It was a miserable day in the San Francisco Bay Area. A strong Pacific storm had swept through overnight, dumping way too much rain. It was unusually chilly. Winds were so high that a traffic advisory urged all non-essential traffic to stay off the roads. So where was I? At Bay Meadows race track, taking photos of the jockeys and horses. That's "essential," right?
When I grabbed the shots I used for this painting, the sun had just broken through the clouds for the first time. The colors went from drab to amazingly saturated in the blink of an eye The wet yellow slicker worn by the Clerk of Scales was glowing. I snapped off several shots of jockeys weighing in before the sun disappeared again. None of them were very good, but I had enough bits and pieces so I could composite them into something usable back in the studio.
I don't always paint from photographic references, but when doing something this detailed, it's essential. I wanted to paint every little fold, every little speck of mud. Most of it was painted in layers, with tiny little brushes, over a period of about 60 hours. Transparent watercolor was used in the traditional way, meaning that no white or opaque paint was used.
Why do jockeys weigh in after a race? To make sure they haven't "lost" any weight during the race. Their weight, with equipment, is recorded by officials before and after the race. It must remain the same, plus or minus a little mud.