Red the whippet: #3 in the Portrait Marathon

I think I'm done ... 8" x 10" acrylic on panel © Xan Blackburn
I think I’m done …
8″ x 10″
acrylic on panel
© Xan Blackburn

I’m pretty sure Red’s portrait is done.  I’ll sleep on it (not literally – that would not be comfortable at all!)  Since it’s almost 9:30 at night, and tomorrow is Chris’ greyhound, Cash’s turn at the Marathon, I’ll just give you a gallery of progress pictures to look at.

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Portrait Marathon: #4 Wali

Acrylic on panel (Claybord), 8 x 10
© Xan Blackburn

Whew!  Wali’s portrait, on 8 x 10 panel, took me a little longer than the smaller 5 x 5 canvasses, but I could have been more efficient, I think.  Also, working on the very smooth panel requires a different touch, as it shows watery brush strokes in a that isn’t always desirable to me.  I thought I would get around that by starting with a coat of gesso and paint, but alas, still took a bit of getting used to again.

Ah well.  He’s done, and I really like the vibrant background setting him off, with that intelligent and friendly stare!

For my progress developing the painting, see the animation below.

Tomorrow, I have another larger painting, this one of a senior greyhound gal who is the Star of her home.

See you tomorrow!

Wali in progress
© Xan Blackburn

Portrait Marathon: #3 Riley

Acrylic on canvas, 5×5
© Xan Blackburn

 Gorgeous whippet-guy, Riley, with those smokey bedroom eyes … I’m in looooove!

Riley has a brother who’s portrait I did awhile back, with a sort of flowery background.  Riley’s reference photos included one with a fallen leafy background, and I liked that, but didn’t want to get too finicky with the leaf look, so I went with a more impressionistic approach, using the basic colors, and letting the details go.

Then I could concentrate on Riley’s handsome face!  Yeah.

You can see how this painting took shape in the animation below, which I thought to add the reference photo to, along with my conceptualization (aka “sketch”) of the background, and a couple close-ups of the finished painting at the end.

Next up is Craig’s Wali.  Another whippet!  This guy is a smiley fella, white and brindle.  Tomorrow we’ll see how his painting shapes up!

Riley – in progress
© Xan Blackburn

FPM: Matt is Done!

5″ x 5″, Acrylic on canvas
©Xan Blackburn 2012

 Fall Portrait Marathon, Painting #7: Matt  

Matt’s painting finished up in one sustained burst, and I didn’t get any more progress pics for you.  Sorry about that!  

We left off here.  One of the first things I did when I picked my brushes back up was to start laying in the dark green background, so I could get a good fix on my values (darks and lights) on Matt himself.  I worked in various layers of Hooker’s green, thalo blue and Payne’s gray over the initial pale yellow-gold.  Some of it I washed over the daisies as they needed to be part of the background, and recede in areas, instead of looking like they were printed on top.  But they got a little too subdued, so I brought them back into the sunshine with a few dabs of yellow, white and raw sienna.  They’re actually a little brighter in real life.
Once I was relatively comfortable with the background, I went back in and had more fun with Matt, enhancing the underpainting some, and then glazing in the color.  Then it’s all about details!  Clarifying the eye details, the fine hairs around the nose and eyes, the complicated ears, with all their different hair movement, picking out the beads in the collar, defining the edges of the ears, and the tiny hairs around the muzzle.  Once the color was in, it needed to be toned down, as Matt’s color is very subtle.  Glazing in with white, tinted this way and that, brought a much more realistic feel to his coat.  The water-colory early stages I like a lot, but they are more flat, simpler, lacking in depth.  The more glazing I do, the more it begins to have a feel of a real animal, with real fur, and real liquid eyes and leathery nose.  
My husband thinks Matt’s expression is very like our own greyhound, Brilly’s.  I have to agree, and once again, it will be hard to part with this little painting!  But, as interrupted as this marathon has been, it’s definitely time to move on!  So, he’ll be in the mail this weekend.  
Next up is my own dear friend Merann’s sphinx kitty Emmet!  He’s a cute little guy!  Just wait ’til you see him!  

FPM: I’m baa-aack! Meet Matt

Matt – reference photo

 Fall Portrait Marathon, Painting #7: Matt 

This is Matt.  Those bedroom eyes with their serious gaze are inspiring feelings of warmth, and a distinct desire to give him cookies!

His owner, Christine, got in on an earlier marathon, giving me the chance to paint her boy Hamilton in a field of lupines.  For Matt’s portrait, we chose to sprinkle some yellow daisies into his background, so I decided to warm up the whole tone of the image and imply a sunny day.  It also gave me the opportunity to get more of that soft gold tone into his colored areas.

