How my latest drawing of stallion Hurricane, "Dicke Tour", was drawn.

Dicke Tour
Pencil on Paper, 50x46 cm
Sheona Hamilton-Grant. All rights reserved.

Limited Edition Prints available. (Run of 99)

This tutorial is dedicated to all of you who have asked so very nicely and waited so very patiently all these very long months for an answer to the question “how do you do it?”

So without further ado and with great rejoicing (include sharp drum roll here*) I present the various steps that led me to my latest commissioned drawing “Dicke Tour.“


Produce a drawing for and of the North Rhine Westphalian Stud’s annual stallion show. Third image in a series of five.
To be produced as a Limited Edition Print. Run of 99 quality Fine Art Prints.

Mellotex paper (large sheet)
Staedler pencil 2B & HB
Staedler Clutch F & 6B
Blue Tack
Derwent SuperPoint pencil sharpener

Large (for added impact) 50x46 cm


Stage 1
Work out drawing & composition.

Below are some of the various reference pictures used.
All were shot by my faithful Canon (at different times) and feature the same gorgeous charismatic equine stallion „Hurricane “and his rider Georg August Schulzte Quarterkamp doing what they love best: entertaining the crowd. 
None were perfect but all had important ingredients.
All had a little of what I was looking for (character traits, conformation pointers, movement of the mane, expression, light...)

From the offset I knew that I wanted to have speed, power and movement feature heavily as well as the presence of drama, angst and quirkiness.

I was up for the challenge, through the subtle use of hard contrasts/delicate lines and a wide tonal range, of rendering these emotions as well as making both Hurricane and his well-known rider (Georg Frerich) feature realistically.

Using my photos as reference a layout is sketched out.
A light 2b line drawing which acts like a map.
This stage is crucial in forming an understanding of the various shapes, in defining the placement of these shapes, discovering the intricacies of the portrait and adjusting the overall harmony of the composition.

My favourite reference picture was good but lacked a hind leg and a tail.  Meaning I would have to work harder and dig deeper to add the missing left hind (complete with brand mark) and the tail.  However I was excited because I felt that by adding an upward movement to the tail I could add to the speed and drama.
Once the sketch was done and looked well proportioned the drawing fun begun.

Stage 2
Render eyes and establish darks.

This stage is all about establishing presence and expression.
I always start with drawing the eyes.
In my experience if they are not right I can never get the portrait to work out well.
Taking them as a starting point is vital to the way I work.

After the eyes came the rest of the head and the mane.
The darkest darks have to be drawn at this point in order to get my values right.
These are the dark shadows under the mane and in the nose. The lightest values being found in the forelock and highlights.

I drew using 6B (for the very darks) and 2B for the medium to light values. 2H was used in the light hairs of the mane and for the metal.
Working in layers, I drew the initial depth gradually building up to more and more detail.
No blending.

Eyes rendered, blacks established.

Stage 3, 4 and 5.
Add contrast and build muscle structure

Because I’ve given myself an idea of the darkness of Hurricanes’ coat (which is the most present in the drawing) I have now been able to get more contrast and value established in his conformation. The darkest dark is still to come and I know I will have to re-adjust accordingly. Due to the size of the drawing I have to keep going from left to right to keep the paper clean and can’t draw the darkest dark part (hind leg shadow) until much later on as I would risk smudging.

However, the depth and the darks added to the throat and neck area are giving both the texture and feel I am looking for.

These stages are slow (but great fun) and are made up of layering of graphite to get the contrast and darks needed. For instance very little layering and graphite is used at the front of the shoulder, as this is where the light has caught the coat and shine is apparent. More is needed in the shadows and the legs.
Important: black shadows are not opaque black masses; they have subtle variations in the dark hue.

 Throat and neck area are giving both the texture and feel needed

Progress is slow but quite good. A 2B Staedler pencil has been used with various strokes: some harder some softer but all short and crisp for the muscle and shoulder area.  The darker areas in the legs and shadow under the rein and throat lash are rendered in 6B and layered with 2B.
No blending.

When drawing, especially horses, it is important to always draw in the direction you would stroke the horse.  This really helps in getting the feel and shape right.

As the values build up the piece takes on more depth.
The fabric in the shirt has been rendered using lighter graphite pencils. I used a B for the dark in the folds and 2H & HB.

