Portrait Marathon: #19 – Mosa!

acrylic on canvas, 5 x 5
© Xan Blackburn

Aaaa-aand I’m DONE!  Pretty Mosa is the last painting in this winter’s Portrait Marathon, and what a smiley girl to wrap things up with!  Mosa has good reason to smile!  She was rescued from Ring Dog Rescue.  Need I say more??

Thanks to everyone that participated in this Winter Portrait Marathon!  It was a total blast.  I hope you all enjoy the portraits at least as much as I did!

Now for a heads-up!  Those of you who’ve been waiting for a spot on the commission list, pay attention!  I’ll be sending out a newsletter opening the list to my subscribers, first, then announcing it here and elsewhere.  The marathon sign-up form worked so well for me that I’ll be using a similar form for the commission list, with the link to the form right in the newsletter (then here, if it doesn’t fill up right away).  For more information about how my commission list works, see the link above.

Mosa – detail
© Xan Blackburn

Mosa – reference with background concept

Mosa – in progress
background is in, drawing and underpainting in progress
© Xan Blackburn

Mosa – in progress
nothing left but the details!
© Xan Blackburn

FPM #9: Sammi is done!

Sammi – work in progress
5″ x 5″ acrylic on canvas
©Xan Blackburn 2012

Fall Portrait Marathon, Sammi  

Sammi’s portrait wrapped up pretty quickly.  

While I wait for it to dry enough to scan, I’ll show you this intermediate version.  Some of the “magic” white glazing has gone in, and is particularly visible on the tongue here.  The background has gotten several layers, including a worrisome yellow around the edges.  Dear reader, hang on.  All is not lost, but only scaring you so that you’ll appreciate the final trick that much more.  
Okay, it’s dry enough to scan.  Let’s take a look and compare.  I’m not feeling too wordy today (for a change!), so I’ll just give you the visuals.
5″ x 5″ acrylic on canvas
©Xan Blackburn 2012
That’s better, right?
Now, on to the very last portrait for the FALL Portrait Marathon: Cara Lea’s kitty, Cosmo!
A fitting end to the marathon, since it has been a fundraiser for the feral cat rescue organization, Creatures Comfort of Bellingham, WA!

FPM #9: Sunny Sammi begins to pop

Sammi – work in progress
5″ x 5″ acrylic on canvas
©Xan Blackburn 2012

Fall Portrait Marathon, Sammi 

Sammi’s portrait is zipping along now.  Even though he’s such a subtle guy (except for his exuberant personality, of course!), some truly deep darks are necessary to make his light face have dimension, to POP it out of the background.  So, in I go, with my Payne’s gray and my raw umber and my ultramarine blue, punching and pushing bits forward and backward.  I was telling H the other day that when I’m really in the Zone, it feels as if I’m actually sculpting something plastic, like clay, smooshing and poking, pulling up and smoothing actual three-dimensional substance, rather than dabbing or stroking over a flat surface.  It’s cool.  Almost hallucinogenic or dream-like.  Sometimes, as when you wake from a dream, the effect isn’t quite as I’d imagined it, but it’s still a fun state to be in, and does result in a better painting or drawing.

Next, I’ll be laying in more yellow-browns, some more background colors, and then the white to tie it all together, and make that bit of magic happen.  

FPM #9: Sunny Sammi!

Sammi – work in progress
5″ x 5″ acrylic on canvas
©Xan Blackburn 2012

Sammi was a happy guy!

According to his human, Sammi came to them as an 11.5 year old bounce, wobbly and with a “slight fecal incontinence”.  He was a sweet ol’ guy, but had no problem telling his humans he was in want of something by barking until they figured out what it was!

She says,

The pic I sent was him 10 minutes after he walked in the door. It is still the way I remember him.
He slipped in and out of our lives so peacefully, how can I miss him so much ?

The photo is adorable!  How could you resist that smiling face??  Unfortunately for my purposes, it’s also both low-resolution, and burnt out by flash.

Even after doing what I could in Photoshop, this is what I have to work with (below).  A bit vague-ish. His other ear is a softly blended blob.  But, what can you do?  Luckily, most greyhounds have pretty similar physiology, and I have a couple laying around for reference.

  I thought I’d move him out into a sunny day background, and remove the fingers crawling on his head and hips.  I did my drawing to the best of my ability, and transferred it onto my canvas using a pale periwinkle pastel this time.

Addressing the pallet, I saw I still had some useable paint.  Waste not, want not!  I used some white with glazing medium to set the drawing, for starters.  I diluted some ultramarine in the same way, and started washing in some pale shading, working up to the darker areas.  It’s not super dark, particularly as I had to get it pretty wet to revive it, but it was good enough for a first round.  I also had some raw umber (dark mud-brown), so I started in with that, using it to bump the darks up too.  I love the way the cool blue and the warm brown play off of each other!

I also had some red, so I decided to lay in the base tones in the mouth, nose and collar, even giving the eyes and ears just a hint of pink.  Sammi’s nose has quite a bit of pink, as his color is so dilute, so it’s an interestingly mottled pink-dark brownish gray*.  I like how it’s coming along at this point.

I still had some cyan (sort of a sky blue) that was useable, which fit my concept for the background, so in it went.  Once I had some of that down, it also made its way into some reflections on the more shadowed side of Sammi, and on his nose.

I know he looks a little evil at the moment, but the lines over the inside corners of his eyes will be softened in the final round.

So, that’s where we are at this moment.  Back to work!

*I used to work in a comic book coloring studio with some very talented artists.  The owner of the studio used to describe colors like this, which always cracked me up.  “It’s a sort of pinkish, greenish, purplish orange with a hint of blue.”  Oh!  Well, that clears that up!  😉

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!