#4: Cash’s Portrait

"Cash"  8" x 10"  acrylic on canvas panel © Xan Blackburn
"Cash"
8" x 10"
acrylic on canvas panel
© Xan Blackburn

Chris' greyhound, Cash, at age 10, is on her second life!  That's pretty good for a spooky grey, I'd say!  She had a bad reaction to routine shots, actually died, but was brought back to life - a modern-day miracle!  And, a gorgeous, blue-brindle gal, to boot.

Cash's portrait is painted on a canvas panel, which is a very big switch from the much smoother Aquabord panel I used on Red's portrait, right before this one.  The rougher texture was a nice change, though it makes getting good pictures tricky.   Let's see how we got to stage: Done!

Cash, original reference photo
Cash, original reference photo

Starting with this reference photo ...

Cash, work in progress stage 1
Cash, work in progress
stage 1

Once my drawing was ready, I dove in with Payne's gray for the underpainting.

Cash, stage 4 almost there ...
Cash, stage 4
almost there ...

This is where I left it last night, with some serious tweaks, and lots of fine-tuning to do, but generally close.  Notice the lighting changes between this and the final version, especially on the right side of her face.

Cash, altered reference
Cash, altered reference

I cropped, played with the lighting a little, made the bed a little more luxurious, but removed the pattern that I felt would compete with Cash's subtle stripes.

Cash, stage 3
Cash, stage 3

The underpainting is well under way, here.

Unfortunately, the photos I attempted of the early color phases just did not come out at all, so you'll have to content yourselves with a big jump here.

"Cash"  8" x 10"  acrylic on canvas panel © Xan Blackburn
"Cash"
8" x 10"
acrylic on canvas panel
© Xan Blackburn

PM #2: Stella – done!

Stella greyhound portrait
Stella
acrylic on Aquabord
8" x 10"
© Xan Blackburn

I think I'm done with Stella.  I hope Lynn agrees!

As it's Memorial Day weekend Saturday, my husband and dogs are all wanting dinner, and I'm rather hungry myself, I'll just show you some progress pics to show you how I got to this point.  Enjoy!

Stella, the Sleeping Beauty

Stella greyhound portrait in progress
Stella - work in progress, stage 3
acrylic on Aquabord
8" x 10"
© Xan Blackburn

Stella, the sleeping beauty!  Okay, she's not sleeping in this portrait, but her owner tells me that she sleeps a lot, and sent me several photos of her in that state.  Sounds like a greyhound to me!  (Contrary to popular belief, greyhounds sleep a lot more than they run.  A lot more.  Like, mostly, they sleep.)  But, I couldn't resist this pose, even though it shows her being awake.  At least with this portrait, her owners can imagine what she looks like standing up when the memory grows dim between naps.

The image above shows where her portrait stands at quitting time, Friday evening.  I'm seeing a pattern of slow starts, and quick finishes, so far.  My budget of 2 days/portrait for this marathon seems about right.  

The panel I'm using for this portrait is called Aquabord, which is an archival panel with a clay surface that has a texture and absorbent quality rather like watercolor paper.  I've used it before and really enjoyed it.  This time, it wanted to fight with me, but I've taken the upper hand.  It is too absorbent for what I wanted to do here, but once sealed with a layer of acrylic, it behaves much better.  I probably should have chosen one of the other panels, but ... oh well!

Stella's reference photo  cropped, and altered in photoshop slightly
Stella's reference photo
cropped, and altered in photoshop slightly

The reference image I chose had good lighting, and was well-focussed, showed her entire face, and gave a good sense of her (waking) expression.  You can see her dark brindle markings, and her glossy coat, as well as her deep burnt-orange eye color.  

Stella, reference photo, altered in photoshop
Stella, reference photo, altered in photoshop

As usual, in Photoshop, I decide what I want to do with the background, and alter the photo as necessary to make a good portrait in the proportions we're working in.  For Stella's rich, dark brindle, a mahogany-dark background really set her off nicely.

Stella - work in progress, stage 1
Stella - work in progress, stage 1
acrylic on panel
8" x 10"

This type of panel requires being flushed with water, to allow air bubbles trapped in the surface of the clay to escape, and to manage the absorbency a bit.  I almost forgot that, but they handily put a little "tip" sheet in the packaging, thank goodness.  Flushed, allowed to dry a bit, and the drawing transferred, I decided to start laying in the background, first.  I thought it would help me keep the balance of tonal contrast right if I had a good sense of the background while working.  It will take several layers, but I wanted to start with this raw sienna, to warm the later layers of burnt umber from within, rather like Stella's warm rusty stripes alternating with the almost-black stripes on her coat.  

Stella - work in progress, stage 2
Stella - work in progress, stage 2

Once I had a couple layers down in the background, I started in with her eyes, but the one on the right wasn't quite working, and the Payne's gray seemed too cool, so I left off for the moment, and started the underpainting in raw umber.  Beginning to layer up the shadows and darker tones.  

Once I switched to the raw umber instead of the Payne's gray, it started to come together better.  Plenty to do tomorrow, but we're off to the races, now.

Stella greyhound portrait in progress
Stella - work in progress, stage 3
acrylic on Aquabord
8" x 10"
© Xan Blackburn

I'm hoping for a view of the meteors tonight.  I hope you got a chance to see them, too.  Back to work tomorrow!  

