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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lilies of the Field - Finished!

I'm happy with this now.  The most important change I made was to Lavina's profile shape.  The bone above her left eye was too prominent and the shape was too angular.  Her left ear and left horn bud also needed tweaking.

I refined the modeling on her body and worked more on Adam's knee, finished the halters, worked a little higher on the grass, and enlarged the shadows. 

I also brightened Adam by adding orange highlights and glazing  over some of the highlight areas, particularly on the face, with light blue.  I also worked quite a bit more on Lavina's eye to, hopefully, enliven her expression.  So now it's time to leave them to their nap!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Lilies in the Field - Nearly Finished

Yes, I'm nearly finished, but it's those last steps that make or break the painting.

I scrubbed the idea of the weeds and wildflowers in the background.  After sketching in the fence wire I didn't like it - thougth it was too busy - so I took it back out and just simplified the area with greens.  After more work on the straw I think I'm close, and the lighter overall color there helps with the composition.

Adam's front knee needs work.  And I'm just not satisfied with Lavina.    She needs more modeling in her face and body, and her body under her needs to recede more.  Her halter needs more work too as it is too bright.

The light source is directly overhead, but I think the shadow under her nose needs to be bigger.  Somehow, she just doesn't look quite grounded.

I'll spend time scrutinizing it this evening and see what other ideas I can come up with.  It just doesn't "pop" yet.  (I hear people using that word all the time, especially for landscapes.  But I think I need a different word for animals.)  Or, to express it better, it just doesn't "breathe" yet!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Final Fiona

I made a few "final" changes to Fiona but never posted the result, so here she is. 

On to the Giraults and Lovin' It!

Today I worked on Adam, the calf on the left, using my Girault pastels.  I switched to those from the Rembrandts for two reasons.  The first is that the color range is better for this little guy, and the second is that the smaller size of the Girault pastel sticks makes the details of the fur easier.

It was slow going, but satisfying as it seemed to be working out pretty well.

Actually, before I started working on Adam's fur, I made a few minor but important corrections to the drawing - things I noticed last night when I set the painting up by the TV for liesurely scrutinizing.  I changed the curve of Adam's right horn and made several changes on Lavina, including widening her body and right knee, changing the slope of her nose, and changing the outline of her back and hips.

The background is going to be very challening.  I have several photos of Mariposa lilies which I want to suggest in the background.  I may actually work on that next then come back to Lavina.

I am enjoying this project, and very much like my Giraults.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Working on the Calves

In this painting I switched from NuPastel to Rembrandts early in the game - after just one layer.  It seemed like the right thing to do.  And as I think about it, I think it was because the color range in NuPastel was just too limited.

I'm trying out these colors for the harnesses, and I think I like them.  And I have roughed in a background.  What I have in mind is for them to lay on hay with a area of bare dirt behind it and then thick pasture behind that.  I may need to put in some fence wire between the bare dirt and the pasture becuase the calves would be eating those lush plants if they could get at them.  I'm thinking of adding a few subtle wild lilies in the pasture to add a little "double entendre" to the painting's title.

Tonight I will be pondering the problem of the background - what will it be and how carefully should I paint it?  The hay realistically, the dirt less so, and the pasture just a suggestion?  Don't know yet.  But I do know that I would like to add a bit of the blues to some wild flowers in the pasture to integrate those colors.  There will also be blues on the highlights on Adam's fur.

But tomorrow - if I get a chance to paint - will be more work on the calves.

Lilies of the Field

The other day I was looking through my old photos from Livermore hoping to find some source material for my next animal painting.  Both the cows and donkeys inspired me and there was the usual complement of nice cat and dog photos.  I found a photo of calves on a hillside that I was going to work on.  I loved the composition and the poses of the calves, but there really wasn't enough detail.  That sent me to an internet search where I found several inspiring photos of Hereford calves.

