Portrait Marathon: #9 – Ruger!

Acrylic on canvas, 5 x 5
© Xan Blackburn

Handsome Ruger!  His mom sent me a few pictures, and a description, as usual.  She described a protector, her “Sheriff”, a “relaxed but aware” presence, always ready to lie down.
But the pictures she sent had me laughing out loud.  He looked to me like he had a goofy side, and, despite the more dignified description, his mom was choosing that goofy side to hold his memory.

I give you, Ruger.

Tomorrow, we have another bichon, the housemate to Fluffy; Rosie!

Ruger – in progress
© Xan Blackburn

Silken Windhound Portrait, Hunter, is … Done! (Probably)

Tangaloor Malden, CGC “Hunter”
11″ x 14″ acrylic and graphite on Gessobord
©Xan Blackburn, 2011

A lot of careful work went into refining the silky hairs swirling around the ear and down the neck, bringing them in and out of shadows, giving them dimension, giving them some color, making them finer. Much more shadow was needed along the back of the face, and in the mouth.  I couldn’t achieve a deep enough dark for the contrast I wanted in the mouth, so I used mixes of Payne’s Gray, some red, some raw umber, a little Naples yellow in some areas, to give it the depth it needed.  The nose and eye also got some of this treatment.  I want the focus on the face, with some other interest to set it off, but the exciting busy-ness of the ear had begun to take over the show.  These deep shadows brought the balance back.

While working on the mouth, I realized I’d gotten a bit off on the lower lip area, between the canine and the big molars.  It was not thick enough.  Bringing that dark back down where it belonged and marrying it with the areas previously brought almost to a finished state took up some time, but it was worth the effort to get right.

Tangaloor Malden, CGC “Hunter” (detail)
11″ x 14″ acrylic and graphite on Gessobord
©Xan Blackburn, 2011

Getting the hot and cool reds in the mouth is always interesting.  The light may bounce off a wet tongue, leaving a cool highlight, or shine into or through the tongue or edge of gumline, leaving a much warmer color.  You can see an almost flame-hot red at the edge of the lower incisors, and an almost blue highlight along the surface of the tongue, curving round to some warmer reds along the near edge, cooling yet again along the gum below the molars.  It’s not easy to see in this .jpg, I’m afraid.

I loved the silky way his fur is streaked with soft gold and pencil-gray.  In greyhounds, we call that blue fawn brindle.  I’m not sure what that coloring is called for silkens.  Anyone?  Another difference between greyhounds and silkens is their noses.  Greyhounds nose leather projects beyond the muzzle a bit, almost like a black clown nose stuck on there for laughs!  But, I’d gotten used to it.  I had to really look and SEE that silkens’ nose leather is more compact, more integrated with the muzzle.  That SEEing thing can be so tricky.  We assume we know how something looks, and miss the reality, which can throw everything off.  Impressionism is all well and good, but the essential points have to click.  For me, that is!

By around 5pm, I felt pretty well finished with Hunter himself, and took stock of the painting as a whole, and how, or if, I might shift its atmosphere.  I wasn’t sure it needed it anymore, now that Hunter’s features were better defined, and his personality was able to assert itself.  But, I had a pre-conceived notion, you know!

After a traumatic evening, where I tried to take this painting away from the direction it has insisted on from the start, and then had to pull it back from the brink of disaster, I think I’m going to keep my hands off it from now on.

I had forgotten my original intent to smudge it up, layer glazes on it, sand through them, and basically give it an aged feel, a sort of lost in time effect.  When I tried laying on some translucent glaze, using matte medium and raw sienna (a rich reddish brown), I was already nervous about wrecking it, and over-worked the glaze, resulting in a sticky, funky mess.  Much grungier than I had intended!  In a near panic, I took a sponge and carefully rubbed off what I could, leaving it just less grungy, but still in an uncontrolled, funky way.  I decided I better stop for the evening.  I retreated a bit depressed, drained.  But not utterly defeated somehow, though I didn’t know what I’d do to fix my mess.

