Pre-Holiday Pet Portrait MARATHON

We still have time to do this, so we’re going for it!

Berger Picard "Daddy" by Xan Blackburn
Berger Picard “Daddy”
Work in progress
Acrylic on panel 8″ x 10″
© Xan Blackburn 2012


MONDAY, Nov. 26 – Mon., Dec 17

Just in time for holiday gifting, I’m taking three weeks after Thanksgiving to do a portrait marathon!

As always, it will be first-come, first-served, sign ups starting on Friday the 23rd, at 9am PST.
That’s right; “Black Friday”! Take a little break from the shopping madness. 😉

This time, you’ll have a choice of either 5″ x 5″, gallery-wrapped canvas or panel (either can be displayed without framing, but framing is great for either, as well),
or 8″ x 10″ panel. The 5″ x 5″ portraits are $80, and the 8″ x 10″ are specially priced for the Marathon at $150 (that’s $110 off!)

I’ll remind you on my blog and Facebook that morning, with the link to the sign up form, but for those of you who will need no reminder (you know who you are! LOL!), here’s the link. Any entries before 11/23 9am PST will not get on the list, so … wait … for … it …

 😉

In the mean time,

I’m still working on my portrait of Lily and her Daddy.  I’ve also been designing holiday cards for a commercial client, and my husband’s business.  
But, and this might interest you, I’ve also designed a card just for you.  It’s a little thank-you to my readers and clients, with a little DIY extra.  If you’d like to receive a card from me, please fill out this address form.  And, even if you don’t, THANK YOU.  

FPM Finale: Cosmo is Complete!

Cosmo
5″ x 5″ acrylic on canvas
©Xan Blackburn 2012

Fall Portrait Marathon, Cosmo

Done.  Cosmo’s portrait, and the Fall Portrait Marathon of 2011, both done.

Cosmo’s portrait was based on a black and white photo, which has such power on its own that, given the option, I decided to stick with a monochromatic approach.    I did try some coloring in Photoshop, but I couldn’t get happy about spots of color.  It seemed gimmicky or false.  So here he is.

Back in my comic book coloring days (yes, it was a real job!), we often were called upon to create scenes that were monochromatic.  For some reason, I found certain colors harder than others, but working on The Savage Dragon (this particular page lists me – Xan Micka at the time – as a colorist, but thinks I am a male.  Hmf!), for instance, I learned a lot about greens, or working on Spawn, I learned about a lot of red.  Ick.  I think I’d take a different approach now, but my comic book days are loooong over.  (That’s a whole ‘nuther story!)

What was I talking about?  Oh yeah.  Monochromatic painting.  Well, enough said.  I’ll just let Cosmo do the talking.

FPM #10: Cosmo, still black and white

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

Cosmo – work in progress #6
5″ x 5″ acrylic on canvas
©Xan Blackburn 2012

 Fall Portrait Marathon, Cosmo 


I managed to resurrect one of my tinier brushes, which sure helped with the little hair details.  I’ve been working on building up that fur texture, particularly on Cosmo’s face, and also with continuing to develop the overall shape of him, his various roundnesses, and the soft layered shadows on his white chest and legs.  


You’ll notice in the second picture here (#6) that it seems I’ve lost some of the hair detail.  I did!  I was washing in some general tone, and it washed OFF some of my painstaking detail work.  😛  Oh well.  That’s when I broke out the glazing medium.  Once that stuff dries, it does not come off.


You can see where that took me in #7 below.


I’m quite pleased at the progress at this point.  Next phase, I’ll work in some texture from the other direction: the lighter hairs and whiskers. 


Way down at the very bottom is a detail showing how the texture is evolving.  It will be fun to see it build up with the lighter hairs, too.


I’m liking the black and white so much, I’m thinking I’ll be very restrained with adding any color.  I’ll start with the eyes, and see how I like it just like that, then go from there, or call it done.


Happy Monday, everyone!

Cosmo – work in progress #7
5″ x 5″ acrylic on canvas
©Xan Blackburn 2012

Cosmo – work in progress #7 DETAIL
5″ x 5″ acrylic on canvas
©Xan Blackburn 2012

FPM #10: Cosmo, leeeetle update

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

Fall Portrait Marathon, Cosmo 

One more little update for today.
You know what?  It’s not as easy to “draw” with acrylic as it is to draw with a pencil, say.  Anyway, it’s coming along!  We’ll call this stage 2a.

Have a nice Friday night!

