Here’s the progression of the portrait of Lulu. The background color changes several times, which changes from blue grey to green gray and back to medium grey for the finished portrait. Acrylic paint has that flexibility. This was painted on water color paper that was prepped with gesso – a painting ground for canvas or paper. Several photos were provided throughout the process, so that I could get the correct coat color.
The Portrait of Duffy was a new challenge. Never had done a painted portrait with acrylic paints. That’s okay. Experiments, learning curves, and self doubt are all good for something. The portraits are based on photos that me or other people take of the subjects. Duffy’s body looks completely foreshortened. My friend Alan, who was also a painter, encouraged me throughout the process.
Duffy is a Newfoundland cross with a Cocker Spaniel, so I was told. He has the bigger foofy head with droopy eyes and a smaller body. Lots of fur to trim. His body is trimmed in this picture, which exaggerates the foreshortening. Also, I cut off the feet to emphasize his expression. I have never met him, but he has a striking expression.
This could be called the Blue Dog, maybe. I don’t know. I started with purple underlay and switched to the blue accents. That’s easily done with acrylic paint.
On to the next portrait of a German Shepherd Dog that will be a pastel. Soft chalks and pastel pencil have a more familiar feel. But I totally enjoyed doing this portrait.
Knox is an enormous fellow with a bark that vibrates the front door of his owners’ home. He’s a sweet boy and a wonderful rescue dog, who loves his treats and chases the animals in his yard. He has one ear that is flopped. That doesn’t take away from his elegant presence in this pastel portrait. The Autumn setting and the late time of day, highlighted the red in his coat.
This artwork of Piper, a Shetland Sheepdog was a commemorative portrait. The photo I had to work from was very distorted with pixilated smears. It took much longer than expected to intuit the missing details. I looked at other photos and asked the owner which one looked like her. Fortunately, there was a picture that assisted me in her facial mask.
Rembrandt Pastel chalk was used for this dog portrait over a pastel pencil layout on BFK Reeves 100% rag paper. Working with pastel on a dog portrait allows a layering that gives some depth and dimension to the beautiful, luxuriant coat of Piper the Shetland Sheepdog.
It took a week to finish the colored pencil portrait of Maya pictured here. It is a small piece 8″ by 10″ on Bristol paper. This is a smooth surfaced paper which works well with layering the colors.
Most of the time, I use paint or pastels to create my own pieces. Using the colored pencils is a fun exercise in the use of color.
Someone stopped by my blog and commented on the drawing of Maya. There was surprise for me when I visited this person’s blog. There was a long post about taking drawing classes. It turned out this writer wanted to draw and paint, but suffered from terrible anxiety when it came time to start a painting class. There were many kind responses to this post. People shared many perspectives.
I studied painting, drawing, photography, lithography, etching and learned countless crafts to teach in school settings. With each phase, there was what I called the first day of the lesson. All the unknowns would be revealed – the teacher, the students, the lessons. I wanted to learn.
In my first figure drawing class in college, my professor told me that I drew “like a barbarian”. As I looked at the drawing he was looking at I realized he was correct. It took two years of drawing, for four days a week, to learn to draw with expressive lines that I could control.
After studying to be an art teacher and watching students evolve in art classes, I came to believe two very important things: First that anyone who wants to can learn to make art. Second all it takes is the desire and discipline to learn with an open beginner’s mind. That means (to me) Be there to try things out and don’t be afraid to fail. Every learning in life takes practice.
When I learned how to make lithographic prints, I had one of the top lithographers in the country as a teacher. He was very strict. You cannot fudge a process like lithography, which takes many steps before you have a completed print. In the beginning of my two years of practicing this technique, I made every mistake in the book. It was a slow process of learning, that taught me the value of learning from my mistakes. The perspective I gained gave me a sense of humor about being human and not giving up.
This attitude has kept me going with my cooking experiments, at my blog Kunstkitchen and anything new that’s worth learning. I tell myself , “Just show up and see what comes to you.” That’s life.
Four Stages of the portrait process of the pencil drawing of Maya the labrador Retriever