14″ x 11″ Colored Pencil on Light Brown Mat Board


Aeropostale, Michigan Standardbred photographed at Midland County Fairgrounds.

I first met Aeropostale in 2000 as a result of having sold a custom portrait to his owner at the Michigan Harness Horseman’s Association Auction.

I went to the Midland County Fair to photograph Aeropostale in the stables and on the track. It was a great day and the only way it could have been better would have been for him to win his race, instead of finishing a strong third.

From the photographic trip, references were chosen and the portrait was completed in oils and delivered later that year.

But there were several other photographs with potential, so I decided to do a second portrait for myself. I chose the second of my favorite photographs (shown above) and set to work.

I had time to work on it for a few weeks before paid portraits took precedence and this one was set aside. Within the year, I met my husband-to-be and over the course of a year of courtship, this colored pencil portrait was completely forgotten.

The summer of 2006, I found it again and was surprised to discover that it had survived the move to Kansas and at least five years of storage.


This is the portrait as it looked when I found it after five or six years of storage.

The support is mat board, but it’s been so long that I don’t know what color it is beyond saying it’s a light color. Probably bone or light tan.

The drawing is 11×14.

At right is the drawing when I found it.

Nothing had been done with the background. What’s more, I had no memory at all of what I had been intending to do. A lot of horse portraits from that time were done on plain or very simple backgrounds and it seems likely that had been my intent in choosing a colored support for the painting.

But when I started working on the piece again, the first thing I did was add a background. I layered color into the background, using blues to make a sky and greens for trees and grass.

I didn’t like that, so I lifted and erased as much color as I could. Then I decided to smooth out and weaken the remaining color by blending it with thinner. I used clean thinner first, applying it with a cotton ball. Then I used purple-tinted thinner and ended up making a rather nice purple wash throughout the background.

But the entire episode was a huge mistake. The drawing’s appeal dropped with the first wash of color, but it was too late to take it back.


This purple wash looked worse the day I did it than the day I found the drawing again many weeks later. It still looked pretty bad!

Drawing is as much about problem solving as it is about drawing.

I set about finding ways to solve this particular problem.

The solution finally appeared when I read an article by Cecile Baird in which she described using Bestine (rubber cement thinner) to blend colored pencil after it was on a drawing. The method she described intrigued me, but I needed a project to test it on.

I’d already given up on this drawing–again. Since I thought it was already ruined, I couldn’t ruin it again, right? So I pulled it out of storage and turned it into an experiment.

The short story is that the process was a success after a false start or two. I talk about it and the results in an article called How to Fix Colored Pencil Mistakes by Blending with Rubber Cement Thinner, which you can read at EmptyEasel.com.

In the end, it was such a success that I decided to finish the rest of the drawing.

I’ll be documenting that process in the next few weeks, so I hope you’ll join me.

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