FPM #10: Cosmo progresses

Fall Portrait Marathon, Cosmo 

I’m going to try to remember to take more scans along the way for Cosmo’s portrait, and write a bit about each stage as I go.

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

So, with the washy start from our last look as a starting place, most of the darkest darks at least indicated, it’s time to really start filling in.  As always in this portrait, the texture of the fur is going to be important at each step, though the sharpest detail will be reserved for his handsome face, to keep our attention there.

Cosmo: reference photo

My philosophy there is to avoid getting stuck in a technical distraction, where the viewer is more involved in the technique than the overall effect; Cosmo himself.  When we look at something naturally, we focus our own sharpest attention right in the center of our field of vision, with the edges getting progressively soft.  So, to take a photo, which is indiscriminate in its focus across a whole depth of field, and re-imagine it as a painting in a sense is to translate it to a more natural way of seeing, while giving the artist control over what will become the focal points, and therefore the emotional impact, of the painting.

I would love to hear from you if that kind of discussion is enlightening about my choices, or just a lot of bla-bla-bla that you sort of skim over.  It truly is the stuff going on in my head, at least at an unconscious level.  Bringing it up in words to tell someone sort of explains it to me at the same time!

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

Anyhow, moving on to the next stage, I started with his eyes, darkening the pupils, and defining his eyeliner.  Then, I let my attention sort of wander, picking out areas that needed more generally dark tone, and then more picky hair texture.  You can see in the detail below how the balance is shaping up, in terms of soft focus/harder focus.  I’ve kept the texture sort of fluffy in the edge of the cat bed, and intend to keep it in soft focus, with the exception of a suggestion of its carpet-y texture at the edge nearest his face.

At this stage, the shape of Cosmo, his roundness, is starting to be more evident.  I’m pleased so far.

Now, back to it.

FPM #10: Cosmo kitty

Cosmo
all rights reserved

Fall Portrait Marathon, Cosmo 

Cosmo the cat chose his family by befriending every person, dog and cat in the house, and then just walking in the door for good one winter day.  A sweet and congenial guy, his people are still missing his gentle presence since his passing 3 years ago.

We see him here obviously in the prime of good health, evidently surveying his chosen domain, maybe looking for just the right lap, or fuzzy side, to jump down and snuggle with.  You’ll also notice that this photo, while in relatively high focus, is also in black and white.  So, Cara-Lea gave me the option to play around a bit.  Add color or not.  Add it all over, or not.  Get creative with my whole approach, or stick to the tried and true.

Cosmo in color
all rights reserved

She gave me the photo on the left here for a color reference, and that eye color just demanded to be taken into account!  So, that’s part of the decision.

Cosmo-color added
all rights reserved

I’m going to play it a little bit by feel, and start with a very careful monochromatic underpainting, with the assumption that at least some of it will stand on its own in the finished painting, while some areas will likely get some color.  This colored version of the photo is sort of how I’m thinking of it to start.  Maybe less color in the cat bed, or just confine it to the edge closest to Cosmo’s face.

I want to be able to get that wonderful texture that stripey cats have, where the hairs follow a general flow, but interlock, and each hair is multi-colored, making a complex pattern in any tiny given area.  Whew!  As I’m working on canvas, which has texture of its own, I won’t be getting every hair everywhere, but I want to have the ability to get the ones I really want, to suggest the whole.  So, as I always do, I sanded the canvas before transferring my drawing, being a little more vigorous than usual.  I wiped it with a damp cloth, applied a mid-tone gray pastel to the back of my drawing, carefully taped it in place over the canvas, and drew over it to transfer the drawing.  Once it was all there, I carefully removed the paper, and cleaned it up with a kneaded bit of Blu-Tack.  Where the wooden frame defines the edge of the canvas gets especially smudgy since it’s solid where the rest of the canvas is stretchy, so special attention there.

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

I still have my trusty Payne’s gray on my pallet from Sammi’s portrait, so I dilute that down, and wade in, sketching with my wet brush over the lines, trying to get the feel of the hair directions right from the start, checking against my reference photo for the inevitable vagueness inherent in the transfer method.  I went ahead and washed in some general tones as well, in the background as well as in Cosmo himself.  I like that this color separates as it settles into warmer and cooler particles, making the color very rich and interesting, like watercolor paints do.

So, this is where I’m at right now.  Stage one is always pretty interesting, and full of potential: will it turn out well?  Will it fail?  Only time and work will tell!

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.
Sammi
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!