#12 2014 Portrait Marathon: Feyd the Silken Windhound

Continue reading #12 2014 Portrait Marathon: Feyd the Silken Windhound

NWFest: outdoor fun with dogs

NWFest was a kick.

My booth, all set up at NWFest 2011

We managed to find a great young lady to petsit who I’m not going to tell you any more about in case you all swarm her with requests, and I can never get her again!  Suffice it to say, everyone loved her, and all was well.  The main point here is that I got H to come with me!  YEAY!  Everything goes better with the HusbandMan.

We packed up the car with all the display stuff, piled on top of an air mattress and bedding, and off we went.  We got down to Karen and Paul’s lovely home around 6-ish Saturday evening, greeted by friendly people, and whirling flocks of silken windhounds, adults and youngsters, all enjoying the warm evening and warm hospitality.  We pretty quickly felt like part of the on-going party, with puppies mugging us for pets, drinks offered, and conversation zipping comfortably along.  It was so nice to put some faces to people and dogs I’d met online, and to see my pal Linda again.

We figured we’d better settle on our spot to set up the display, and get the car/our bedroom parked in a relatively flat area out of the way, before it got dark.  We chose a spot that was nestled into the shade of trees, flanked by some lovely shrubs, unloaded the stuff off our bed, and eventually inflated it and crawled in on top.  Which was amusing.  But relatively comfortable, if a bit slantier than we had thought.  Which was also amusing.

And they’re OFF!

The next day dawned sunny and warm, and just got more of both.  We got the booth set up, and wandered around trying to pitch in here and there, watching them get the lure set up for straight races to be held in the afternoon, and testing some youngsters on it.  A young girl, Grace, was there with her mom and ~5 month old puppy, and we hit it off.  We had fun sharing art stuff, and just generally goofing off.  In the afternoon, people started showing up after the NAKC shows wrapped up at a nearby park.  It was an afternoon of straight-racing, all silken windhounds, and I even got to help out at the starting line for a bit.  I never did figure out how the points and standings and winners worked!  Very arcane stuff!  H and I both did enjoy watching the dogs have a blast chasing the lure, or each other.  Or neither.  H got a bunch of pictures, but I can’t get them off his phone to where I can get them!  *grrr*

I got some great feedback, and nice chats with lots of people coming over to look at my art, many of whom had watched the development of the recent 3 paintings here on the blog.  The painting of Hunter got a lot of attention, but was already sold.  Bados’ owner, J, decided to take his portrait home, too.  (Bados was there, and in fine form, winning all sorts of things, and looking fabulous!)  The little drawing of Silkie that I completed right before we left was also sold before the event, but also got some nice attention.  I had a guest book for people to sign and give me some notes about things they’d like to see from me, which turned out to be a great idea.  Very useful!

I sold some cards and prints, but didn’t expect to move much of those, since they’re all greyhound related, so it was nice to see some go.

When evening fell, there was an enormous feed, an open bar, and all the flowing dogs and conversation to make the time race towards our bouncy airbed.

We slowly woke to the sound of rain on the roof around 3am, which at first seemed just cozy and pleasant … until the lightning started to register, and the fact that my artwork was not exactly rain-proofed started to sink in!  We jumped (okay, disentangled ourselves) from the car, and ran up to sort things out more securely, while lightning lashed the sky, and soft rain fell.  Once we got our damp selves back under the blankets, we were treated to more light-show, and some quite respectable thunder ’til we finally fell back to sleep.  Only to be awakened a little after 6 by a huge explosion of thunder, like another whole car had been dropped on top of ours, followed by a dump truck load of bowling balls.

What remained after the rain

We eventually gave up sleeping, and assembled ourselves for the day.  We had found a big natural foods market nearby, sharing a shopping center with a Peet’s Coffee, so we started there.  After fortification, we returned to what was meant to be a full day of all-breed lure coursing.  And hopefully selling some artwork.  Well, one out of two ain’t bad!  I don’t think I sold anything on Monday, but I did make some nice contacts, including a serious interest from the NAKC judge.  Maybe more on that in coming posts.  I felt I needed to take my more vulnerable work down because of the damp weather, so my booth got a lot more … efficient looking towards the end.

