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Easy Watercolor Horse: Painting The Secretariat

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Step 2: Adding Undercoats Using The Wet-On-Wet Technique


After you’re done with the sketch, it’s time to start painting. With the Escoda round brush (no. 12), wet the entire horse with clean water in preparation for using the wet-on-wet technique. This means dropping wet paint onto a wet surface, which will produce softer blends. As paint will flow into the area that’s wet, work around the jockey, and be careful when wetting the legs. You’ll also notice that the smoothness of the hot press paper means it won’t soak up water as quickly, giving you more time to blend yet needing more care as the paint will run faster.

Next, prepare Yellow Ochre, which will serve as an “undercolor” (i.e. the horse’s first layer). Drop this color throughout the whole watercolor horse, leaving some whites for the lightest highlights, and for the horse’s white socks. Avoid painting the mask for now, and refer to the photo when you need to determine the different values and tones.

Mix in Burnt Sienna, which will be the second layer. As it’s a mid-tone color, it will also be the horse’s base color. With it, bring out the mid-tones and shadows to add more depth to Secretariat’s muscles. There’s no need to be too careful as it’s more important to capture the impression of this powerful watercolor horse rather than paint realistically. In this section, the muscles are also essential as they help describe the horse’s action.

While painting, make sure to use as few brushstrokes as possible when painting with watercolors to maximize your efficiency. This will also help create the “streaky” texture a racehorse would have. Finally, darken with more Burnt Sienna if needed, as watercolors dry lighter than what they look like when wet.