rank horse after dry brushing on reins, mane and tail plus a further really light dry brush with a pale grey (Vallejo Neutral Grey). The brass is touched in with ..brass, and any white bits (blaze, socks) primed also in Neutral Grey before finishing in white. If you want to do eyes (and actually can paint horses eyes- most people, including me, can't) then fine, go ahead. 
One final point: Don't attempt to use a spirit based varnish within 24 hours. Water based types aren't a problem, but spirit gloss varnishes put on too soon can be a bit disastrous. Leave it a day and its fine.  
TA-Da!! the finished product with a general sat on it, a Front Rank gabion and some yellow flowers .
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Anonymous said...

Cheers Chris, excellent explanation and photos, and it looks like it's exactly what I'm looking for.


Der Alte Fritz said...

Nice tutorial on the horses. I've seen it done before, but I've always been afraid to try it. The result looks nice.

I understand that for black horses, you undercoat with white and apply black oils. Then gently wipe and a faint amount of white comes through the black. It actually works.

DeanM said...

They came out very nice. I like that technique too; although I've yet to invest in a can of Army Painter. The wash technique has really taken away a lot of my apprehension of painting up cavalry. Regards, Dean

Anonymous said...

I have always avoided this technique because of the concern over drying times. Seems to be ill-founded.


Chris Cornwell said...

A couple of addendum:
I shouldn't have left the army painter can in the background. It plays no part in the process. I tried an experiment using AP with oils on horses and it doesn't work!
Drying times are a factor. On no account should you use a spirit base varnish within 24 hours.
Cheers chris

Giles said...

Great results there. Thanks for drawing the Army Painter sprays to our attention - I wasn't aware that they did a tan one and as you say that is very useful for horses (and WW2 probably).

Best wishes


Anonymous said...

Very effective, it has been years since I used any oil paints-I probably still have them somewhere.


DC said...

Very effective Chris, i use much the same technique myself. For blacks i recommend a light grey undercoat with paynes grey as the wash. Cheers.

guy said...

I also use this process and I often use as one of the undercoat colours a brick red and then with the brown over the top gives a hopefully realistically coloured horse.


Doc Smith said...

Thanks for the informative post Chris - I'd forgotten all about this technique. I'm breakin' out my old Windsor & Newtons to see if I can get results like that. None of yer faffin' about with the Army Painter - this is Special Tone Effect Masterclass using the trad oils (& wipe) method!


BFG said...

Great Tutorial Chris. Lovely finish.

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