With the reference approved (a process that took a few rounds), I prepped my canvas (sanding down the rough, raw primer a bit, and wiping with a damp rag), printed out my drawing, chalked up the back with conte crayon (hard pastel), taped it carefully in place over the canvas, and traced over the drawing to transfer it to the canvas.

Matt – reference 2: sunny

That has by far been the most successful method I’ve used to get the drawing onto the canvas.

I mixed up a (too generous) puddle of cadmium yellow medium (a warm yellow) with acrylic polymer, to thin it out and make it more transparent, then carefully brushed it over my drawing and the rest of the canvas.  That set the drawing, but also gave an overall tone to the painting that will fill it with that sense of sunny warmth even as the layers build on top of it.

I got out my trusty Payne’s gray, thinned it with the glazing medium, and started in on the underpainting: all the shading, basically.  Working in the darkest areas first – the nose and eyes – sort of got me anchored, and allowed me to move into paler tones to set the overall dark-light balance.

Starting with a wash of yellow means I’d need to come back up to some high whites, as Matt has some white areas, and he’s in the sun.  So, out with the titanium white.  I toned it with just a teensy touch of the yellow, to preserve my whitest whites for the final touches, and moved back into the painting to pull out the lighter areas.  I worked on layering up the whites in the lightest zones, keeping that subtle shading, and continuing to play back and forth with the Payne’s gray in the shadows.  At this point, I’m almost done with the underpainting.

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

I always enjoy the subtle early phases!  🙂

Okay, some of you may be asking, “Hey, where the heck have you been?  Isn’t this the FALL portrait marathon?  Hmmmm???”  Yeah.  Ahem.  
Well, you know.  
 I got busy!  
I started working with a rescue group bringing sighthounds out of S. Korea, took on my very first foster, dove into working on her fear issues, meanwhile pretty much devoting all my remaining time to the workings of the group itself, eventually failed fostering (that is, we adopted our little charge!), and began to surface to the reality that I hadn’t painted in about TWO MONTHS!  You can read about our adventures with Katie on my non-art blog, starting here.  I stopped writing just after Christmas, which was days before we gave in and made it official.  After that, I was just buried in the group’s work.  Balance must be attained (or re-gained!) however, so, as I said in this post’s title, “I’m baa-aack!”

Portrait Marathon update: Hamilton DONE

 Christine’s Hamilton is all done!  What an alert, but peaceful gaze.  The lupine-filled background is rich as a tapestry, but I hope it doesn’t compete with Ham’s delicate coloring and brindle markings.

Below is a detail view of the same area I gave you last time for comparison.

Hamilton’s portrait is my first whippet.  How on earth can that be?  Well, I’m glad to have had my first chance at one, and so happy it was Hammy!

Next up is Carrie’s Morgan.  Morgan is a lovely German Shepherd.  It’ll be a fun challenge to do actual FUR!

Just a reminder; you can see all the completed portraits on my website on the Portrait Marathon page.

Portrait Marathon update: Hamilton progress 1

Christine’s Hamilton is coming along nicely.

The original reference photo had a lot of detail, which is good, but it was taken in low light, with no real shadows.  Maybe a very cloudy wintery day?  Anyway, the light was cold, and it was hard to see his golden fawn patches.  At my request, she sent me another photo of Hammy in a field of lupines, which was wonderful!  The complete opposite.  I hope to get some of the feel of the light and background from that picture into the soulful gaze of the original pose Christine chose.

I started with a Payne’s gray underpainting, which I wish now I’d taken a scan of.  It looked like a black and white photo.  Well, you know, as close as I could make it, anyway!  All his distinct markings were there; the dark eyes, nose and lips, the dark areas in his ears, most of the brindling.  Lots going on in those eyes and ears!  Here’s a closer look.  
Not done yet, though.

Which brings me to the theme of the week.  I don’t have a catchy name for it.  If there is one, and you know it, tell me!  H and I were talking about it in regards to his business (water treatment).  The idea is that  it takes more work to complete the last 10% than the first 90%.  Maybe it’s related to “the devil’s in the details”?  At any rate, while you can see where everything is going (except the background), there’s a LOT of work to do before I call this done.

I think I’m getting the sense of the lighting I want in this, though.  Once the background gets more solid, I may have to adjust the shadows more, pump them up, get more contrast.  We’ll see.

It’s bedtime now.  Tomorrow, we’ll get to that last bit!
Thanks for looking!