On a whim, I search for Jersey calves and found this precious pair and couldn't resist painting them.  These two calves were born at a dairy.  Since the dairy is in the milk business they restrict the amount of milk the calves get and separate them from the moms fairy early.  To ease the stress, they are careful to raise them together.  When I look at these two my heart both aches and melts.  They are so innocent and seemingly content finding comfort in the closeness of the other.  Of course the viewer knows of the perils they will face, hence the aching heart.  I searched my mind for a title for the painting and came up with Lilies of the Field, a reference from the Bible - the Lord provides.

After carefully doing the drawing and transferring it to the velour paper, I began with the pastel.  This is the first stage of the painting, the NuPastel, or hard pastel, layer.

The challenge in this painting will be making the poses of the calves understandable and convincing.  And it will be critical to make it clear that Adam, the calf on the left, is nuzzling his nose into Lavina's neck.  The texture in the fur is challenging and very interesting.  I am looking forward to working on this painting.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Fifth Art Glitter Project

I enjoyed making this flower pin - my fifth of six projects for Art Glitter.  The leaves and petals are fabric edged with glitter.  The center is a button with beaded stamens and surrounded by a band of glitter.  I was making it as a pin but was a little concerned about the glitter rubbing off on my jacket, then Shelley suggested using it on a hat.  The flower has a clutch pin on the back, so it could really be used on either.
A nice variation would be to replace the glitter with edgings of seed beads but of course that would be a lot more work!

Thanks again to Art Glitter for selecting me as one of their Guest Designers for June, July, and August!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Continuing with Fiona

Now I have the first layer of softer pastels - Rembrandts - on the painting.

The brown background is richer looking because of the softer pastels laying down more pigment.

I spent quite a bit of time fussing over the fur.  Generally speaking, I'm happy with the texture I've achieved.  But the rump looks flat so I'll have to spend more time rounding it out.

I added a fold to the blanket to the left and behind her and also added a few folds to the blue blanket.  With that and the texture in the fur on her rump and tail I'm no longer worried about the left part of the painting being uninteresting.

I did quite a bit of layering color until I was happy with the blue blanket.  At first it was too bright, so I layered gray blue and gray green Giraults to dull it and give it closer to a turquoise cast.  I put a bit of the blue on Fiona's shadow side.  This would be a reflection from the blanket, but it's importance is to integrate the blanket color into the rest of the painting.

To emphasize the satiny look of the ribbon, I increased the contrast between shadows and highlights, using actual white on the brightest of them.  I glazed a bit of Burnt Sienna over the deepest shadow areas of the peach blanket.  But I'm waiting for new Girault pastels I ordered to finish the blanket.  At this point, it looks a bit too dull.

The background is almost too bright.  I'm not going to do anything about it, though, until I've finished the peach blanket because I think that will change the overall look.

So far, so good.  I'm happy with it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Some Progress on Fiona

Given the way my days have been going lately it's surprising that I'm making any progress at all on this painting.  I'll start the day with errands in the morning, convinced that I'll have the entire afternoon to paint.  But inevitably other things come up and I'm lucky to get started on Fiona by 3.  Nonetheless, I now have the second layer of NuPastel finished, so I'll be moving on to the Rembrandts and Giraults - the next softer pastels.

But first, I need to extend the background in the upper left corner and move the upper edge of the blanket on the left side so it better matches the right side.

The values look pretty good to me, but I think I need to still strengthen the darks somewhat.  It will be a challenge to have the left side of the painting interesting.  Shelley suggested I put a pillow behind Fiona's rump but I'm hesitant to do so - not exactly sure why.  If I did, what color would it be?  A print incorporating the peach and blue?  I don't have a model, but of course I could buy some fabric, tuck it around a pillow, and photograph it.  But I'm just not sold on the idea.  This is a problem I'll have to solve soon, though.  Perhaps more folds in the blanket would work.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fiona's Portrait

 Finally I feel ready to do a portrait of my beloved Fiona.  Not only is the white fur daunting, but creating a portrait of a dog I know so well is quite a challenge.  But I got a surprising good photo of her up on the bed the other night, so the time is ripe!

As usual, I'm beginning with NuPastels on velour paper.  This time I'm using a camel color paper and I find that I like it better than the gray.  I seem to gravitate towards warm colors, so perhaps that's why.

