I recently started to teach Pet Portraits in Colored Pencil to the brave souls that also took my Pet Portraits in Graphite class. This is my sample. The photo reference is from a series taken while working on a commission. The Border Collie Marley was particularly photogenic. This piece is 9x11"various light fast colored pencil with solvents on Rag Mat Board. I used many of my tricks on this.
Hannah, a 20 year old tuxedo cat, was my walking companion during a visit to Harpswell Maine a few summers ago. She and I strolled the shore early in the morning. I was amazed at both her agility to manage the rocks and her acuity for such a wizened cat. Returning from our exploration of the nearby cove, we passed beneath the bows of an ancient apple tree reputed to have a strong spirit residing within. It was a bit creepy and I felt compelled to give it a nod of respect as I snuck under the gnarled limbs. Hannah has passed on since that summer. I wonder if she has joined the spirit of this enduring apple tree. I wish my little friend well. I drew this 22x 30" image with 4-6B graphite pencils on a sheet of beautiful BFK Rives 140# cotton paper. The furry surface adds to the diffused feeling of this drawing. This was a study with the intent to eventually to make a colored pencil painting. But I love this graphite so much, just the way it is. And it has been filed away for almost a year now, so I get to experience it objectively. I doubt a color rendition would improve the message. Mean time, it remains in cue for one day. Enjoy!
Stonelick Covered Bridge in Clermont County OH is an icon for many. Recently restored, it is a beauty! I spent hours trudging around the bridge, bushwhacking through the waist high scrub, scrambling from rock to rock in the creek-bed and shooting photos from every angle, at different times of the day, over a period of a month. The reference photo used for this piece was taken at 5:00 on a fall afternoon. The sun washed bridge vs. deep shadows cast by the trees as the sun descended, made it interesting as well as a challenge. My client is a covered bridge enthusiast, so every detail, down to the numbered sign, is meticulously rendered. The original measures 20x30" and was painted with various brands of lightfast colored pencils on rag matboard. Fine Art Giclees are available for sale. Contact me for details.
Here is Preston the Welsh Corgi, 12x14" colored pencil on linen, my reference photos. This was a custom portrait created for the best of clients who expressly encouraged me to paint whatever made me happy; thus the unusual angle and wet fur. The client, myself and her two dogs, spent hours walking and photographing at two different locations, until I had many beautiful reference shots from which to choose. My art needs a story and Preston provided one when he unexpectedly followed his housemate, a Labrador Retriever, straight into the river. Corgis are all chest and no legs. Preston had never been beyond wading. He sank like a stone, then bobbed to the surface. The swimming technique, newly minted, added to the hilarity of Preston's alarmed expression, but he arrived safely to the water's edge soaking wet and disgruntled.
Awake early, the day after thanksgiving I have nothing better to do than enjoy my coffee and ruminate about art, inspiration, composition, good stuff like that:) I'm visiting family in Pensacola, which is a 12 hour car trip from Cincinnati, so the bulk of my art materials are in my studio at home. However, I managed to pack a sketch pad and pencils, just in case. This was meant to be a quick turnaround, but my Mom is elderly. A few more days here won't hurt. Anyway, it forces me to step out of my get-er-done routine at home and breath. Later I might walk down to the end of Mom's street with my sketchpad and sketch a pelican or shrimp boat. That is, if I feel like it.
You know, this is the most fun I've had in months! And the most interesting part is it is a custom portrait, not something I'm doing for myself or a competition. This is a WIP of Preston, a very wet Welsh Corgi that just discovered that water can swallow you whole. During the photo shoot we took a stroll along the bank of The Little Miami, East Fork Branch. Preston followed his Labrador Retriever housemate straight into the river without a thought. He'd never been in water over his head. He sank like a stone, then bobbed up with an expression of pure shock! Pres isn't entirely sure water is to be trusted ever again! This piece will eventually be 12x14" Painted on lovely blue linen mat with CARAN d"ACHE Luminance, PRISMACOLOR and DERWENT COLOURsoft pencils.
The question of all questions: What makes good composition? How does one crop, punch color, add or delete elements in order to create a piece of art that will resonate? There are rules to composition, which I rarely think about at first. If a ref photo grabs my attention, there is probably something there worth trying. Later, as I start the project, I will think about rules, where to crop and so forth, but I have to be careful to not sterilize the inspiration right out. That initial reaction, the one that made me stop and look, what was that and how will it translate? Over the years, I've paid attention to how my art is received and learned from that. What draws the most attention? Rarely do I hear "I love this because it is so well executed." More often it's "I love that red," or "wow, it looks like a photo (which drives me crazy by the way. Why would anyone spend 6o hours of her life to simply copy a perfectly good photo?)
To break it down: color,value and a relatable story, are the three main elements to a successful image. Detail is used to support the theme not drive it. For instance, if you have ever watched the reality t.v. show THE VOICE, how often is the vocal run used to show off vocal ability? But if it is delivered without conviction and you can't hear the lyrics, it's just noise. In two dimensional art, if one does not manage to draw the viewer in with substance, what use are the details? On the other hand, taking the time and effort to render those details well, honors the idea. Don't skimp.
This is a very long blog entry. I imagine you are wondering what it has to do with this landscape photo. Simply put, the photo reaches into my soul. It is beautiful. The colors are rich, the shapes interesting and there is nice contrast. The message is simple. It calms me. I want to live in this image, where the only human touch is the evenly mowed field.
OK, you heard all my whining and complaining over my first covered bridge painting: how I shouldn't of done this- should've of done that, yadda-yadda! You will be shocked to know, that not only did it sell, but a photo of the finished piece on my cell phone, managed to procure a custom ordered rerun. This time, fall or winter and more than twice the size. Am I nuts? There is much to be said about the value of iconic scenery. Lets see if this time I will remember to do what I should do and leave off doing what I shouldn't.
When I was a small child visiting my grandparents at their seaside cottage, I spent many happy hours exploring the rocks that reached like fingers into the ocean. Those rocks held cupped in their crevices, the coming and goings of magical things. See the Hermit Crab dragging its stolen home, bumping and scraping across the rock floor, while glinting black mussels, periwinkles and barnacles occupy their own rock real-estate. A flash of movement as a baby crab with antenna eyes darts sideways to hide in a clump of seaweed. Shadows play and water sparkles as waterbugs and dragon flies skitter across the surface. I have never lost my my fascination for these places. Have you ever walked along a Maine shore line to see millions of periwinkles piled up along the tide mark? Periwinkle Pileup is a "child's" closeup view, its diminutive size only 4.5"X 9.25" It is painted with Prismacolor, Luminance, Derwent and Soho colored pencils with the occasional brush of spirits on linen mat.
"Departing" is soon to be exhibited in its fourth show this year! The fun part is the exhibition is hosted by my old boss Doug Eisele, owner of Old World Restorations, (where 20 years ago, I learned patience as an art restoration technician,) in his gallery: Doug Eisele Gallery of Fine Art. Talk about full circle! This should be interesting, right?