So Stylish, and yet so Helpful!

HfH collar
Of Corgis and Cocktails photo of Hope for Hounds collar

Alisha of 2HoundsDesign and I have worked together for years now.  One of our projects has been the annual design of a custom collar and accessories to raise money for Hope for Hounds (an organization currently in transition).  Hope for Hounds has been a leading fundraiser for Dr. Couto’s dedicated work on cancer in dogs, with a special focus on greyhounds, for years, and you’ve seen my designs here during that time.

Anyway, recently (okay, Friday, October 25, 2013), our collar was blogged about by a dog-loving style blogger.  That’s her photo above.  She and her corgi Teemo got all dolled up for a photo shoot, and they are stylin’!  Thanks, Katherine!

stylin corgi
Katherine and Teemo, ready for the runway, or a walk in the park.


Bud – Digital Pet Portrait, and my Other Job

Bud digital pet portrait © Xan Blackburn
Digital painting (Artrage 4)
5″ x 7″ @300dpi
© Xan Blackburn 2014

My series of paintings of Ellen’s dogs continues with handsome Bud.  I loved his gentle, relaxed smile, his soft hair and wonderful markings, but who could resist those bluuuuuuue eyes!

Working on paintings in a digital way allows a lot of freedom to experiment without committing irreversible damage to a painting.  That’s hard to resist, and I had a lot of fun trying out backgrounds, experimenting with various brush techniques for the fur, and zoooooming in waaaaay too close to get tiny details that no one else will ever be able to see.  That’s the potential down-side!  I had to keep stepping back out and lecturing myself about not re-creating reality, but enjoying a more painterly approach in this small format.

Here’s a quick step-through of the painting’s progress:

Bud in progress
Digital painting
© Xan Blackburn 2014

I kind of like that second step, too, where it’s the sketch with the first whacks of color laid in.


As I have mentioned, my OTHER job is all about rescue and animal welfare work.  

Team Inch:  Right now, Team Inch is having our first online Auction, and I invite you all to be part of helping us rescue and find forever homes for sighthounds by bidding on some really pretty fabulous items.  

Team Inch coalesced last fall, out of a nebula of folks already rescuing dogs from S. Korea.  In just a few months, we’ve been through so much, bringing over 8 sighthounds, partnering with established adoption groups in N. America to find adoptive homes for them, establishing a Facebook and static website presence, and having some heart-breaking losses.  The risks and veterinary costs for these dogs is comparable to some of the worst-case scenarios we see anywhere in the world, and transporting these mostly larger dogs to N. America where they have a better chance at life is expensive.  But many hands make light work, and in this way YOU can be part of Team Inch.  See you over there!

Kindred Hearts Transport Connection

I’m also doing a top-secret fundraiser for this group which I can barely keep to myself.  Believe me, you’ll know about it as soon as I can tell you!  Great bunch of hard-working volunteers.  Maybe you can be part of the network!

Greyhounds in Gettysburg:

Nittany Greyhounds runs this very popular event for greyhound families every year.  While I can’t go in person, I will be sending a painting to their Special Art Auction – a first this year, I’m told.  This painting is very personal to me, and I’m proud to be able to send it out into the world for this.
This painting is a more experimental piece for me, using various media (paper, acrylic, graphite, pastel on Claybord panel) in one piece.  I love the layered depth, the complex feel, the moody emotional possibilities that arose from both my own emotions and the materials working together.  I’m going to title this one “Memories”.
Memories (multi-media painting) © Xan Blackburn 2014
multi-media on panel, 8″ x 10″
©Xan Blackburn 2014

Here’s a detail, so you can get a little better idea of the complexity:

Memories (detail) (multi-media painting) © Xan Blackburn 2014
Memories (detail)
multi-media painting
 © Xan Blackburn 2014
Now it’s on to Ellen’s Moma.  

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?

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!

Hope for Hounds 2013: Collar Raffle!

It’s the big reveal!  

