Tinkering around with painting the horses of first dozen RSM95 (French) cuirassiers in bearskins this afternoon, and a few new things emerged clearly in my mind while I did so. In no particular order, they go like this.
One, if you use oils to paint your horses, you cannot beat Van Dyke Brown as a color for both various chestnuts and bays. Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber are also good colors as is Grumbacher English Red over a black undercoat, which helps tone down the very reddish brown cast of this particular color. Otherwise, I no longer use black as a base or undercoat. Far too dark in my opinion. But getting back to the Van Dyke, which I have never used to paint horses before. I am quickly coming to the conclusion that it is THE color for painting up attractive horses in the common wargaming figures sizes and scales.
Speaking of undercoats, a yellow, tan, dark red, orange, or even light gray undercoat with a glaze of that same Van Dyke Brown over top produces a wonderful representation of horseflesh that is full of depth and variegation. Much like the coats of the real animals when you look closely. And depending on your undercoat, the final appearance of the Van Dyke Brown has a great deal of variety while at the same time, if this makes any sense, yielding a somewhat standard appearance to one's mounted units in a way that Burnt Sienna et al do not.
Finally, I've been experimenting a bit with the classic wipe off method of painting horses, but instead of wiping off the Van Dyke Brown oil paint with the corner of a carefully folded paper towel, I've used a large, fluffy #8 round brush (an old, soft nylon bristle one used previously for base-coating and painting bases green). It's kind of like dry-brushing in reverse. You use the dry brush to very lightly remove paint from the higher areas of the horse casting, occasionally wiping any excess off onto a paper towel before continuing until you are pleased with the look of the thing.
The overall effect of the brown glaze over a light yellow undercoat is a very soft, subtle appearance that brings out the musculature of the RSM95 horse castings (nice, but not the best on the market these days) in a satisfying and realistic way. I'll post a progress photograph later this evening after my camera battery has recharged, and I have had the chance to finish the final six of the first 12 horses. Who knows? I might even have time to take care of the greys ridden by two of the three trumpeters