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.