This year’s Hope for Hounds collar is banging at the door for full release, but the very first collar made is being raffled off this week, and your hound could be the one to snag this collector’s piece for as little as $10! 

Not only do you get a chance at the first collar, which, by the way, will be signed by Dr. Couto himself, but your hound’s photo will be featured on both the 2 Hounds Design and Hope for Hounds websites as the official 2013 HfH Collar Model.

For your chance to win, bop right on over!

If you’re unfamiliar with Hope for Hounds work, here’s the short version:

All monies raised by Hope for Hounds go to Ohio State University specifically the Greyhound Health and Wellness Program. We deeply appreciate the work Dr Guillermo Couto and his team do on behalf of our greyhounds.

Visit the Ohio State University’s Greyhound Health and Wellness Program

Love  *  Hope  *  Believe 

Petey: time for a new color

Petey in progress – Detail
acrylic on canvas panel, 8 x 10
© Xan Blackburn 2012

I swear, I haven’t been completely idle all this time!

Hope for Hounds

Since the last entry, I’ve been working on the 2012 Hope for Hounds collar and tee-shirt design, which is a yearly fundraiser, and collaborative effort between myself, 2 Hounds Design and Greytwear.  I can’t show you that design yet, since we like to make a big splash with it, but suffice it to say, it was a series of new challenges, and I learned a lot, including how to make repeating patterns using Illustrator.  That was fun!  In a tearing-my-hair-out sort of way.

Then there was a surprise health issue that took me out for a few weeks.  Bleh!  Let me just say this about that: this nation needs to have some kind of socialized medicine and price controls.  Normal people cannot afford even short-term illnesses.  I will be making a concerted effort to up my commission output accordingly!

Jack: Soft sculpture “sketch” in sculpy
© Xan Blackburn 2012

Jack: soft sculpture

Still on the books is Petey, of course, and the soft sculpture portrait I auctioned recently.  The soft sculpture got a sculpey “sketch” cobbled together while I was recovering.  That was really useful, as it clarified some issues about joints and proportions.  And it was kinda fun, too.  You can see that I’m thinking of using large buttons for 3 of the big joints (per side), and a sort of inset joint, like a clam shell holding a hot-dog, for the other two (per side).  Doing this 3D “sketch” helped me figure out where the main body will have to be narrow to allow the limbs to have a pleasing fullness, and to decide what parts can be sewn as one whole piece and what will have to be sewn separately and attached to the body, like the head and tail.  I’m still considering using an internal wire armature that will allow Jack to stand up, and to pose his body and head a little bit.  It’s a pretty ambitious design for a first effort, but heck!  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

But let’s get back to Petey!


You may recall that we left Petey in a watery phase.  Very nice in its own way, but just the beginning.  I’ve been developing the underpainting, concentrating on the deep shadows and delicate striping, his darkly outlined eyes and nice big greyhound shnozzle ball.  This series of pictures demonstrates how these have built up.
Petey in progress
acrylic on canvas panel, 8 x 10
© Xan Blackburn 2012
Starting to brave the darkest darks, and establish some of the finer stripes and squiggle markings.
Petey in progress
acrylic on canvas panel, 8 x 10
© Xan Blackburn 2012
Lots more depth already here, building the form of his long face, and the cast shadow.
Petey in progress
acrylic on canvas panel, 8 x 10
© Xan Blackburn 2012
Just about ready to start in with new colors.  I’ve reclaimed a couple highlights that got washed out, on the nose and in the shadowed eye.  The perspective is shaping up nicely.  I still need to get a lot darker in the cushion as it plunges down along Petey’s throat.  The contrast between the dark shadow of the cushion and his lit face will really pop him out, too.
I’ve been using some new brushes, nice pointy round ones, and I like the variation of strokes I can get with them.  It’s hard to remember, as I curse my old splayed brushes, that once they were this springy and fine!  A new brush is a wonderful thing.  Yes it is.  
Alright, back to work!