Our son's dogs, Clara and Troy
On my morning walk the other day, a fellow and his dog moved off the trail to give me 6 feet of social distancing. I smiled and commented on his beautiful dog, and he said " If there is one group of critters on this planet that is over the moon with happiness these days, it's our dogs. What could be better for them than to have all their favorite people home all the time?" Isn't that the truth? And it goes for any pet that enjoys the company of their pack.
Having them around is good for us people too, especially now, when we can only enjoy the company of our human friends and family via the telephone or video conferencing. A head or paw on the knee is a reminder that someone cares and that someone needs us too. Since our beloved airedale died, my pet interaction has been with our son's two rescues, and I love them. I'm looking forward to when I'll be able to join them on their daily walks again.
I've also enjoyed the experience of painting people's pets, mostly dogs, and some cats too. Pet portraits are fun for several reasons. Animals have interesting shapes, and I love to draw them. There are lots of angles, and spots and varied coloring add to the puzzle. There's something there to hold onto when you start to draw.
To create a pet portrait, I usually start with an under painting in one color, showing the darks and lights, which is my map for the color layer. It's a huge help, and part of the process I teach my students for any painting. Next I begin the color layer with the darkest of the dark paint, in fairly large shapes, and move to the lightest. Then, while the painting is still wet, a top layer of detail, and I'm done. Above and below are some examples of that process.
Another fun thing about painting pets is that these paintings are usually commissions. In a commission I get to learn a lot more about the subject and what it means to my client than happens when I create a painting based on my own preferences. I get to hear about the animal's personality, and stories about their antics. A successful painting is one that means something to someone, to a particular person or family. Pet portraits give me an opportunity to create that meaning for those who've lost a pet or are intent on treasuring their current furry friend.
For 10 years of previous blogposts, click here.
Keeping our distance isn't easy is it? I've been texting and on video calls a lot this last week. And it's been good to catch up with friends and relatives I hadn't spoken to in a while.
One of the things that's keeping me sane is a nice long morning walk. The video above is from an old kid's camp that belongs to the town of Westford, MA. What a great place for a hike! I think I see some paintings here...
You can see that drawing is pretty important for this kind of painting. And contrary to some thinking, drawing is not actually that hard. For those of you who'd like to give drawing a try, I've got something for you below. Download the line drawing file and print it out. Now turn it upside down (mast pointing downward) and place it on the table in front of you. Take a sheet of paper and a pencil and copy my drawing.
Now turn your drawing right side up and take a look. What do you think? The beauty of this exercise is, if you don't recognize what you're drawing, it's much easier to draw. By the way, this is also a great exercise for kids. And coloring the drawing is fun too.
For 10 years of previous blog posts, click here.
Demo - Jackson Dinghy
8"x8" on 3/4" gallery wrap canvas
Practice - Jackson Dinghy
8"x8" on 3/4" gallery wrap canvas
On Saturday I did a demo at the For the Love of Art event at the Drawing Room at Anthi Frangiadis Associates in Marion, MA. It was a lot of fun, with engaged viewers who asked very good questions. It had been a couple of years since I'd done a full painting demo, but lots of hours teaching with minim demos had happened in between. Luckily I also remembered something I'd learned in my previous career, after not doing very well on panel discussion that I tried to do off the top of my head: preparation is key! Here's my advice and what I did to prepare:
- Choose subject your audience can appreciate. I prefer to do demos from life, but that has to be balanced with what my audience would like to see. In this boating community, I knew what my subject needed to be, even though it was the dead of winter!
- Choose a painting that you've painted before.
- Practice the drawing several times over a couple of days. A solid drawing makes for a stress free demo. My goal was to draw from the photo and then to add a grid and compare my drawing on the canvas with a photo that also had the grid as a way for the viewers to check my accuracy. So I practiced drawing on paper from the plain photo and then adding the gird and fixing my mistakes. It was instructive!
- Practice the demo painting, i.e., paint the whole thing. This was important because it had been a couple of years since I'd painted the original. I had to remember how to mix all the colors so as to not waste time experimenting during the demo. And I found that my current process (with a value under painting and two layers of color) took more than 2 hours, so I shortened it to one layer of color for the demo.
- I didn't practice what I was going to say. I could talk all day long about the painting process!
Interestingly, even with the explanations and answering questions, the demo was less than an hour and a half, so all was well. And I enjoyed it! That's good because I've got another one scheduled for an event in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, in June.
Liqueur and Clementine
8"x6" oil on canvas panel
Available at Yarmouth Frame and Gallery
Drawing into the yellow ochre background with the wipe out tool, zoom in to get a better view
First thin color block-in
Second pass with color
When painting a glass object, it can be hard to capture the small changes in value between the glass, edges, and background if you do your drawing in dark-ish paint, like I usually do. that problem can be solved by using an initial under painting that matches the value of the background, and drawing into it using a wipe out tool, like the one made by Kemper.
Thanks to Robert Abele for showing me this method!
Laphroaig and Glass
10"x8" oil on canvas panel
What to paint in winter? Thinking about Valentine's Day coming up I got out a bottle of brandy and a couple of glasses. Hopefully you'll see that painting in a few days. I thought I should practice first and so grabbed a bottle of my favorite scotch, Laphroaig, and a single glass.
I set up the still life next to a window, with a black backdrop and a white linen napkin as the base. and took a few photos since the light was changing fast. Here are a few process shots.
Value under painting in yellow ochre and ultramarine blue
Putting in the darks
First pass of color (note the change to a purple background)
Painting the background a different color than what I could see was of course not such a great idea. I immediately knew that the bottom of the glass was now too dark. So the next morning I went to JoAnn Fabrics and bought a piece of purple fabric to replace the black.
Notice also that the bottle leans a little in the process photos and the ellipse at the top of the glass is crooked and bigger on the bottom then the top. So I had to fix all that. For a discussion of how to get the ellipse correct in this kind of painting, see this great post by my buddy Carol L. Douglas.
Pens, Pens, Pens!
Sketch for "The Chefs", Noodler's ink and Creaper pen
The new year is about to start, and January is a good month for resolutions and for experimentation. If you've read my blog for a while, you know that I love drawing with pens. Pencils and charcoal are fine, but pens are my favorite. For the last few years I've been drawing with what we used to call "felt tip pens", but with permanent ink. My favorite of these is the Tombow, which are very reasonably priced, come in lots of colors, and a set of gray values. I stick to the gray values, and use them for thumbnail drawings and value sketches. Here are a couple of examples.
Gordes, France, sketch 2015
Olive Grove, Bedoin, France sketch 2015
And here are a few of the Tombow pens with another drawing.
The sketch at the top of this post was done with my new Noodler's Creaper Flex fountain pen. I've spent some time over the past few days learning how to get different line widths, hatching, and other pen and ink drawing techniques. This pen (below) is excellent, especially for the $14 price, and available on amazon.com.
I hope in January you'll see some more experiments from me. I've got some new Dr. Ph. Martin's India inks in lots of colors to try.
Happy New Year!