Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Louisiana State Duck Stamp entry

As promised, here is the work in progress for the Louisiana State Duck Stamp Contest. The painting itself should reach the hands of the judges today and the final judging will take place on Oct. 22nd. As soon as I know anything I will post it here.

For the past few years Louisiana has featured a retriever breed on their duck stamp and their theme was "Retrievers Save Game." This year the breed was the Chesapeake Bay Retriever which is the breed of dog I own. Since I am also an avid duck hunter and have been toying with the idea of entering a duck stamp contest, this was almost a "no brainer " for me to enter. I did say "almost".

I had pondered my design for weeks and had originally come up with a whole different concept. It was much more complicated with lots of background including an elaborate early morning sunrise, flying ducks, the dog and, in the foreground, the mornings successful retrieves. I really liked the sketch and started the painting with colored pencils. After four failed attempts to pull the concept out of my head and put it on paper, I nearly gave up. It was brought to my attention that maybe what I was trying to paint was someone else's style and not an "original Cathy". I must admit that I thought these well meaning friends and my husband just didn't "get it". They just didn't understand the importance of this piece or the judges expectations, etc.,etc. But....they were right! I went back to the drawing board and completely reworked the concept. Everything simplified and changed except for the dog, which features my beloved Jake. That part could not change. It also features a pair of American Widgeon .This first photo shows that final concept.

This next photo shows the work in progress. I had even changed what medium I was working in. This is done in gouache (an opaque watercolor) on hot pressed watercolor paper which is a very smooth surface and lends itself well to very detailed work. I almost trashed this piece as well because the sky was actually started with colored pencil again and was just not working. At this point I was so frustrated I really didn't care. I grabbed my paint and just started slopping it on. Much to my amazement things started to come together! Now, I was encouraged enough to continue and as I did, I liked where it was going. ( Up until this point I was really wondering if an artist was what I was really supposed to be. What made me think I could do this?)

Here is the finished painting that I sent to the contest. This is much more along the lines of what I normally do. Though I love to look at paintings with lots going on in them I don't paint that way....at least not at this time. I've always been much more interested in capturing the spirit and personality of my subject and the rest is incidental. It tells part of the story, but it isn't the story. It's not the focus. So getting carried away with all this other stuff was taking away from the whole idea of the piece.....the retriever.

Now that it's done and sent off I'm glad that I took my friends and husbands' advice and painted from the heart.( Thank you all for setting me straight!) I'm satisfied with the way it turned out and I don't feel like I'll embarrass myself with this piece. I am excited that I reached one of my goals this year to enter a duck stamp contest. I'd like to dream about being the winner or at least placing in the top five, but if I don't I'm still pleased. My prayer is just that it arrives safely, makes it through the judging and gets returned to me without damage.

Well, that's about all for today. I wanted to slip this in because I promised that I would. We're in the midst of the deer hunting season here and at the very start of the duck hunting and as I said...I'm an avid hunter, so I'm off with my husband to the "woodsy woods" as a friend calls it, to look for those elusive creatures!