The weather was cooler after the rain, but cleared up nice and warm in the afternoon.  New people and dogs started to show up to join the fun.  Several strikingly fit whippets, two stately borzoi, and a group of solid and serious-looking Rhodesian Ridgebacks took turns in the various smaller paddocks to stretch their legs and await their turns.  The lure machine simply wasn’t cooperating, so there was a lot of waiting, and a lot of work by Paul and crew to try to sort it out.  Meanwhile, everyone (except Paul and crew!) just relaxed and shmoozed.    I didn’t take nearly enough pictures, and none of the lure coursing itself, but that’s no loss: they would have just turned out as little colored blots just dashing behind a tree or something.  It was fun to watch, though!  H enjoyed it so much, he’s talking about setting up a lure course here for our lot.  At least a straightaway.

All good things must come to an end, and so it was with NWFest.  H reminded me we had a pet sitter and pets to get back to.  Suddenly in a big rush,  we broke down the booth (what was left of it), mashed it all in the car, said our good-byes, and were down the road in record time.

The day after we got home, I learned about another event almost around the corner from us, which I promptly decided to vend at.  From my Events page:
SnipFest: Music Festival to benefit WeSnip: Saturday, August 6 · 10:00am – 10:00pm These good people provide low-cost and even free spay and neuter services, and help to capture, neuter and release feral cats.  This great benefit event will be a fun day of music and vendors, food, a beer garden, and a police dog demo.  I’ll be there!

I’m hoping to be able to finish two commissions I have in progress now, just to fluff up my display, before sending them off to their owners.  I’ll let you know how that goes over the next few days!

Silken Windhound Portrait, Hunter, is … Done! (Probably)

Tangaloor Malden, CGC “Hunter”
11″ x 14″ acrylic and graphite on Gessobord
©Xan Blackburn, 2011

A lot of careful work went into refining the silky hairs swirling around the ear and down the neck, bringing them in and out of shadows, giving them dimension, giving them some color, making them finer. Much more shadow was needed along the back of the face, and in the mouth.  I couldn’t achieve a deep enough dark for the contrast I wanted in the mouth, so I used mixes of Payne’s Gray, some red, some raw umber, a little Naples yellow in some areas, to give it the depth it needed.  The nose and eye also got some of this treatment.  I want the focus on the face, with some other interest to set it off, but the exciting busy-ness of the ear had begun to take over the show.  These deep shadows brought the balance back.

While working on the mouth, I realized I’d gotten a bit off on the lower lip area, between the canine and the big molars.  It was not thick enough.  Bringing that dark back down where it belonged and marrying it with the areas previously brought almost to a finished state took up some time, but it was worth the effort to get right.

Tangaloor Malden, CGC “Hunter” (detail)
11″ x 14″ acrylic and graphite on Gessobord
©Xan Blackburn, 2011

Getting the hot and cool reds in the mouth is always interesting.  The light may bounce off a wet tongue, leaving a cool highlight, or shine into or through the tongue or edge of gumline, leaving a much warmer color.  You can see an almost flame-hot red at the edge of the lower incisors, and an almost blue highlight along the surface of the tongue, curving round to some warmer reds along the near edge, cooling yet again along the gum below the molars.  It’s not easy to see in this .jpg, I’m afraid.

I loved the silky way his fur is streaked with soft gold and pencil-gray.  In greyhounds, we call that blue fawn brindle.  I’m not sure what that coloring is called for silkens.  Anyone?  Another difference between greyhounds and silkens is their noses.  Greyhounds nose leather projects beyond the muzzle a bit, almost like a black clown nose stuck on there for laughs!  But, I’d gotten used to it.  I had to really look and SEE that silkens’ nose leather is more compact, more integrated with the muzzle.  That SEEing thing can be so tricky.  We assume we know how something looks, and miss the reality, which can throw everything off.  Impressionism is all well and good, but the essential points have to click.  For me, that is!

By around 5pm, I felt pretty well finished with Hunter himself, and took stock of the painting as a whole, and how, or if, I might shift its atmosphere.  I wasn’t sure it needed it anymore, now that Hunter’s features were better defined, and his personality was able to assert itself.  But, I had a pre-conceived notion, you know!

After a traumatic evening, where I tried to take this painting away from the direction it has insisted on from the start, and then had to pull it back from the brink of disaster, I think I’m going to keep my hands off it from now on.

I had forgotten my original intent to smudge it up, layer glazes on it, sand through them, and basically give it an aged feel, a sort of lost in time effect.  When I tried laying on some translucent glaze, using matte medium and raw sienna (a rich reddish brown), I was already nervous about wrecking it, and over-worked the glaze, resulting in a sticky, funky mess.  Much grungier than I had intended!  In a near panic, I took a sponge and carefully rubbed off what I could, leaving it just less grungy, but still in an uncontrolled, funky way.  I decided I better stop for the evening.  I retreated a bit depressed, drained.  But not utterly defeated somehow, though I didn’t know what I’d do to fix my mess.