At this stage I have also reached the inner side of the right hind, which provides me with the darkest value. I am now able to rebalance all the greys in accordance.

As work is done on the shoulder and the front legs, the light begins to play a bigger and bigger role in shaping the muscles. Remember the light source and using it’s highlights is how the muscles were shaped and richly textured. 

Stage 6
Establish the hind leg, tail and cape.

This is the stage where my knowledge of the equine anatomy was really required tested.
Hurricane’s left hind was missing from the main reference photograph.
Various reference pictures were used as guides and my knowledge as a pillar.

By establishing a soft line drawing, which could be (and was) easily corrected (It is so light that it did not scan.) and slowly drawing-in the shadows and shapes, I was able to refine them with each layer, mould them into rendering a believable leg in movement.

The leg was drawn by creating a darker layer using a 2B, it was then later refined with an HB, nothing more.
The heavy shadowed area is laid down with several layers of 6B.

Technically I pushed the barrier a little more by drawing the foot, fetlocks and not having them disappear into mud, dust or grass.  Their impact above ground very much needed in creating the illusion of speed and strength.

Because I wanted to render the impression of speed and movement little detail is drawn. This maintains the illusion of speed.  
Had more detail been added the foot would have “frozen” and not had a “I’m-on-the-move-pounding-the ground-full-speed” feel.

Start of shadows and shapes refined and then moulded into believable leg in movement. Traces of very light drawing visible.

Tonal re-balance: all the greys are in accordance with the darkest black. See how the whole has become more contrasted and interesting…

Hurricane’s tail is big and bushy.
A perfect “accessory” in creating added impact
The sheer size and volume provide an effective way of adding speed and drama as well as symmetry to the overall composition. The strong flowing shape created leads the viewer up and back into the picture.

Major dark areas (between the strands of hairs) were mapped out with a 2B.
HB & F were used to create the medium values (found in the strands) and a 2H was used to sharpen and define the lighter values.  All layers were worked until the desirable effect was achieved.

The cape adds drama and had to be drawn that way.
I decided to use strong honest contrasts and lots of folds.
Nothing soft and “wishy washy”.
Again I used a touch of 6B in the darkest parts of the folds and took the tone graduation from dark to light using a 2B and finishing off with an HB.

The ground is depicted by adding circular strokes in a spontaneous movement , this anchors the foot and creates impact. Detail is not needed.

Stage 7
Add a touch of human expression

Adding expression – identifying the character.

The expression, correction, the multitude of various expressions on the riders face are a crucial element to the show number that is “Dicke Tour” and necessary to the authenticity of the overall drawing. 
This human element must not however steal the show. 
Hurricane (the stallion) is the leading “man”.

All that has been drawn are marks and shadows combined in a way to make the viewer believe and accept that this might very well be the rider “Georg August Schulte Quaterkamp”.
All shapes and tones were drawn using an F lead mechanical pencil darkened through layering or lightened in small dabs using blue Tack.  The eyes and mouth were drawn using a 2B.

marks and shadows combined in a way to make the viewer believe in a human expression

Why leave this stage to last?

Hurricane had to be fully drawn, as he is the main character, the main focus of power and movement.
This is the best moment in which to work on balancing the harmony between man and equine.
Leaving drawing the face to last also meant that I was able to have the facial expressions blend in and act as a support and not take “main stage presence”.
Look closely and you can see life and feelings. Look from a distance and the whole blends into one.

Stage 8
Spray, sign and catalogue

Once the drawing is finished to my satisfaction it is signed, sprayed with fixative for protection, scanned and catalogue into my database.

This tutorial has attempted to demonstrate how I work ongoing beyond the mere mark making of drawing, into communicating all that my subject is and all that I feel it is…

It  has been a good exercise and has made me discover just how little I can explain because so much of what I do is based on "gut feeling"....
So much of how I draw is based on “instinct”.
The light has to feel right.
The composition has to feel right.
The values have to feel right.

Trial and error as well as hours of experience with graphite enable me to straighten out a phase until (dare I say it?)… it feels right.


Wendy Mould said…
Very interesting, thank you so much for sharing. I certainly know what you mean when you say you need to "feel" it is right.

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