Shawn’s Portrait: Love story

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?

Shawn’s portrait progressing

Shawn - in progress acrylic on canvas,  9" x 12" © Xan Blackburn
Shawn – in progress
acrylic on canvas,  9″ x 12″
© Xan Blackburn

As I mentioned before, Shawn’s portrait has been a long time coming.  I made good progress on him today, and will probably work a bit more this afternoon.  

I started this one by covering the entire canvas with a pale coat of cobalt, to get a unifying tone, and to contrast the warmer colors in the dog and sand.  After that had time to dry, I transferred the drawing to the re-dampened canvas, using conte crayon, cleaned up the dusty mess that always makes, and sealed it in by going over the drawing strategically with Payne’s Gray diluted with acrylic polymer (clear glaze; I use it a LOT).  I went ahead and started to lay in some of the darker tones, bringing us to this point
I continued building up the darker tones, but couldn’t resist playing up some of the lighter areas as well.  The starting tone of the blue background made me crave those lighter areas for dimension.
I’m pretty sure I had also washed in a very dilute cad yellow in the ocean at this point, as well.
That brought us to this point. 
Shawn – in progress
acrylic on canvas,  9″ x 12″
© Xan Blackburn
I’m already re-thinking all that blue!  It’s going to be a real bother to overcome in the sandy area.  Maybe.  Or maybe it will do just what I want.  Remains to be seen.
So, on we go.  
Brindles!  Argh!  They’re so beautiful, and Shawn has this gorgeous tiger-red coat under his very busy brindling, but they always make me wish I was more impressionistic than I am, and I could just toss some random stripes in and call it good.  So, since I’m not that impressionistic, out comes the tiny brush, and in with the brindling.  
Shawn – in progress
acrylic on canvas,  9″ x 12″
© Xan Blackburn
Working on that for awhile (longer than you might think) brought me to this point.  Note the tiny brush.
So, back to work ….
Shawn – in progress
acrylic on canvas,  9″ x 12″
© Xan Blackburn
Now I’m really ready to start seeing some color in here.
I started with some very pale glazes of raw sienna, to begin to build up that gorgeous red coat.
Shawn – in progress
acrylic on canvas,  9″ x 12″
© Xan Blackburn
That got me to the point you see here on the right.  Already, you can see him popping out and taking some form, just from that one watery glaze of the sienna!
Now to explore some of the pink showing on his underside, and into his ears.  Reds can get away from you, so choosing a cad red medium, and thinning it way down with glazing, I washed in those first pinks.  Always shocking!  I toned them warmer with more of the raw sienna in places, dabbed around with more red in the eyes, throat, a hint at the muzzle, around the toes, deepening that pink shadow from his chest down his midline.  
At that point, I really wanted to start warming up the sand.  Not a lot: this isn’t a full sun day, rather more of a hazy east coast day at the shore, maybe the sand is damp, the shadows are indistinct, reflections and highlights are muted.  Even the ocean doesn’t reflect a lot of sunlight today.  I laid in a first glaze of raw umber on the sand.  I added a bit of a deep turquoise glaze to the ocean, and it’s too green now.  I’ll have to work on that.  I also worked on all the colors already on my pallet, from Payne’s gray to white, all over.  
It’s coming along.  I think I’ll probably finish it tomorrow.  What do you think, so far?  And, as always, sorry for the cr@ppy photos!  This last one is a scan, trimmed a tiny bit by my scanner, which isn’t quite big enough.
Shawn – in progress
acrylic on canvas,  9″ x 12″
© Xan Blackburn

Spring Forward

Shawn in the spotlight

Shawn on Dewey Beach
This portrait has been gestating since … Oh my … April, 2008!  Kelly won a portrait by me in a raffle, way back when, and we never did pin down just who was going to get the treatment.  Kelly finally decided Shawn would take center stage, we actually chose a photo, and the first layer of paint is on the canvas.  Whew!  Look at those EARS!  The painting is 9″ x 12″, acrylic on canvas.  I’ll let you follow along as I go, as usual.  At this moment, the drawing is just about to be transferred to the canvas, which has had an underlayer of soft blue laid down already.

Nice warm graphics

While my muse has been thawing out from her winter hibernation, I’ve been doing a little this and that to prime the pump (that is what is known as a mixed metaphor).  I find graphic work easier in this state than portraiture, which is good, since it was time to design this year’s Hope for Hounds artwork.  That was fun.  After a rough start earlier in the winter, I put it aside.  When I came back to it, I started from scratch and just blew right through it.  In case you missed my last post, that design has gone live, with a very exciting raffle for the first collar to be made!  You can still buy tickets, at $10 for one, or $25 for three, so hop on over there!  We’ve got some big new ideas this year, too.  You’ll want to make sure you’re in on them!  😉

On a related design note, I also enjoyed designing a couple custom fabrics that will be exclusive to 2 Hounds Design.  It’s always fun working with my good buddy, Alisha!

In the last few weeks, I’ve had three more requests for graphics.  One was a logo that both the client and I shelved last fall, one is for a dog breed club’s national event (using a previously designed element from an unused graphic – recycling!), and one is for a custom wine label for a previous client (is that also recycling?)  All are in progress, so I can’t unveil any of them yet, so you’ll have to take my word for it for now.  I’ll show you when I can.  I’m champing at the bit to show you!

