FPM #3: Skyy begins

©Eliza Nardone 2011

Fall Portrait Marathon, Painting #3: Eliza’s Skyy

Skyy was a member of Eliza’s family until this last summer, when an illness took her.  Eliza sent me a long, wonderful letter about Skyy, describing a dog’s dog, who was a study in contradictions, like her own black and white face.  She could be a stuffy killer or a gentle charmer of toddlers, submissive with most dogs, but a bossy gal with her littermate Malibu who also joined the family.  Their bond was special, and they were near each other their whole lives, even racing in the same kennels.  Malibu rescued Skyy from depression when he came home with them.  She must have missed him!

5×5 acrylic on canvas
©Xan Blackburn 2011

As you can see, the photo is already art.  I did another portrait for Eliza in the last marathon of their dog Bailey, which she asked me to use as a model for how to approach Skyy’s portrait.  So off to Photoshop to mess around.  Alright, it’s not great art.  Yet!  I’ve moved the gaze of the eyes, but I’m not convinced it’s an improvement.  I’ll play that by ear.

I used a dark blue-violet pastel to transfer the drawing to the canvas, which worked alright.  A lot of detail gets lost in the rough texture of the canvas.  I went over critical areas with a blue colored pencil.  That might have been a mistake.  I then brushed over the drawing with acrylic polymer, which is formulated to mix with paints or to use as an undercoat to keep whatever’s underneath from leaking into the upper layers.  Unfortunately *sigh* it smeared like crazy, and either it or the colored pencil made the canvas sort of resistant to the paint, making it bead up.  Argh.  I tried to overcome it, by just working it over with the brush and paint.  Hopefully, it will be fine.  I could still start over.  This is where I am at the moment.

Skyy – work in progress
5″ x 5″ acrylic on canvas
©Xan Blackburn 2011

Ack, right?  She looks like a great dane, who has sat on a campfire and isn’t too happy about it.  I cut right to laying some color, instead of my typical underpainting method.  We’ll see.  It’s amazing what happens when you just keep working on it!

FPM Painting #2: Toni is done!

Toni – work in progress
©Xan Blackburn 2011

Toni is all done.  I think.  It’s after 11pm, so I may change my mind in the clear light of day.  We’ll see.  Right now, I say she’s done.

(See the finished version at the bottom of the post.)

Toni’s portrait got started 2 posts ago, and we left it in the last post looking like this >>
Above, you can see that a lot more work on the underpainting was done, deepening the darks.  The eyes weren’t quite behaving.  I wanted to focus them towards us, with intensity, but they still seem to be looking off over our left shoulder, with an indeterminate expression.  I’ll keep working on that.  Watch the shape of the eyes change as I progress.
In this next phase, you can see I’ve gotten into the highlights, and some more color.  I’ve dropped in some orange, in the collar and eyes, which are shaping up slightly better, and some pink in the closer ear.  
Toni – work in progress
©Xan Blackburn 2011
I need to work on the couch, too.  I think that’s the next thing I did, really laying on that blue, shaping up the arm, with it’s pleats and piping, and suggesting the curve of the cushion as it curves under Toni’s legs and face.  
A particular challenge here was to keep the brindling warm and dark, or highlighted  more cool, which is less common than the other way around. 
I also found myself layering a lot back and forth into the red-gold stripes, making sure they didn’t get too yellow, or brown, or pink (??!!).  
As of right now, I’m pretty pleased.  I think I got enough attention and focus into her eyes to draw and hold our own attention.  The couch seems realistic enough without being more interesting than Toni.  The strongest areas of contrast are right where I want them: in the area around her eyes.  Yes, I think we might be done.  I’m going to go to bed and sleep on it.  

5″ x 5″ acrylic on canvas
©Xan Blackburn 2011

FPM Painting #2: Toni progresses

Toni – work in progress
acrylic on canvas, 5″ x 5″
©Xan Blackburn 2011

I accidentally deleted the pictures I took of the first stages of Toni’s portrait, but suffice it to say, it was sort of watery, and I lost most of my drawing when I glazed over it.  😛  You can still see – or NOT see – that the drawing is mostly gone in this pic, which is where I’m at right now.  That’s my reference photo peeping out over the top of the canvas.

This time, I’m using raw umber for the underpainting of the shadows and dark areas.  I want Toni to remain very warm throughout, against the cooler sofa color.  She’ll have some of that blue reflecting back inside her deepest shadows, but it will be subtle.

You can see how I’ve changed the direction of her gaze, too.  In the photo, she’s staring past us to something we can’t see.  I’ve directed her eyes to look straight at us, to engage the viewer more intimately.  I hope to keep the intensity of her gaze, too, so that we’ll feel a bit like we’re about to get JUMPED!  (But in a good way!)

As usual, I kind of like this stage as it is.  Now that I pretty much know where everything goes, it gets easier and harder and more fun and tedious and scary to keep working.  Get all that?

