Dream Horse #4 Carousel

The Dream Horse series express my impressions of equine beauty, power, and grace.  This post will describe the artistic process of creating my newest Dream Horse, “Carousel.”  This horse is named after the royal carousel horses of European Baroque courts.  He embodies the round muscular body of a classical horse from that era.  In drawing his head, I created very stylized shapes that flow into the jaw area from the eye and the ear.

As with many of my horses, I start with a detailed pencil study.  In this horse, I wanted to use pattern to describe the musculature, skeleton, and hidden anatomy under the horse’s coat.  Ever since my husband and I decorated a pair of boots for an art auction in the African Mbuti style, I have been fascinated by African pattern motifs and style.  As this horse unfolded, I found myself referencing the free flowing, organic pattern development of the Mbuti to express equine anatomy.  Choosing Mbuti pattern was an appropriate option rather than using strict geometric pattern as one might find on a mosaic tile.  Strict geometry would have resulted in a flat , static image, with the pattern not integrated with the horse’s form.

pencil study "Carousel" copyright Cheri Isgreen 2015
pencil study “Carousel” copyright Cheri Isgreen 2015

After transferring the drawing to watercolor paper, I painted a light value wash with warm colors,  planning a manganese blue overglaze.  I, then, painted the darkest shapes to establish the value range.  To ground the horse, I added geometric shapes under the hooves, but the composition needed more interest in the corners, so I added graded washes at the top and bottom of the painting.  Next I added the pattern mask only in the warm light wash areas where I planned the blue overglaze.  The mask allows negative pattern development in the form of resist, complementing the dark positive pattern shapes in the mane and tail area.  As I was painting the tail, the dripping diamonds suggested the free flow of a swinging tail.  I added a few diamonds to the forelock to add unity to the hair treatment.  As I was drawing patterns with the mask pen, I strove for a sense of volume through pattern movement and direction.  At that point, I decided adding organic pattern to the background washes at the top and bottom of the painting would further unify the painting.

I liked how the painting was developing and was anxious for the mask to dry, so I could apply the final glaze.  Stay tuned to see the final result.

Carousel, stage 2, copyright Cheri Isgreen 2015
Carousel, stage 2, copyright Cheri Isgreen 2015

Author: Cheri Isgreen

I have been a lifelong rider and horse lover. I got my first "horse" at a yard sale; it was a pony actually. It was sometime in the early 60's. I was in 3rd or 4th grade. The pony was perhaps $10. My sister, brother, and I pooled our money and led him home. At the time my parents were traveling, and my Uncle Bill promptly made us return it. (stay tuned...more to come...)

3 thoughts on “Dream Horse #4 Carousel”

  1. Hi Cher, I just finished reading and viewing Carousel. I love her and Carousel has to be a she, because she is soooooo beautiful. I am so in awe of your work as you surprise me again and again with the beauty within you. This one a definite favorite of mine. Love you forever and God’s Blessings to you and Kurt and Marissa forever.


  2. I think the under colors have fooled you. They are pretty feminine, but actually the European carousel horses, (those that performed at the courts of kings, like in Vienna at the Spanish Riding School) were actually stallions. When you see the final result, you will see the masculinity developed.

  3. Love this! European carousel horses have always been my favorites because of the baroque style they were carved and painted in. This is spectacular, perfectly in keeping with the tradition!

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