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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > August 19 > Animal patterns

Animal patterns

explains how to paint animal coat patterns, using these to help describe the form, and how to cope with the effect of shadows on coat patterns


Colour Contours, watercolour, 21 3/4 x 12 1/2 in (55 x 32cm)

While we can become proficient at rendering tonal values to describe an animal in either monochrome or colour as tone and temperature, it is more challenging when looking at an animal with a strong pattern. This could be a pattern in the coat, but can also be a strong cast shadow, which can be confusing to the eye and therefore confusing to paint, as the pattern or cast shadow can ‘fight’ with the tones that are used to shape the animal, confusing both. The answer is that one or the other must be dominant. This is also where a good knowledge of the structure and form of the animal will help.

Coat patterns

Many animals have patterns in their coat colours. Horses show a lot of coat pattern variations, the most obvious being ‘coloured’ horses (called ‘pinto’ or ‘paint’ horses in the USA), which are white with patches or spots of other colours: ‘piebald’ if black and white, ‘skewbald’ if any other colour and white. Horses with brown patches and black manes and tails are sometimes referred to as tri-coloured. The patterns are also categorised: the ‘tobiano’ pattern has the patches arranged in a vertical pattern, usually rounded or oval in shape. ‘Overo’ pattern looks more like splashes of white on a base colour with jagged edged patches. ‘Sabino’ is where the horse looks like it has been splashed with white paint from underneath and is often seen in the Clydesdale breed. Any colour of horse can also have a ‘roaning’ pattern (a coat colour intermingled with white hairs) and some horses have ‘dapples’ or circular spots on the skin. This is clear on a dappled grey horse – the dapples often fade to white as the horse ages. The dapples most often appear at the start of the summer coat. Our liver chestnut horse Boris started to show dapples in his coat after a few years of being with us. The dapples showed in summer, but not in his winter coat. I was heartened to learn that good health and grooming care can accentuate them!

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About The Artist

Welcome to our August issue, packed with inspirational features to help you explore and enjoy your creative skills in all media this summer. Our professional artists and tutors show how to capture summer trees in acrylics, deal with all those greens in the landscape, choose and use the best pochade box for your needs and paint watercolour landscapes both near and far. There are also demonstrations on how to achieve a portrait likeness in charcoal, apply the 'robot' method for painting people, use the patterns of animal coats to help describe their form and capture a radiant sunset in oils. Our interview with Sunday Times Watercolour Competition winner Jayne Stokes provides an insight into the secrets of her success and her working methods in water-based media, while a group of artists reveal how they set up an Open Studios event and offer their top tips for success. There's plenty more, including the latest news, views, product review, competitions to enter and advice on how to create and publish your own book! Enjoy!