7. Painting a Horse Head Step-By-Step : Lusitano Demo : Part 2

Light 4:  Local Color

Applying Lights 4 & 5

  1. I created a warm, dull white as my first layer of heat and light for Oceano.  This I applied to the head.
  2. I then applied a modified version of the local color (because sameness is boring!) to the crest of the neck which received the strongest light.
  3. About where a collar would sit upon the horse’s neck is a strong shoulder that catches light in the shape of a large sausage!  So I also applied a dull white version to this shape also.

Light 5:  High lights

  1. Referring to the basic red ball exercise, you will see that I created about 4-5 shapes of higher, cleaner, smaller planes of light to create form.  On Oceano, I use exactly the same approach, but this time using different shapes.
  2. My mentor taught me that light always falls in ellipses, so I’ve found that if you paint platforms of light in a series of sausages, large and small, it works great!  (Also, I love sausages….especially bangers.  I am British after all!)
  3. Upon Oceano, I created 2-3 layers of higher lights, which means that I painted ever-decreasing sizes and shapes of cleaner, warmer, brighter, crisper shapes as they approached the light.

Light 6:  The Image Light

Light 6: Image Lights

  1. Upon Oceano, (who was stood just inside the arena at Pin Oak), the dominant light source was the overhead sky and it is precisely this that was used to paint the image light in Oceano’s eye.
  2. Distorted images of the light source appear upon the raised bumps and textures of the shiny, silver buckels, decorations and bit.
  3. Wherever there is a highly reflective surface you will find image lights of the dominant and secondary light sources, providing they are powerful enough to show.

Light 7:  Ambient Light

  1. Using the already created local color (varieties of warm, dull, white) I wiped the end off my brush and scantily applied these colors into the still wet soupy form shadow.
  2. Think of it as pushing a thin layer of local color (in sausage shapes) into the form shadow planes.
  3. Again, modify the temperature (not the value).  In other words, for example, sometimes more blue, green or warm, thus illuminating the shadows.

Ambient & reflected lights added

Light 8:  Reflected Light

  1. To demonstrate how light reflects color into the shadow planes of objects, I first had to create a background/color that I could use.  Rather than replicating what was on the photograph, I chose to have fun, be creative, and instead choose a color that reflects the fire of these glorious horses.  Fire red/orange!  (Nothing heavy in this decision:  Velasquez loved Virmillion, and Velazquez loved these horses, so I chose Vermillion!)
  2. Remember, when painting reflected light/color, any color/temperature can be used, but it
  • (a) must fall into the shadow (because the light would overpower it) and
  • (b) It must be the same ‘VALUE’ as the color upon which it is placed.
  • (c) And don’t overdo it!  (Monet, of course, is the absolute master of this.)

Lights 9, 10, 11 & 12.

In a demo, my intention is always to impart information the viewers need, rather than painting a portrait, which I find impossible in such a situation.  So please forgive that this painting is my interpretation, rather than representation of the beautiful stallion Oceano.

Regarding the remaining lights, we have no need for them upon our Lusitano painting.  Therefore, I’d like to show you the finished painting now, and I hope you enjoy having a go!

Ever-smaller, more accurate, cleaner shapes of light create realism

Smaller, cleaner, crisper, richer shapes create strength



Want to see the process in action? Click below.

Final Word….



My life is a living testament to the old statement “What comes around, goes around”’; or “What you do for others in an act of generosity, comes back tenfold”.  In honor of this code, I began writing down everything I know in these lessons in 2011 and began to offer them out, for free…. But it’s very valuable information.  The lessons constitute a lifetime of learning, and are lent to you as an act of generosity to help you on your artistic journey.  If you find this material helpful, continue to ‘pay it forward’ by sharing this website with others so that they too can be inspired with Art through "Lessons With Lesley."

We’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment or question on the contact page.



All content and images contained in this website, including “Lessons With Lesley” remain the property of Lesley Humphrey, along with all rights and privileges connected thereto under international copyright laws.  Under no circumstances can the content of this website be transferred or utilized for other than one-time, personal use without permission of Lesley Humphrey, or L and L Humphrey, LLC, its agents or assigns.

All rights reserved, Lesley Humphrey 1988-2017