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.
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.
Lucy is coming along. Her coat colors are a gigantic challenge. I have hundreds of colored pencils rolling around on the drafting table! The use of mineral spirits was crucial. Tweaking will come later. I am going to set this aside for a little while to work on something else. Plenty left to do, but I'm "Artist blind."
I'm having a little trouble with my rag mat board surface holding up to all the color pencil layers. One thing I've found: odorless mineral spirits when allowed to over saturate breaks down my surface. I've since switched back to good old regular mineral spirits, but the damage was already done. -Came close to starting all over, but was able to dip and dab color where needed. The detailing is just about impossible. Working fixative allows a little repair. Otherwise, the piece is coming along. I will never return to odorless mineral spirits. Thank goodness for windows and fans!
After many years of doing portrait commissions, I have just recently started to get serious about contracts. For the first decade or so, most of my patrons were local. Many were clients at the veterinary hospital where I was office manager. When the economy plummeted into recession, my portrait commission business slowed as well. I became very aggressive about using social media and internet to make sales. I don't always have the luxury to look a client in the eye. A contract helps both the client as well as the artist. It articulates possibilities that one might forget or be afraid to mention. It spells out the rules. And though it adds time to the initial process (I don't begin a project without both a signed contract and a nonrefundable deposit,) it reduces stress in the long run.
This wonderful Pitbull mix, was a rambunctious, sweet dog and represented the best personality traits of a much misunderstood bloodline. If this portrait sells, part of the proceeds will go to the SPCA ,where many of her kind wait to be adopted. This portrait would never have happened if not for the devoted couple who adopted her as a puppy.