Saturday, January 16, 2021

Not so boring chestnut

Two of the three horses I am planning to paint in the next six weeks are chestnuts. I love chestnut - it's arguably my favorite horse color - but it intimidates me. I mentioned this on the NaMoPaiMo Facebook page, and moments later, Allie Davidson whipped up this great primer on how to plan a shaded, interesting, non-orange chestnut. Thank you, Allie! I will definitely be using these tips!

Painting a Chestnut

by Allie Davidson

Afraid of painting a chestnut? You think it'll be flat and uninteresting? Nah, put that out of your head. Chestnuts are amazing and fun and it's probably my favorite color to paint. This sport Arabian gelding has a lovely liver chestnut coat. 

  1. Stop looking at the horse. We're after ONLY color.
  2. Get out your favorite photo manipulation program (I use load the photo and LOOK only at the colors.
  3. Train your eye to recognize the flow of color, allow yourself to study and then start circling all the areas of colors you see. Say it in your head: "This shade looks purplish, this shade is a golden yellow-orange, this shade is in-between"
  4. See the purple brown shades on the back, neck, head and haunch (burnt umber, Van Dyke Brown, cobalt violet hue) and on the leg joints (burnt umber, cobalt violet hue).
  5. Look at the tail, so many colors in the tail. That's not all one color right? The flow of the red (burnt umber, iridescent copper, tiny smidge of cadmium red). Shades of golden highlights (gold ochre, raw sienna, burnt sienna), and don't forget that darker color (burnt umber, Van Dyke Brown)
  6. He has wonderful highlights on his flanks and of gold ochre, raw sienna, transition shades of the same with a bit of burnt sienna
  7. look at the transition of colors on his barrel from light to purple brown.
Try it now with a photo. Circle the colors, train your eye to *see* them. Don't shy away from colors that you think are not 'horse' colors, if you see them, make note of them. I painted this Hamilton, Flashbang, using this method.
It works for other colors, too!


  1. ooh I really see that you do need to use colours that are not "horse colours" between reading this and looking up stuff on black. I think I am going to need to go paint shopping.

  2. I love chestnut horses. Almost as much as I love bay horses!

  3. More notes to help me do my first horse ever.