Anyway, after starting with the eyes and head I continued to block in the whole painting.  For her fur, I used cream, three shades of warm gray, a medium brown, a dark brownish gray, yellow, mauve, and sky blue.

I had been planning on a pink/peach blanket and a turquoise blanket under that.  Then the brown in the upper part just suggested itself.  The other day I ordered peach and turquoise Girault pastels that I don't have, so I'll be using those for the final layers on the blanket.  It should be a fun challenge to do the satine edging on the blanket.

Shelley pointed out that I have chosen a southwestern palette - quite unconsciously on my part!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Another Project for Art Glitter

Here's my fourth project for Art Glitter - an undersea votive.  It was fun and easy to make.  I wrote up the instructions which are on Art Glitter's blog.  To get there, follow the link at the left for my projects on Art Glitter.

I coated the glass votive with Mod Podge and used it to adhere the cut-out Fantasy Film shapes.  Then I added the glitter, shells, and beads for the fishes' eyes with E600- glue.  I really like the texture the Mod Podge gives to the glass - I put it on with a sponge brush.  It makes it look like antique glass, I think.  I'm planning to try applying Mod Podge to glass then adding a few strategically placed drops of alcohol inks.  It could turn out to be really pretty - we'll see!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bonnie's Finished!

Well, almost!  Now that I scrutinize this photo, I see a few minor changes to make.  Too bad I already put away all my pastels. 

Anyway, these are the changes I think I should make: extend the carpet a bit, change the shadows a bit, and maybe push back the bright spots in the carpet flower just to the lower left of the mouse.

To crop the painting as I have for this photo, I need to extend the carpet a bit on the lower right and along the right side.  I want to crop it here because I want the little triange of the fringe to show to the right of Bonnie's tail.  The shadow of Bonnie's back should extend more to the right.  And the division between shadow and light should soften towards the middle of the painting.  The window is to the left, and the shadow edge will soften as it extends further from the object that's casting it.  I already pushed back the bright spots on the carpet below the mouse, but I still think I should do it a bit more.  Then I'll be 100% finished.

This painting of Bonnie has been a lot of work, but I'm happy with it and think it's a good candidate for my next Society of Animal Artists application in October.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Continuing with Bonnie

I finished the second layer on Bonnie's fur, continuing to work with my Rembrandt pastels.  I also did a bit more on the mouse and the wood floor.  The mouse is the only bright red in the painting.  It needs to be bright, but not so bright that it seems too completely different a color than the reds in the rug as it is technically a "no-no" to have a color in only one spot in a painting.  For me, "rules" are good things to have in mind but not to slavishly follow.

Tomorrow I'll continue to detail the fur, using both my Rembrandts and my Giraults, and maybe even a little NuPastel for the thinnest lines.

I need to decide whether or not I'm going to put a highlight on the wood floor.  I'd like it to look shiny but am a bit concerned about ruining it.  So I guess I'll get out my scrap of Pergo, lay it in the sun, and see if I can figure out how to paint a highlight.

So far, I'm happy with the drama of light in this piece, and portraying light is one of the things I'm working on these days.

Bonnie was younger and stronger in this photo than she is now, which makes me both happy (to remember) and a bit sad (for her aging).  Sweet Bonnie.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bonnie Begins to Come to Life

Lightening the sunlit portion of the carpet helped bring out both the light and shadow, I think.  Actually, I only lightened the background color, not the pattern.

It was so much fun to finally begin detailing Bonnie.  I began with her head and neck, then proceeded to her front right foot.  I generally like to work the areas farthest away from the viewer first.  This means that on the edges between farther and nearer sections - the neck versus the back, for instance - the nearer fluff will overlap the further fur.

Strictly following that rule would have meant that I would have worked the right front foot first then proceeded to the head and neck.  So, since I worked the head and neck first, I left the front edge of the neck until I had finished the foot.

Anyway, today I worked all with Rembrandts with the exception of a few white hairs for which I used NuPastel.  The Rembrandts release more pigment onto the paper, so the colors are richer.  This is the fun stage.

