Libby’s Portrait Takes Shape

Doesn’t she have a sweet smile? She fills me with Awwwwww!

The clients wanted me to make a few adjustments for the portrait, including adding her ears at half-mast, and cleaning up the tear stains below her eyes. I also opted to remove the collar hardware and her body as it extends behind her head, to keep the focus more on her face. The reference is pretty fuzzy, as it’s cropped out of a snapshot with two other dogs and background, so I’m going to have to do a balancing act of making stuff up, and basing it on my experience and what’s visible in the reference. Let us begin.

Here’s the cropped and edited reference photo.


The ears were grabbed from an even smaller photo, so I’ll be using another dog’s ears to remind me of the anatomy involved. I decided to leave in the leaves and their shadows as I like the nice summer-day feel they convey. I also knocked out the background to an indistinct mottle of summery blues.

 

I prepped my panel-backed canvas by lightly sanding and gessoing it a couple times, to give it a little smoother texture. Then I transferred my working sketch onto the panel, and carefully added detail and corrections, referring back to the photo constantly.

Okay, good to go. On to the underpainting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Monday evening, this is where I left off.

Everything is pretty well in place, ready for more detail and deepening of values throughout.

 

 

Tuesday was not a painting day, and here we are on Wednesday.

 

 

 

Lunch break had brought me to this point. Details and values more defined, and ready to toss in some background color to get started. Notice that I’ve brought some of that sky blue into Libby’s face as well, as that blue light suffuses the atmosphere, and influences the colors we see.

Lunch break is over. Time to get back to it, and start layering up colors and details.

See ya in the next update!

Multi-tasking! Illustration and Greyhound Portrait

Back when the wheels all flew off my life, I had a couple art jobs hanging around my studio. One is a gift I can’t reveal just yet, except to say someone is getting a greyhound portrait. (Just now remembered I can’t post any pictures of that, yet!) The other is an illustration of a Lagotto Romagnolo, one of a few I’ve done for this client. She has been so kind and patient to wait me out, and now I’m finally wrapping it up for her.

I met Lisa with one of her handsome little dogs at a dog show in California. I’d never even heard of these Italian truffle-hunters before, and was enchanted. With soft, poodle-like fur, a sturdy medium-sized body, and friendly personality, Logottos are quite the charmers!

The concept was to include a pile of truffles,

Handful of truffles

a couple truffle hunting tools,

Truffle hunting tools

the dog, and to be done in a watercolor or color-pencil type feel. The illustration was created using Photoshop, using a bunch of different watercolor-style brushes, as well as other tools. As with traditional media (brushes and paints), the final effect is best built up in layer after layer of translucent color, to add and complement the colors under and around each mark. It’s fun to play with the various brush effects! It’s not watercolor; it’s definitely a hybrid of digital and watercolor-like techniques. The sum of its parts.

She talked me through the important conformation points, and this is what we came up with.

With this illustration done, I guess that means … those who are signed up for my newsletter are about to get a shot at my Commission List!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Alex”: A Christmas Story

"Alex" 8" x 10", acrylic on panel, © Xan Blackburn
“Alex” 8″ x 10″, acrylic on panel, © Xan Blackburn

Steve and Gayle are artists in their own right.  I’ve been honored to be asked by their friends to do two memorial portraits for them (Sadie, and Katie), so when their daughter, Rachel, asked me to do another of the legendary Alex, I was thrilled.  I had a crush on him that was tragic: I never knew about him during his lifetime, only later from his legacy in Steve’s photography, and presence on the greyhound forum, Greytalk.

It always starts with a photo.Alex © Steve UyeharaAlex © Steve Uyehara

As it was taken by a pro, I had little to do to make it paintable except to crop it, and get started interpreting it in paint, so I was off and running.

"Alex" (work in progress) 8" x 10", acrylic on panel, © Xan Blackburn
“Alex” (work in progress) 8″ x 10″, acrylic on panel, © Xan Blackburn

So, that was a bold move, eh?  Starting with that intense yellow?  Yeah.  I can’t remember now why I thought that was such a great idea, but I really like the complexity it lends to the final portrait. This stage shows that I approached the underpainting differently than I usually do (starting with a monochromatic painting establishing the form and shadows, then glazing color layers on top of that).  I like how this looks even at this stage.  Kind of ghostly and loose, but with all the elements in their proper places.

"Alex" (work in progress) 8" x 10", acrylic on panel, © Xan Blackburn
“Alex” (work in progress) 8″ x 10″, acrylic on panel, © Xan Blackburn

I started layering in the background so I could make sure I got the contrasts between the dark green foliage and the mostly-white dog right.  I don’t know if you can tell, but I was using a lot of violet tones to tame the yellow, as they are complementary colors (opposites on the color wheel).

"Alex" (work in progress) 8" x 10", acrylic on panel, © Xan Blackburn
“Alex” (work in progress) 8″ x 10″, acrylic on panel, © Xan Blackburn

Getting closer. Adding blues to the foliage and into Alex’s mid-range shadow areas, and continuing to refine throughout the painting.

"Alex" 8" x 10", acrylic on panel, © Xan Blackburn
“Alex” 8″ x 10″, acrylic on panel, © Xan Blackburn

And done!  You can still see that yellow warming the shadow side, and glowing through the foliage like summer sun.  I hope they enjoy the portrait for many years to come.

I’ve also been working on some secret projects not yet ready for public viewing.  Watch this space for the reveals!

If you could get me to make something just for you, what would it be?

The group I have been working with since we formed as Team Inch is having an art auction.  Of course, I have to participate, right?  I really wanted to go outside my normal outlines on this one, so my donation is … whatever my winning bidder and I come up with!  Maybe a traditional portrait, but who knows?  Maybe a sculpture? A garden stake? A pillow-pet? A pet rock? An enhanced home item (furniture? can-opener? pencil cup??)  What would YOU want me to make?  Go bid now, and let’s see what we come up with!

#12 2014 Portrait Marathon: Feyd the Silken Windhound

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#11 in the Portrait Marathon: Bo Finished

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# 11 in the Portrait Marathon, Bo the greyhound

Bo (work in progress) 8

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