I couldn’t resist going and looking at it again later, of course.  I remembered I had intended to sand this painting, so I grabbed some fine sandpaper, and started working on the areas I’d goofed up.  That helped, but then I went right through the turquoise and brown gesso underpainting in some speckles, so I stopped and left again.  When I came back after dinner (a snack, really, as I was too preoccupied to actually cook), I pulled out the gesso I’d mixed and kept separate all this time.  It was still wet, so I re-worked the areas I’d sanded, feathering them into the original background the best I could, and left yet again to let it dry.  When I looked one last time before bed, I could finally breathe a sigh of relief: it was back to where it had been before the grunge attack!  My eyes were aching.  I slept like a log (’til about 4:30, but that’s another story!)  And here we are today.

Tomorrow morning I have an appointment to get these three paintings scanned professionally, in case I want to make reproductions in the future.  That gives me one working day (well, half a day now) to maybe do a drawing or something small, perhaps, if I want to get that in on the scanning, too.  I’ll need everything to be dry, framed and packed for the trip by Friday, a week and a half off.  Plenty to do in the mean time, but I might try to get in a few drawings still.  We’ll see!

Let me know what you think of Hunter’s portrait, and the others!

©Xan Blackburn

©Xan Blackburn

©Xan Blackburn

Portrait Marathon: MikiToo is More done, and Lottie steps up to the plate

MikeToo needed just a little more tweaking, so I thought I’d show his final result here.  I’m so pleased!  I hope you enjoy it for many years, Judy!

Meanwhile, I’ve gotten going on Nancy’s Miss Lottie, a stunning fawn brindle greyhound.  Here’s my reference picture, all photoshopped and ready to guide me through the painting.

We’ve got company today, so I don’t know if I’ll have time to paint at all.  🙁  But, if I can, I will!  I’d like to pick up the pace on this marathon.  Seems like there have been way too many interruptions!

Okay, I’m off to the housecleaning trenches.  Anyone want to trade housework for art????  (Not kidding!!  Anyone??)

Portrait Marathon: MikiToo is DONE

MikiToo is ready to view!

Let me catch you up on how I got to the finish line with Miki.

You saw the underpainting pretty well underway in the last post.  I did deepen the shadows in various places, refined the eyes a bit, and the nose.  I went about as dark as I could right around the lightest areas of his face, to really get maximum mileage out of the high contrast there.

Then I started washing in some color.  I didn’t get any progress pics of that because once I get going, it’s hard to stop!  One challenge in this painting is to get the mixture of influences right to get his subtle blue-brindle coloring warmed by some reflected light coming into the shadow areas.  So, cool shadow area, warm reflected light, almost neutral almond-like fur color.  Many layers went into it to get that total effect.  I hope!  I fussed a lot with the edges of the shadow/highlight areas.

I hear my pizza calling to me, so I’ll let you all get on with YOUR Friday night plans.

Oops!  I just realized I haven’t notified Nancy that her Lottie is up next!  Better do that now.  Stay tuned!  We’re only on #5 of 10 (or maybe 17 … we’ll see!)

Have a great evening!

Portrait Marathon: MikiToo = DRAMA!!

Oh my ggoooooodness!  This guy, despite being still a goofy youngster, all spider-thin legs and wispy waist, got caught in a moment of grown-up old-school gorgeous!  How could I resist this photo??  Well, I could not.

I started this one with a deep Payne’s gray underpainting, knowing that I want to have those dramatic shadows well in hand, and DARK, before washing in the warm reflected light areas.  Oh man.  He’s so handsome, isn’t he?

Here’s where we’re at tonight.  I LOVE this stage!  So much of the work is done here, establishing the shading.  It’s like the skeleton of the painting.  If the bones are good, the painting will work.  If I mess up at this stage, it’s really hard to fix later.

