The Torn Saddle Bag • Oil • by John Morfis

The Torn Saddle Bag

The Torn Saddle Bag • Oil • by John MorfisThis is one of those paintings that marks a very special point in my artistic career as a professional oil painter. Not only do I feel this is one of my strongest paintings, but it also has a fantastic back-story surrounding the saddle bag.

If you’ve been following along for the past year or so you have gotten familiar with my equestrian-themed objects. A friend of mine, Carol, is the lady whom I get my horse manure from and naturally most of my horse-related objects. From horseshoes and crops, to stirrups and now this saddle bag, she has it all.

Carol started riding horses when she was a teenager, now a retired speech pathologist, this saddle bag has great personal significance when she recalls it. This was her first saddle bag she rode with.


One of my favorite parts about painting objects is when they have some kind of story or significance that accompanies them.


Not only was this Carol’s first saddle bag, but she recalls how the leather bag got that tear in its side.

According to Carol she was filling up the saddle bag with apples on one her rides. The apples came from an orchard that she did not have permission to be on nor consume the apples! She had packed far too many apples into the saddle bag when she got startled by what sounded like the farmer whom owned the land!

She raced off in hurry with her mischievous bounty to avoid getting caught by the farmer. She had packed so many apples into the saddle bag their combined weight and bouncing of the horse in full gallop caused the apples to rip a hole in the side of the leather saddle bag!

She now claims, “It served me right for being so greed!”

When I first saw her saddle bag it instantly spoke to me as an object I wanted to make a painting of. But after hearing how it was her childhood saddle bag and had this amusing story to go along with it I couldn’t stop thinking about painting the item.

I had to wait almost 9 months before I could start the painting however. I had too many other items I was already working on and more items yet that I was committed to. Still I did some studies of the saddle bag in pencil and my initial studies confirmed my hunch that this leather bag was indeed going to make a great painting!

The bag had been in storage for decades and was fully under siege from mice and mold! I ended up cleaning the bag up and restoring it a bit with neatsfoot oil.

Now, the only problem was it was far too big for my then staging area. I ended up rebuilding my entire staging area and reworking my lighting system to accompany the saddle bag.

Painting the illusion of old leather was really fun and the shiny metal buckles were right up my alley as they resembled all the tools I spent the last few years painting. It was the background that actually took up the majority of the time. I came up with the idea to put painted paneling as a background about halfway through the painting’s progress. I got a 3 x 4 foot piece of wood paneling and rolled out the green you see in the painting. So yes the paneling did look like that. I carefully mounted the green paneling behind the saddle bag and then realized just how much extra work I made for myself!

It took and incredibly long time to paint all the details of each indented stripe that makes up the paneling’s pattern.

At 36 x 26 inches this is by far my largest still life painting to date! I’m really proud of this painting and although I’m used to selling my artwork this painting was slightly difficult to part with. Everything just seemed to really come together for me when I worked on it.

Last month I posted all of the step by step photos showing this painting in progress on instagram. I think you’ll find it interesting to see the painting unfold:

Depending on when you read this you might have to scroll back to older posts to see it.


I hope you enjoyed looking at and reading about my artistic process, please feel free to leave a comment below!




  1. Gorgeous! I can smell the leather and all of it’s age.

    1. John Morfis says:

      Ha,ha I love it… thanks Tiffany!

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