PM – Luki (greyhound portrait)

Luki-P001
Luki - work in progress 8" x 10", acrylic and conte crayon on panel © Xan Blackburn

I'm pleased with this stage, though I had hoped to be a bit further along by quitting time tonight.  Well, life, in all it's variability, will make hash of the best of plans, eh?  

Here's a quick run-through of how we got here.

Luki - reference original
Luki - reference original

Luki is a delicate thing, a bit shy, a little un-sure.  Of the reference photos, I had to choose this one, for the lovely lighting, her alert gaze, pricked ears, slender muzzle and cautious mouth. 

Luki - reference photoshopped
Luki - reference photoshopped

 As usual, I took it into Photoshop, and experimented with the background, composition, lighting, etc., until I was content.

Cleaning Pallet

Once I got my pallet cleaned up (so cathartic!) after Sadie's portrait ...

TableReady

my painting area all set up ...

Studio dogs - Check!
Studio dogs - Check!

and my studio companions in their places ...

I began.  First, I transferred the drawing I had refined in photoshop by re-drawing on the back of the printed paper with conte crayons (dry pastels).  I chose to use different colors for this, as this method does leave definite traces in the painting, and I wanted to enhance the painting, not create something I'd have to fight with later.  Cool gray for the muzzle areas, and a hot yellow-orange for the rest.  Taped it to the panel, and drew over it again to transfer the drawing to the panel.  I set the drawing using a brush wet with a bit of dilute acrylic polymer, letting the color of the pastels act like paint as it spread into the acrylic.

I was on the fence about how to go forward: bold, like in Sadie's portrait, or more cautiously, in glazes, as I generally do?  Like Luki, I decided on the more cautious approach to suit her personality.  What with one thing and another, this is as far as I got today, and I'm pretty pleased with the feel.  

Tomorrow: more Luki!  I have a feeling these are going to average 2 days/painting.  Let's see if I'm right!

Truman

Truman
11″ x 14″, Acrylic on Canvas
copyright 2014 Xan Blackburn

Truman … I loved this big boy.  He was my first big greyhound crush who was not my own dog. 
I rarely get to meet the subjects of my artwork, but Truman and his family are friends I’ve visited with all up and down the west coast.  When he passed last year, it was a blow to everyone who loved him (which is the same group as everyone who ever met him).  Lori asked me to do his portrait, and I jumped at the chance to share this tribute with her.  But wow.  It was tough.  I was choked with emotion, the need to do him justice, and got stuck a lot along the way.  There are only a few progress pictures, because when I finally got going, I didn’t stop to take pictures.
Truman – work in progress, stage 1
starting the under-painting
Truman – work in progress, stage 2
crawling forward on the underpainting
Truman – work in progress, stage 3
getting a handle, developing the underpainting

Truman – work in progress, stage 4
most of color is laid in, developing detail

If you look at them closely, you can see how I had to re-adjust his eye focus as I went along.  Other than that, everything went forward pretty much as planned from the start.  

I will miss gazing into those almond-colored eyes, as I know Lori is also missing her blue-brindle coyote hound ever-puppy.

Shawn’s Portrait: Love story

Shawn
Acrylic on canvas, 9″ x 12″
© Xan Blackburn 2013

Well, there you go.

I swear I took some progress pics along the way, but the changes were so subtle that it was hard to see, once I got going with the colors.  So, yeah.  That’s that.  Done.
Oh, but I promised you a love story in the title, didn’t I?  You’re gonna love this.  Shawn’s mom, Kelly, wrote to me after my last post.  She had to correct me on how long ago we first talked about a portrait for her.  This is what she wrote (shared here with her permission):
I still have our original emails and the very first one was in early March 2006.  That’s why everything slowed down so drastically, Shawn died unexpectedly during a surgery on March 23, 2006.  I couldn’t even leave my house for the first week.  Shawn was and still is my original heart hound.  I love him dearly and it is because of him that I am marrying my soul mate, his breeder and originally owner.  It was only fitting that he be the focus of this long awaited painting.  We will have it framed and hang it in a special place in our home as he is very special to both of us.  We always say that John gave me Shawn and Shawn gave me John. 

Life and love is a long and winding road, isn’t it?

Love Hope Believe

Speaking of life and love, Hope for Hounds’ raffle for the first 2013 collar, and a lovely print, raised $1975!!  Yeay people!!  And congrats to the two winners, Meri and Carol.  Look forward to seeing Meri’s hound on both 2HoundsDesign‘s and Hope for Hounds‘ websites as the official 2013 HfH Collar Model Extraordinaire!

The collar will be available to order to the general public soon.  We’ll be sure to let you know!

Meanwhile, if you simply must have some HfH merch, there are still collars and leashes using previous years’ designs on 2HoundsDesign, and some great decals for your car, laptop or other flat surface to wear at Skinny Hound Design.

Who’s up next?

Next up is a double-header.  (That’s me, making baseball puns.  If you know me, it’s even funnier!)  Lily and Joey, a couple youngsters, will be coming up to bat.

And … I’ve run out of baseball stuff.  Maybe something about dug-outs, or chewing?  I dunno. I’m coming up empty!  Help a girl out!

Not sure this is the photo we’ll use, but it does finish up this post quite nicely, doesn’t it?