Luckily, my comic book coloring experience is coming in really handy here!  The dramatic lighting was basic bread and butter fare for the likes of Batman and The Fantastic Four, et al!  Oh, I could write about those years!  Heh heh!  An average 12 scenes to a page, painted and/or colored with markers.  Yes, that was before all-computer coloring, as it’s done now.  I know.  I’m old.  Imagine; that was in the ’90s, and it’s already ancient history!  Last century!!  Notice how almost every sentence ends with an exclamation point?  I’m re-living my comic book days, for sure!  BANG!  POW!  KRRRR–AAACCCKK!!!!


Anyhow, back to it in living color in the morning.  Hasta manana, babies!  (How do you get the n with the tilda over it?)

Portrait Marathon update: Skye DONE!

Ah!  Done!

Skye’s owner, Leslie, told me that Skye likes to really MOVE, treating the yard like a Nascar track.  Her (further) use of race car terminology tipped me that she’s a fan (I hope I got that right!)  The reference photo is a stark stare, eyeballs ready to pop out of her head, she’s so intense.  I decided to throw in a Nascar reference with their logo, redone with Skye’s name.  She looks like she’s revving up, on the very edge of jumping the starting gun.

So, how did she get to the finish line?  Let’s start from the top.

This is the reference image, cropped to the area I would be using, and fiddled with ’til I could see her brindling a bit (at first I thought she was just all “blue”!)

Skye is a blue-fawn brindle, so I thought I’d play on the warm lilac tones.  What?  You don’t see lilac?  Really?  Hm.  Well, it’s part of the mix, I think.  Let’s see how it works out.

I found a Nascar logo, and reworked it in Photoshop, inserting Skye’s name in a similar style.  I thought it needed more racing imagery, so I tossed in a racing stripe, fading rapidly into the distance.  Once I got the reference image how I wanted it, I printed it out to use at my painting table, and drew the outlines onto the canvas.

Looks like a paint-by-numbers set at this point, right?  (I just remembered from early childhood the smell of the oil paints in their tiny plastic cups, no bigger than thimbles, that came with these sets … how did we clean up?  Was there turpentine?  I do remember the cheap plastic-hair brushes!)

Where was I?

Right.  Painting Skye!

Next, I wanted to lay in the logo, then get the background started, and give an overall tone to Skye herself.  Again, I wanted to separate the background from the subject by using warm colors in one place, and cooler in another, so golden yellow went in all over, except where Skye is, and I washed in this pale lilac over Skye, scrubbing out the highlights with a wet brush.  I did put in some of the warm yellow and raw sienna in her eyes, to get them started.

Next, it was time to get serious about getting shadows established. Using a deep violet, mixed with burnt umber or raw sienna, I started darkening areas I knew I wanted more shadow in.  I also used this mixture on the background.  Raw sienna starts to pick up the areas of brindling on her body.

Still no pupils.  She looks like the proverbial deer in the headlights!  Let’s work on that in the next phase.

That’s better.  Now you can start to see some much deeper darks going in, with payne’s gray, and some ultramarine blue in the body.  Too blue, though.  I’ll have to work on that.  The darks in the photo came out way darker than they really were at this stage.  I had a lot of toning to do, yet.  You can see where it’s going at this point, though.  She does look a bit like a purple and gold Dalmatian, don’t you think?

From here to done was a matter of many, many, many washes of payne’s gray, raw sienna, back to burnt umber, violet, some highlights in naples yellow, deepest shadows with a mix of payne’s and umber … then a few highlights thrown in towards the end, to bring out details in the eyes, around the muzzle, and so forth.  It’s between this phase, where you can start to see good depth, to the finish where all the really finicky works happens, going from rough to fine, from okay to hey-that’s-pretty-good, and finally to, “Okay, I’m calling it.  That’s done!”

Then I fiddle with it for another hour or so.  😛

So, that’s Skye, start to finish.  Hope you enjoyed the progress.  Let me know what you think!

Next up is … Hm.  Let me see.  Who IS next?
Ah!  Lori’s ol’ man Tuck!  I have a special warm spot for this curmudgeon.  He’s very special to Lori, and lucky to have her.  Cool.  Okay!  Onward!