My hubby has also been availing himself of the in-house design department (that would be me) to update his logo (which I designed years ago*) and his blog’s banner.

Okay, it’s not fancy, but it works, and it’s purty.

He’s also working on a book, for which I’ll be doing illustrations.  I worked this up for a working cover image.

Looking forward: Feedback appreciated!

In a previous post, I talked about my plans for this year, and next winter specifically.  I’ve added another idea to my pile.

Last year, I created a custom greyhound art doll (aka stuffie, plushie, stuffed animal, soft sculpture, cloth portrait …) as a fundraiser.  I’ve had many requests for more, and also for the pattern.  If you were following that epic saga, you’ll know I really made it up as I went along, with a lot of trial and error, but I did end up with a pretty cool pattern.  So, what do you think about an e-book of instructions (lots of pictures, of course!), including a pattern that could be transferred by grid to whatever size you wanted?

If you like that, how about this added bit: the book would have a link to purchase a cut-and-sew fabric printed with the pattern, for the option to let me take some of the work out of it for you?

Liking this so far?  Okay, how about if I created several versions of the cut-and-sew patterned fabric for different color dogs (fawn, fawn and white, brindle, black, etc.)?  Once you have the instruction book, with the fabric link, you can buy as many of the fabric patterns as you like, of course: make a whole pack!  Use them as fundraisers!  Give as gifts to your houndie friends!  Sound like a good concept?

Considering how sewing challenged I am, I’m considering recruiting a beta-tester and proof-reader who already knows how to sew (any volunteers?  😀 )

*The leaf that brought us together!  Long story, but let’s just say I threw myself at him, artistically speaking, and the rest is history!

Portrait Marathon: Hannah, #15

acrylic on canvas, 5 x 5
© Xan Blackburn

Hannah Banana!  I’m told that she was getting told off right before the reference picture was taken, which explains the look in her eye to begin with.  Goodness knows what the little trouble-maker had gotten into!  I decided to give her a little more relaxed look however, as you can see in the progress pics below.  With her pink collar, and her softened brindling, I couldn’t resist a sort of sunset range of colors in the background.
Pretty Hannah!  Now, stay out of trouble, young lady!

Next up is Liza’s 6Pac, a break in the greyhound pattern, but still a hound.  A hound of a different color, you might say.

Hannah in progress
© Xan Blackburn

Portrait Marathon: #13 – Fletcher

acrylic on canvas, 5 x 5
© Xan Blackburn

Fletcher’s mom is like me, I’m afraid: photographically challenged.  Alas, those of us suffering this affliction are lucky to avoid getting our thumbs on the lens.  After taking another try, we collected what we both agreed we’d better settle for, though it was still a bit vague.  So, what to do?  Invent detail, or keep the painting simpler, more impressionistic?
I sort of chose a middle ground.  This scan, despite my attentions in photoshop, insist on being more garish than subtle, which is a shame.  There’s a lovely bit of shading to indicate the warm light bouncing up and around even on this shadowy side of his handsome face.  Well, at least his mom will see it, in person!

Next up, Rebecca’s Coltrane!

Fletcher – in progress
© Xan Blackburn

Portrait Marathon: #7 – Tip Top!

Tip Top
Acrylic on Aquabord, 5 x 5
© Xan Blackburn

Tip Top’s portrait was a special challenge in that I only had one photo to work from, which was small and low-resolution, as well as being fairly dim.  Her head is lit from the rear, leaving most of her face in shadow, with just a rim of ligh  Since she had passed, there was no opportunity to get any better pictures.  Still, this one held an almost dreamy magic, and she had this subtle Mona Lisa smile that was irresistible.

I was also using a painting surface new to me, and a little anxious how it would work.  Oh.  My.  GOSH!  I love it.  It’s my new favorite, I think!  Aquabord (formerly known as claybord textured) solves the issues I’ve experienced with claybord (too smooth, shows brushstrokes in a most vexing way), and takes the paint beautifully.  Anyway, I’m really pleased with how it worked here.

Now, on to #8, Stefani’s Alfie!

Tip Top – in progress
© Xan Blackburn

Portrait Marathon: #6 – Bee Wiseman

Bee Wiseman
acrylic on canvas panel, 8 x 10
© Xan Blackburn

Wow!  Miss Bee Wiseman is a fabulous creature!  Her mom sent me a bunch of photos, but this smile just could not be denied!  Even though she had not only the whole open-mouth challenge going, but the brindle thing as well, I just thought it was time in the marathon for a big happy face.

For some reason, I can’t get the progress pics to save as an animated gif, as with the others, and it’s late, so I’m just not going to trade sleep for fighting with it. Sorry!

I’ve fallen a bit behind my original burst of speed, but I do not despair!  The weekend stalled out when there was some bumps in the system, followed by a spurt of pictures and questions coming in that deserved to be dealt with promptly.  Tomorrow, I’m off and running with #7: Susan’s greyhound girl, TipTop!