This is a close up detail of a painting I recently completed of Cooper, a Shih Tzu. And yes, his eyes really are that blue!
Cooper was adopted from Shih Tzu Rescue, Inc. of Davie, Florda. They are a wonderful group of people, each of whom is dedicated to saving the lives of dogs who have, for a variety of sad reasons, lost their homes. Their name says “Shih Tzu” but they have all types of dogs. Click on their link on the right side of this page to read some wonderful success stories and see some charming furry faces.
Rescue dogs make wonderful pets — Cooper here is a shining example of that — and bring years of enjoyment and love to the people who open their hearts and homes to them. Today is Thanksgiving Day and I’m thankful for the people who rescue dogs and the people who adopt the dogs.
And you know that beautiful Cooper is thankful to his new family for giving him a loving forever home…
Painting in any form is usually a very enjoyable pursuit or passion or obsession, but lately I’ve been doing so many tight and detailed paintings that I wanted to do something FUN. Here is the finished product…and below you will find the steps.
Here’s what I started with: a 12×12 gallery-wrapped canvas on wooden stretcher bars. These are available in many different sizes at art supply stores in your town or online. The canvas comes already covered with gesso.
In the upper left corner you can see my bin of acrylic paints…and to the right are all my oil paints, which I have recently put in glass jars.
At this point in the game I didn’t even know which type of paint I’d use…then I remembered the previous day’s painting and the headache I got from, I believe, the paint thinner I use to clean the brushes. So, acrylic.
I mixed red and hot pink acrylic paint and covered the canvas surface — front and sides — with it.
It is important to keep a jar of clean water nearby to rinse your brushes as acrylic dries very fast. That’s oneof the joys of working with acrylic as opposed to oil paints, which dry very slowly.
Turquoise and red are one of my favorite color combos and are just about opposite each other on the color wheel. Any time you put opposites together it creates an effect that almost makes the colors appear to vibrate. Look for advertisements that exploit this to attract attention. To make the turquoise I mixed a blue and green together. Don’t overthink color mixing: if you like the color, use it…you aren’t the paint department manager at Home Depot…your color doesn’t have to match someone’s sofa. Be loose!
Now the real fun begins! I spread the turquoise paint with a pallette knife…this is difficult to control and I love the random wonkiness of the result. I want some of that bright red to show through. Interestingly, as the turquoise paint goes on, the red seems to get MORE red.
Look at that cool little scroll in the lower right corner of the canvas…
That scroll is what determined what I decided to paint. Up to that point I didn’t know if this was going to be a landscape or a painting of a chicken or what. But the scroll looks like the swoopy handle of a loving cup or a trophy, so I think: ah, FLOWERS in a VASE.
With this spreading paint technique you have to decide to just STOP…it is so fun, the temptation is to keep spreading and cover up all that beautiful red.
I should probably have stopped between the last step and this one and taken a photo, but I was having such a good time I completely forgot.
You can see some of my tools here: the water bowl (which needs to be changed), my glasses and my favorite made-in-china enameled butcher tray that I use as a pallette.
I chose yellow as the color of my vase because it contrasts nicely with the turquoise. The flowers don’t exist in nature, just my imagination…but I am going to try to turn those orange ovals into roses.
This photo shows a close view of the flowers. You can see that they are made of loose (that’s the MAGIC word!) brushstrokes and layered colors. Acrylics dry so quickly that by the time I had made all the purple circles, the first ones were dry enough to add the blue petals over the top. I’ve painted three shades of green in between the flowers to suggest foliage, and I’ve added some leafy shapes at the outer edges of the bouquet.
Here’s the finished painting standing on its wide edge. This can be hung frameless or placed on a shelf or table. I like unframed paintings, probably because we owned a frame shop/gallery in Texas and if I never have to frame another thing it will be too soon.
Here’s a close-up of the finished painting. I varnished it with a clear gloss arylic gel to make it shiny. Certain acrylic colors are more matte than others and I wanted the surface to have a uniform sheen. The gel gloss also seems to intensify the colors.
This was such a fun project and just what I needed after so much “tight” painting. For mental health I’m going to try to do a LOOSE project like this every few days.
Tell me what you think…and send me images of any paintings you do as a result of reading this post.
The word “painting” is, in this instance, both a noun and a verb. Here is my painting of Molly engaged in the act of creating a painting.
Several years ago when Molly was Evan’s girlfriend and not yet his wife I showed her how to create a trompe l’oeil mural for her windowless college apartment bedroom. We had a lot of fun over the two days it took to complete this project. Molly’s a wonderful artist and the mural turned out even better than I imagined it would when we were planning it. During the project I took several photographs and one of them I used as a reference for this painting. Unfortunately I shot the photo with what I considered my “eBay camera”, meaning I used it for taking pictures of things I would eventually sell on eBay. It was an early digital camera and I had set the resolution at the very lowest setting, so the photo was very small, very poor quality.
In reality Molly was sitting at the kitchen table and there were cabinets behind her and balled up paper towels beside her on the table and junk all around. But she is so naturally graceful and her pose (which was unposed) so elegant that her portrait needed a much more beautiful background, so I painted in this leafy glen. I think she looks like a woodsprite artist. I didn’t have to enhance her at all…she’s naturally beautiful. I did bump up the bling factor of her necklace and gave her some painted diamond stud earrings.