I couldn’t resist going and looking at it again later, of course.  I remembered I had intended to sand this painting, so I grabbed some fine sandpaper, and started working on the areas I’d goofed up.  That helped, but then I went right through the turquoise and brown gesso underpainting in some speckles, so I stopped and left again.  When I came back after dinner (a snack, really, as I was too preoccupied to actually cook), I pulled out the gesso I’d mixed and kept separate all this time.  It was still wet, so I re-worked the areas I’d sanded, feathering them into the original background the best I could, and left yet again to let it dry.  When I looked one last time before bed, I could finally breathe a sigh of relief: it was back to where it had been before the grunge attack!  My eyes were aching.  I slept like a log (’til about 4:30, but that’s another story!)  And here we are today.

Tomorrow morning I have an appointment to get these three paintings scanned professionally, in case I want to make reproductions in the future.  That gives me one working day (well, half a day now) to maybe do a drawing or something small, perhaps, if I want to get that in on the scanning, too.  I’ll need everything to be dry, framed and packed for the trip by Friday, a week and a half off.  Plenty to do in the mean time, but I might try to get in a few drawings still.  We’ll see!

Let me know what you think of Hunter’s portrait, and the others!

©Xan Blackburn

©Xan Blackburn

©Xan Blackburn

Hunter gets a name! Silken Windhound #3 portrait update

Work in Progress, “Hunter”
silken windhound
Graphite, acrylic, on gessobord, 11″x 14″
©Xan Blackburn, 2011

HUNTER!  Yes, his name is Hunter.  Christina of New York’s Hunter.  The cats are yelling at me for their dinner, so I’ll be brief.  Here’s where we are today, with a fair amount to go.  As you can see, I spent a lot of time in the ear fringe and mane.  I’m mainly happy with this, but I see some saccharine sweetness that may have to be expunged in some way.  Motel art is not my goal, here!  A dog, and a dog with a name like Hunter, and an athlete like a sighthound, should not just be pretty.  My husband said I was expressing the “My Little Pony-ness” of the breed, but that’s not what I want, here!

Okay, anyway, the cats are still yelling.  I gotta go.  Enjoy!

Silken portrait #3, Stage 2

Man, I really hope someone guesses who this is, soon!  My titles are going to start looking like a math lesson!

Work in Progress
mixed media (acrylic, graphite) on panel, 11″ x 14″
©Xan Blackburn, 2011

Today started with some corrections, and some timidity.  I got a used Galaxy Tab recently (I might have to give that thing its own post at some point), which has a better camera in it than my phone, which made it convenient enough to choose it over taking multiple stage scans at every little stage.  It also has a nice little display (7″) which I can zoom in on, etc., which makes it a great reference tool.  Usually, I print out my reference photo, and have that on my work table while I paint.  But, my printer isn’t the greatest, and, looking at the Tab’s version next to the printer’s version showed me a LOT that I had missed or misinterpreted.  All that might have been okay, for the purposes of this portrait, but once I had the better picture, I had to work from that!

I had gotten a sort of uniform darkness in the mouth that wasn’t right.  I had tried to correct it yesterday, but wasn’t happy with that, either.  The graphite just would NOT come off the board in the usual way (kneaded eraser, Blu Tack) or the unusual ways (sanding, cursing).  I had dabbed some of the background paint I had kept, but that needed to be smoothed and re-integrated into the whole.  This morning, I decided to return to the Blu Tack.  That’s great stuff for pencil work!  As it’s actually adhesive, without forming any residue, it picks up the graphite dust rather than spreading it around or rubbing it off.  I made my little wad about the right size, and rolled it repeatedly over the mouth area, re-kneading and re-wadding as necessary to keep a clean surface.  It eventually picked up enough so that I could work back in the shading I wanted.  Yeay!

Now to conquer my timidity!  It’s looking so cool the way it is that I was afraid to mess it up, and intimidated by how much work there is still to go to reach my original idea.  I started pecking away with my pencils, taking frequent breaks to compare hardness on various other surfaces, sharpen them, step back and squint, check my reference again ….  I realized I wasn’t going to get anywhere like that, so I decided to try using a stump (a blending tool made from soft paper, rolled tightly and with a conical tip on each end) to very softly smudge in some areas of shadow, get me over the hump of treading on all that freshly fallen snow before me.  That helped.  Then I decided I needed a broader stroke, to block in large areas where shadows were deepest.