(I should be further along by now, but I’ve got winter-brain already!  My brain wasn’t formulated for living this far north it seems, and the thinking-functioning part fills up with something like cotton balls soaked with peanut butter in the fall, ’til it starts to slowly drain out again about mid-February.  Still, I’m on a mission, and succeed we must!)_________________________________________________________________________________

©Xan Blackburn 2011

I want to offer my heartfelt condolences to Christine, who had to say good-bye to Hailey today.  We love them so much, they take such a huge chunk out of our hearts when they leave.  Hugs to you, Christine.

FPM Painting #2: Toni gets going

Fall Portrait Marathon, painting #2

“Toni,” says her mom,

is a pistol!  She’s very much a tomboy girl – always wants to rough house and wrestle and play, though both these pics show her more pensive and sweet side.  She’s smart and sassy, loves squeaky toys and balls, and LOVES the water!  Her favorite color is orange.

Well, I’m a big fan of orange, myself!  In the Spring Portrait Marathon, I did a portrait of Toni’s sis, Dorie, and the color scheme was a *ahem* rather bold red-orange and sky blue.

5″x5″ acrylic on canvas
©Xan Blackburn 2011

 Chris asked if Toni’s portrait would be “similar or complementary to the background for Dorie’s.”  So, of course, I started my sketch with that in mind.

Digital.  ©Xan Blackburn 2011

As you’ve probably noticed, Toni s a gorgeous dark brindle, with gold and charcoal stroking her fur, where Dorie is mostly white, at least on her face.  Big difference.  If I do the background hot orange, it will compete with Toni’s gold stripes, and win all the attention.  That won’t do.  I finally gave up trying to cool Toni down enough to win over that hot orange background, and reversed the color scheme.  Now, the blue that shows up in Dorie’s pirate scarf appears in Toni’s background, letting all her golden glory shine.  Here’s my ArtRage sketch. —>>>

The colors are in their approximate places; I didn’t want to spend too much time on the sketch.  It’s just to work out the concepts.  She looks kind of worried in the sketch, but I’ll make sure she looks more poised and alert in the painting.  My goal is to get a sense that she’s ready to spring off the couch at the slightest excuse.

My own greyhound, Brilly, had a big dental the other day, losing something like a dozen teeth, which has made a rough couple nights for us all, and a couple of days of cleaning up blood and doing laundry.  It’s not even 4pm, but since I was up by 4 AM, after about 4 hours’ sleep, it feels much … much … later.  I’m not going to attempt something with actual paint that I’ll have to fix tomorrow; I’m calling it a day!  Sunday during a Portrait Marathon is no day of rest.  I’ll be back at it in the morning.  See you tomorrow! 

FPM: Christine’s Hailey is done!

Christine’s Hailey
acrylic on canvas,  5″ x 5″
©Xan Blackburn 2011

Fall Portrait Marathon: First painting is complete.

Christine’s pretty fawn greyhound, Hailey, was simply a joy to paint.  This is what I had in my  head while I was working, from Hailey’s mom:

Hailey was diagnosed with osteo when we got back from Dewey.  She started limping while she was there.  
Hailey is my sweetpea.  My special princess.  We call her princess a lot of the time.  Princess, angel puff and sweetpea are her nick names.  J  Hailey is my cuddler, my love.  She thinks she’s a lap dog.  She is the sweetest thing on earth but she also has a funny side.  If she wants something and I’m not quick enough, she will stomp her foot at me!!!  I love her.  She’s my life.  All my kids are.  Fur or skin.  She gives me happy teeth all the time and she looks right through me with those eyes!!!

 I didn’t want to make a sad painting.  Hailey is alive, and I want to give Christine something that will always remind her of the joy and simplicity, the love and sunny day memories they are still collecting.

Hailey- stage 1

So, how did we get from this >>>
to that up there?

Well, you might remember I was complaining that I was having a hard time transferring my drawing to the canvas, right?  So, what I did was the same thing I did for the big Mystery Painting, basically. I scribbled the back of the drawing with conte crayon (like chalk pastel), flipped it back over, onto the canvas when it already  had this paint on it, and then traced over my drawing nice and hard.  The pastel made a very good transfer, thank goodness, which I then glazed over with a bit of gloss medium mixed with Naples yellow, so the pastel dust wouldn’t get funky with the layers of paint on top of it.  I had to adjust my edges quite a bit, since I only sort of eye-balled the shape in that first step.  So, Hailey 2

Hailey – stage 2

shows you the drawing, glazed over, with the background in the first stages of being pulled back up to the edge of her face, or pushed back out in a couple places, and one pupil painted in.

Next time, I won’t bother with the background before I transfer the drawing.  That didn’t work out the way I imagined it would.

At this point, I started in with the under painting, laying in my shading, and coming way up with the highlights.  I really liked how this looked.  I like the vague and dreamy feel of it.  Except the one eye is so much darker.  But, it’s just a phase!

Onward.  I kept building, darks, lights, details, and then color.  I used some pretty straight blues in the shadows, which I really liked.  Unfortunately, despite my best efforts at reproducing it here, this just isn’t showing you the real look of the final painting.  Close, though.  I actually scanned it, and took a photo with my Tablet, then dinked with both in Photoshop, and then sandwiched them together to get as close as possible.

I’m quite pleased with this little painting!  I hope Christine is.  🙂

Now, on to Chris’s Toni!