Below is a photo of just part of the mural she painted that day. Somewhere I have a photo of the full mural…I just can’t locate it right now. The painted scene, on an eight foot high canvas panel, is a peaceful meadow at dawn under a sky with white clouds and a crescent moon, as seen from an open set of French doors with a fan window above. The realistically painted door and window frame and this butterfly (painted on, not real!) are what trick the viewer into thinking the mural is actually a window. That’s what trompe l’oeil means: to fool the eye.
Ta-da! Here it is…finally! I’m happy with it now.
I painted over that helicoptor-sized pink bow I had put atop her head in an attempt to balance the big pink shoes (scroll down a few posts if you missed that monstrosity of a hair ornament) . I solved the exposed legs problem by painting the dress longer. Cropping solved the shoe problem.
I’ve been asked who gets this portrait when it is dry. In the short-term I need to keep it for a project I’m working on. (Some of you know what I’m talking about, but I hesitate to announce it to the world at large, lest I jinx it. ) Eventually I’ll give the portrait to Heather’s parents, I suppose, if they like it…I haven’t heard one way or another.
I may also put it on ImageKind — that’s a terrific service that makes gicleé prints of original art on demand. That way if, say, Heather’s grandparents wanted a copy of the painting they could order an archival fine art quality print. In the next day or two I’ll put a link to my ImageKind gallery there on the right side of this page.
As always, I welcome — and long for! — some feedback. Is there anyone out there?!?
You may remember that my last post of the Heather portrait-in-progress revealed my frustrations with several aspects of the painting. (If you don’t remember, scroll down this blog page.)
I solicited advice from Heather’s fan club and from two other artist/painters. Almost everyone agreed that the background colors of the other version were too bright. Howard B. pointed out that I had made her body too big for her head. John W. of Wales suggested I reduce the size of the deck. Several people said the shoes were “hideous”.
I agreed with all those suggestions, so I struggled with those “hideous” shoes, and the background colors and I kept painting the deck smaller and smaller.
But it was while I was painting Heather’s beautiful eyes that it struck me — why show the deck or her shoes at all??? The improtant part of this painting is not her dress or shoes or even her legs…it is her lovely doll-like face. Duh!
So, I cut off all the extraneous stuff and painted her dress down over her knees.
So what’s with that hair bow, you ask? Well, that is a remnant of all my machinations with those !#$%* hot pink shoes. I felt I needed an element in the composition to balance the big pink clod-hoppers, so I added the bow. Now it sticks out like a beacon. I’m going to paint a white rose over it.
PLEASE, kind readers, tell me what you think. Use the comment form or send me an email — jandi(at)jandismall(dot)com
Meet Rocky. He’s a Red Tick Hound and Beagle cross. That combo makes for a handsome dog, huh? This is a painting I did for his “mother” to use at a fundraiser her rescue group, Beagle Rescue of Southern Maryland, held recently…and of course, she gets to keep the portrait of her charming boy. (I’m going to put a link to the Beagle Rescue website on this blog…look for it on the right side of the page.)
There are so many wonderful rescue groups working in just about every community across the country. I’d like help out all of them, by adopting dogs and by donating money and time, but I’m only one person and I’m close to my maximum allowable (by my husband!) number of dogs. So, I donate custom pet portrait gift certificates to rescue group fundraisers as often as I can.
Connecting with Rocky’s mom was pure serendipity: she ordered some shampoo from my other website www.itchy-dog.com and she mentioned she was involved with dog rescue. I volunteered a portrait and the timing was perfect as they had the annual Beagle Bash coming in just a month. And guess who the high bidder was? Yup, Rocky’s mom…so I will be painting Rocky’s “sister”, Carly, very soon.
This is the rough second stage of the portrait of Heather. I don’t know what other painters call it but I refer to this stage as the “color block” step. That is, the colors are blocked in in approximately their final locations, but there are no details and there is lots of spill-over from one shape to the adjacent one. With these big flat blocks of color in place I can see where the problems are. And there are a bunch of problems.
First, the background colors are overpowering. I think I should be able to suggest tropical foliage without using such bright greens. Second, the deck is too big and too light in color. Third, where her dress meets the chair arm on the left side of the canvas is awkward. I painted the dress longer than it was in real life and now I’m confused about what to do with it at that spot…so, I will probably shorten the dress. Fourth, the shoes are too pink; I’ll tone those down. I painted the shoes with smaller straps, but I think I’ll make them have a looped tie on the top of the strap for interest.
Originally I wanted to make Heather’s dress white linen with an elaborate Victorian lace collar and cuffs on the short sleeves. What was I thinking?!? I can’t paint elaborate lace…and I don’t even want to try because it would detract from her beautiful little face. I’ll put 90% of my time and effort into painting her face, arms and legs…and let the clothes, chair, deck and foliage be sketchy and painterly.
The next step is to fix those problems I mentioned, above. If you, kind reader, see anything that you think should be changed or added, please use the comment form to tell me about it. I welcome all feedback. Really.