I just finished two small paintings for a lovely client who wished to create the perfect gifts for her two children: table top original portraits of their two dogs. Each child chose a puppy fourteen years ago. They are now gray in the muzzle and a little slower, but otherwise healthy. The children, both in college, miss their pups. I spent a few hours one afternoon, photographing and getting to know the dogs, while also learning about the family and the mom. The photographs and expressions were chosen by her. We wished to capture each dog's personality in a tiny 5x7 head shot. This is not an easy task. In fact, a lot can be lost in one small tick of the pencil. I struggled with these. There was concern that the dog Ed, looking at the viewer and pleading to be petted, might appear to be giving dominant eye contact. Thanks to my husband's suggestion, a touch of dark to the eyebrow made the difference in the perceived expression. The other dog, Lucy held a strange pose which finally necessitated the inclusion of parts of her foreleg; otherwise her head would have seemed tipped over.
I decided to use colored linen mat as the surface to give these a painterly feel. Lucy, who is mostly black, is painted on a dark blue mat and Ed, who has a lot of browns and reds, is on a red mat. Using colored mat board, even if completely covered with pigment, is similar to an under paint wash and provides tone.
When my client finally saw the finished pieces she was completely satisfied. This is a blessing, because I never know what a client will think until they have the art in hand. Now I can relax for a bit and paint something new, something BIGGER.