There is a big difference between creating "Artwork" and the often long process leading to its' finish,
the actual "Art Work."
Today I'm sharing with you a few of the steps in the creation of a posthumous portrait of "Nimbus," a majestic Belgian Sheep dog whose owner, a close friend, was mourning the loss of her companion.of many years. She needed some cheering up, although I knew, if I was successful, there would also be tears.
I did Nimbus's portrait during a warm week in the fall, taking advantage of the cool shade on my porch.
When I do portraits, whether of people or animals, I prefer taking my own reference photos, so I have control over the light that describes my subject. When the subject is deceased, I don't have that luxury.
This is the basic pose I used for the painting, which showed his long lines, and enough indication of his
elegant "double coat," unique to his breed, and something I knew I had to capture.
These images gave me more information about the structure and details of Nimbus's powerful head.
In particular my friend wanted me to capture his beautiful eyes, which she described as "the color of light
coffee beans." Having done quite a few portraits of dogs in the past, I knew the ultimate "likeness" always
comes down to the eyes. Pretty true with humans, for that matter. There is a saying; "The eyes have it."
After doing many compositional sketches I trace the final one onto the canvas, faintly seen here.
I start with the most obvious and easiest part of the painting, just to get me going.. In this instance, one of Nimbus's favorite toys, a mailman doll. Unlike my landscape paintings, my portraits tend to be much tighter and detailed. I also early on establish the "darkest darks," (here; his paw) so I'll have a frame of reference when painting the mid-tones, and heading up to the "lightest lights."
When painting people I work either in oil or watercolor, but my preferred medium when painting animals is usually acrylics. Acrylics are water-based, thus easier when cleaning up. They also dry within a few minutes.
The colors on my palette, no matter what the medium, are pretty basic. A warm and a cool version of the primaries red, yellow, and blue, an orange and a cool green, and two "Earth" colors; Raw Sienna and Burnt Sienna. I put out two piles of white; one for warm mixes and one for cool, so neither contaminates the other.
Using complementary colors I mix my own blacks, and with the addition of white, my own warm or cool versions of gray. One of my long time favorite artists, Jeanne Dobie, calls them "mouse colors." Next time you see a mouse in your kitchen, see if he or she is a "cool" gray or a "warm" gray. Or not.
Here is the finished painting of "Nimbus." I knew his owner's favorite color is "tomato red" (a warm red, not a cool red.) so I put him on a red rug in the room where his portrait now hangs. Nimbus looks down
with his coffee colored eyes from his place above the fireplace. Our dear mutual friend loves the painting, and that makes me very happy.