Back to top
Five Cows, part of a family painting detail by artist Theresa Eisenbarth

Dear friends,
April 10, 2018

I finished this private commission art piece last week.

I definitely needed to get it done before our holiday to San Diego. There’s nothing worse than coming back to a project and trying to pick up where you left off. I think you can do this with paperwork, but in painting the process, the painting needs to be completed in it’s entirety as it’s too hard to pick up where you left off.

“Five Cows: Part of a Family”, 35 x 46 inches. Private Commission.

These five cows were a challenging project for me. Challenging for a couple of reasons; I had not worked with so much black hues in a subject before, and I could not see any tonal detail in the photograph… tricky to find a balance between the dark, tonal transitions in the greys, blacks and still use my bold colour.

After a lot of drawing and re-drawing areas, I decided to take the photo into a photoshop program and re-work the darks. I adjusted the black levels until I could see some detail and reprinted the reference photo. I ended up working with this reference instead of the one provided to add detail to the cows. One word of advice though, don’t get so too carried away with the new reference that you forget to look at the original reference photo! I did this exact thing and ended up sending the clients a photo of a“ highlighted version” of the cows. A big mistake.

The cow rendition I sent to them did not reflect the of their blacks in a “ Black Angus” breed ( as my sister so graciously pointed out over a glass of vino). I had painted them brown with even more light brown on the left side indicating the side the light was shining and completely missed adding the black back in…oops.

After the clients mentioned their unhappiness at my rendition, and rightfully so, I switched back to my original photograph and ended up repainting the light-brown areas with a warm black. This brought the subjects back into the realm of “ black” cows. A few pops of pure colour were preserved from the previous painting sessions, so pulling the painting together didn’t take long after these initial adjustments were made.

My artwork often has a lot of added texture in the final painting, and this one is no exception. Tiny bumps on the cows noses’, 3-D grass and crackled skies combined with strong colour give this work that sculptural feel I love.

I was pleased with how the painting came together in the end. But believing you can do it is another story….belief in doing something can have an unusual twist. If I choose to believe I could finish everything I start, I wouldn’t believe it. In the end, you don’t choose what to believe; belief chooses you. My buddy, the big cow believed I could do it…I ended up naming the big cow and called her Big Bertha. I spoke to her a lot while painting and if I’m not mistaken, she told me what to do.

I’d love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

If you have a photo from Medicine Hat or from the surrounding area you’d like to see painted, send me an email and we can talk about starting the process.



Theresa Eisenbarth