Using the matte medium I bought yesterday, to keep (hopefully!) enough texture to the surface that I can still draw on it, I diluted a mix of payne’s grey and burnt umber, leaning towards the warm umber, to wash in some shadows along the back of the face, under the chin, and behind the ear fringe.  Very light washes, since I’m still feeling timid, and I don’t want to commit to too much, nor take away from the pencil work I’m still intending to do there.  All that is in the first picture above.

Work in Progress
mixed media (acrylic, graphite) on panel, 11″ x 14″
©Xan Blackburn, 2011

That brings us to this picture.  Next, I decided to wash in some of the subtle tawny color this dog has.  (Now any guesses who this is?)

Work in Progress
mixed media (acrylic, graphite) on panel, 11″ x 14″
©Xan Blackburn, 2011

Another look at my reference and I realize I’ve foggily edited out the back of the ear, where it lays against the neck (it’s completely shadowed out in my printed reference!)  Trying to decide whether to work it in, or leave it all softly shadowy and vague back there, I look closely at the reference photo, and see all these lovely internal shadows and highlights within that area, including the edge of the ear.  I decide to do it.

I guess I took this photo when the paint was still damp enough to glare.  That’s a bummer.  Well, at least you can see the back of the ear, and how I’ve worked in some of that tawny red tone around and into the eye as well.  I also used that color, mixed with white, to add some warm color to the teeth, and warmed up some of the highlights elsewhere as well.  Now the molars are too light, but that’s easy to remedy.

Okay!  Between lunch, making this post, taking the dogs out one at a time *sigh* and answering the intervening emails, it’s now quarter to three!  Back to painting!

Silken Windhound #3

And now for something completely different!

Well, it’s still a silken windhound, but I’m working on this one really differently.  I figured I’d better write this down before I forgot what I did, and what my original thought is, so here goes.

I wanted to combine a graphite drawing with acrylic.  My original concept is a little vague, since I’ve never done this before, but it involves layers of paint, pencil, sanding, glaze, more sanding, more paint, more pencil, more of all the above ….  Sort of the lasagna approach, if you will.  I did a couple little sample bits, just to work out the way that might end up looking (which I will not show you!), and then decided to jump right in.

I chose my subject as a head-only portrait.  (Any guesses who this is?)  Working on an 11 x 14 gessoed panel, I started with some acrylic gesso, mixed with blues, burnt umber, and Naples Yellow, keeping the blues where the dog would go, more or less, and the warmer tones around it, loose and vague.  I’m not at all sure how much of that will show in the end, but that’s the first layer.  I chose to use the gesso because I want the surface to still have some more tooth than straight acrylics; more like a chalkboard than the side of a water bottle.

I transferred the drawing, using white transfer paper (like carbon paper, but leaves white marks), and keeping it pretty simple.  I didn’t want the transfer to interfere with my pencil later, just give me some key locations to work from.  In this first pic, you can sort of see the drawing in places, and the glowy eye is actually where I started working in some pencil, which made a glare.  Sorry!

Work in Progress
mixed media (acrylic, graphite) on panel, 11″ x 14″
©Xan Blackburn, 2011

I got the eye established a bit before I realized I might really want to get in those white areas first.  

Maybe.  I don’t know.

I’m really flying by the seat of my pants, here!  Just in case, I started working on the highlights.  I’m already liking the feel of this, and I hope I have the courage to do the experimental stuff to it when the time comes!

Work in Progress
mixed media (acrylic, graphite) on panel, 11″ x 14″
©Xan Blackburn, 2011

Here you can see I’ve got the whites fairly well placed, but only in a ghosty sort of way.  I wanted to work in the pencil some more, starting in the face.

Work in Progress
mixed media (acrylic, graphite) on panel, 11″ x 14″
©Xan Blackburn, 2011

Sorry about the shadows running down the side there.  That’s my hand rest thingy, to keep me from sludging my hand or sleeve through my work.  I made it myself!

Anyhow, this is still pretty subtle, but it’s got a very ethereal feel to it that I like.  Let’s take a closer look at the face.

Work in Progress, detail
mixed media (acrylic, graphite) on panel, 11″ x 14″
©Xan Blackburn, 2011

That’s better.

I had several days away from my artwork, what with the holiday, a family visit, and a sudden panic that I wouldn’t have the stuff I need for the event (frames, mat board, a way to display my prints, a way to take credit cards in case my fancy new [used] device doesn’t work …), so it’s good to be back to it!  I think my original idea of how much stuff I’d be bringing was ambitious, but I’m getting to be okay with what I will have, so there you go.

Any guesses who this elegant hound might be, from what you can see so far?