American Pharaoh (sp, but I can’t bear it!) and Firing Line

Winning the first Triple Crown in 30something years was no small feat, but I never paid much attention to American Pharaoh.  I had watched him in the Derby, and was so noncommittal that I didn’t even catch the Belmont.  But when the Preakness rolled around, I decided to see what all the hullabaloo was about.

I thought the horse lacked the beauty of Secretariat, the charisma of Barbaro, the flash of California Chrome.  But when I watched him frolic his way to the win in the Belmont, I suddenly understood the appeal.  He’s like a big teenage kid who smoked the whole pack with very little effort.

So, naturally, I decided to make him the subject of a painting.  I started planning it shortly after Belmont, but didn’t get to it until this week.

In the process of making the painting I had a conversation with a talented watercolorist friend of mine who was asking about my mixed media technique.  I thought I would share.


This is the start.

Daniel: So your working them both like water color? So cool..

Nancy Bailey Yes; it’s a bit of a new experiment for me. The light is kind of translucent in this and I have worked so many years in watercolor I am just more comfortable with the layers it provides. There are so many colors and so much action in this scene. It’s a challenge to portray it all without muddying up the works. So I am using watercolors for the softer details and laying the harder color on with acrylic. It’s very time consuming! I have no idea what the final effect will be.


Nancy Bailey: Here it is with some background, Daniel – it is a bit busy, see? I want to soften that crowd and push it back. You should try this technique sometime and lmk what you think.

Daniel: So by stopping down and pushing them back are you going over with a whiter acrylic wash?

Nancy Bailey Yes. There is a lot of dirt/sand flying around and the light is hitting it — that will help with atmosphere and also add to the action effect I think.

I used a bunch of pics found on line to reference who was in the race and what position. The thing that struck me was how the primary colors stood out — the painting is really a study in primaries. But I gave the audience a primarily red white and blue effect.


American Pharoah and Firing Line, Kentucky Derby 2015, Acrylic/Watercolor on Canvas, 11×15″, $350.


About Nancy J. Bailey

Artist, author, bad karaoke singer. Woodsy ragamuffin. Mom of a horse named Clifford who plays fetch and paints with watercolors. He visits libraries and schools with me, to promote literacy and making the world a better place. Yes, he is house trained, no, he doesn't live in my house! I have written three books about Clifford. But my newest book, THE NORTH SIDE OF DOWN, is co-written by my awesome sister Amanda, who has Down syndrome. Her unexpected one-liner wisecracks can always make me laugh. If you make me laugh, you've made my day!
This entry was posted in acrylic, art, equine, horse, horses, kentucky derby, painting, racing, watercolor and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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