Several times as I worked today I was appreciative of having found Hahnemuhle's velour paper.  Without it, I'm not sure I would have stuck with pastels.  It just suits my style better than gritty paper.  Plus, I really don't like all the dust, and there is virtually none with this paper.

I am hoping to be able to use this painting for my next application to the Society of Animal Artists.  But one thing bothers me about it.  Little Bonnie is declawed, so her front paws look a little too short.  Will the jurors think I've made an anatomical error?  I only realized today, as I observed Bonnie (declawed) and Zeke (not declawed) laying together how different their front paws look.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Light at the End of the Tunnel

At this point, it was time to make decisions about the rest of the background.  I decided that one of the edges I already had on the carpet area would be the actual edge of the carpet and that I would add a fringe.  I would have liked to add the fringe to the top edge, but I knew that's where I wanted the division between light and shadow, and it wouldn't make sense to overlay that division with the division between carpet and bare floor.  So, the fringe edge would be at the bottom.

Getting the angles right at the bottom - not just the edge of the carpet, but also the lines dividing the planks in the wood flooring was important.  At first I tried a "scientific" approach working with my photo of the carpet sample at an angle.  But, not only was it complicated, but it was doomed to failure because I took liberties with the carpet pattern when I did my drawing.  So in the end, I just drew in various lines until I thought I had it right.

Wow!  That carpet was a lot of work!  I drew the pattern for the rest of it on my original drawing then enlarged it and transferred it to the paper.  That chore alone took a couple of hours. 

Then there was the pastel phase.  At first, I tried working with darker colors but realized pretty quickly that that approach wasn't successful.  So I continued the original colors then glazed over the part in shadow, first with the dark turquoise that's in the carpet then with a dark brown.

Next was the wood floor and the carpet fringe, working with a little NuPastel then switching to the softer Rembrandts.  There's still work to do there, but this is a good start.  Then I strengthened the colors in the sun-lit part of the carpet with Rembrandts and added the dark green outlines.  I want to lighten the background color a bit. And I may darken the shadow part with more glazing, but I'll see what I think once the rest is lightened. 

Aside from that, I'm ready to get back to the cat - clearly the most fun part!  I'm not sure what to name this painting.  Two possibilities are "The Red Mouse" or "An Easy Truce."

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Keep Working!

The best advice I had for myself after yesterday's painting session was "keep working."  So that's what I did, and here's where I am now.

I still don't know where I'm going with the rest of the background.  My original idea of having it very dark - in deep shadow with little detail - has a serious problem.  If I make the background too dark, I'll loose the edges on Bonnie's right ear, her neck, back, and tail.  Lost edges, of course, aren't a problem in general.  But in this case they would be because the shape of the cat might very well be lost.  But, on the positive side, the front of her face would be greatly highlighted. 

I suppose I could "creep up on it," starting with a medium tone and going from there.  Or, a trick of the trade would be to cut a black piece of paper in the appropriate shape and see how it looks.  It suddenly occurs to me that I could try that with Fireworks.

It was pretty easy to use Fireworks to color in the background, and from that exercise, I see that I can actually go quite dark - darker than I probably need to go - and not lose the cat, especially with a little reflected light along the back, neck, and ear edges.

I'll put it up by the TV tonight and take a good look it over a period of a few hourse and see what inspiration strikes!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Could I Really Have Thought That?

My concept for this painting of my cat Bonnie lying on the carpet was that its main feature would be dramatic light.  There is a band of light coming from the window "off canvas" to the left that illuminates a strip of carpet and the front of little Bonnie.  The rest of the painting would be in deep shadow.

I carefully drew the cat and the pattern in the carpet where the band of light falls, but I thought that for the part of the carpet in very deep shadow there would be very little detail - so little detail, in fact, that I could just "wing it" with suggestions of color shapes.  Could I really have thought that?  Naivete?  Foolishness?  Hope?  At this point, "just winging" anything in the carpet seems pretty impossible, not just because of all the detail, but also because of the perspective in the pattern.

At this point, I'm pretty sure that I'll need to draw in the rest of the pattern.  But for now, I think I'll continue to work on the light strip and the first pass at the cat.