Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Four Chesapeakes in Pencil - Work in Progress

I have started my latest commission of the four Chesapeakes done in pencil. I thought that I would share a work in progress and talk a little about that. There is quite a bit of work behind the scenes before I actually get to the stage that is pictured here. It involves a lot of "thinking" first, in this case about the placement of the four dogs. I first blew up the photos that I took and then began laying them out and playing with the positions to see what would yield the most pleasing arrangement. Once I came up with a design I did my sketch up on a sheet of tracing paper so that any additional changes could be made on that and not ruin the good paper. I chose to do this drawing on Stonehenge paper and transferred my sketch to it using a sheet of graphite paper between the tracing and the Stonehenge. Then the drawing was ready to start.

I use a variety of pencils to accomplish all the shading, but my favorites are an HB, H, 2B and one that's so old that it's letters have worn off, but I think it must be something very hard like a 4H or so because it makes very light marks that are more like scratches. This actually scars the paper and when you go over it with a softer pencil like the HB hair texture appears. Just in case you don't know an HB is the familiar #2 pencil we used in school. A 2B is softer and makes a dark mark and H is hard. Starting with the harder pencils I lay in hair patterns and then build on those with softer pencils to get the texture and values right. I'm simplifying it a lot here. The process does take some time and a little patience, but if done right can create some awesome detail and depth.
Here is a little closer view of two of the Chessies. The first one is pretty much complete and I'm just getting started on the next one. In color these two have pretty much the same coat color which is called sedge or a reddish brown color. For the other two, one will be darker ( a dark brown) and one has a lighter coat (called dead grass) so the challenge will be to depict those changes in black and white so it will be obvious that they are not the same colors.
This last photo just shows my work area. I have all my reference laid out along with all my pencils. It looks a little messy and cluttered, but works pretty well for me. I will be working along on this for the next few days and will include another post before I finish. Hope you enjoyed this little peek into the process!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dancing with Cheyenne - Colored Pencil Portrait

I finally got my commission finished of the "black" horse of a different color! As you can see she's got a lot of red to her coat which did not make her a truly black horse. This painting was both a pleasure and a challenge to do mostly because of her color which changed in different lighting and at different times of the year and I had reference photos taken from many different times. So....after about three attempts with watermedia I finally switched to colored pencil and the piece started to come together. There is a lot of subtle shading with many different pencils to achieve the coat color and the sheen. There not only was the red, but in the shadow areas I could see shades of purple as well. A very colorful black horse, indeed! I delivered her to my clients last night and they were thrilled. Thank you Dale and Linda for trusting me with another painting of your treasured pets!

I currently have one more commission to complete. The next one is a black and white pencil portrait of four Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. I am really looking forward to starting it as this piece features my favorite breed of dog. It's a bonus that I have also met each one of these wonderful canines in person and was able to photograph them myself. Also, this piece will be a nice change of pace as I will not have to worry about color and will be able to focus on drawing the coat patterns and detail.

After this last commission is complete I will be taking a little break from pet portraits or at least not actively pursuing commissioned pieces (though if any come my way I certainly will not turn them down!!!). I am not planning on doing any other shows this summer. What I will be doing is taking a little time to dream, plan, and decide what direction my art work needs to take. The pet portraits have been a most wonderful journey and I will continue to do them, but I believe there is much more in me and I need to explore what that might be. I hope, in the coming weeks, to play with new mediums as well as new subject matter. Keep watching my blog to see what develops!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Max - Yellow Lab in Acrylic

This is one of my favorite paintings!! I did this for the last show I had in April and was working in a smaller format and looking to try something a little different. This painting is done in acrylic and is 5" x 7" in size. I had originally sketched it out to be larger with more background area around it, but thought it was lacking something so I started playing around with cropping it close and scaling down the size. By coming in close I was able to better capture the look in this pups' serious for a Lab puppy! The other things I like about this painting are the warm and cool colors next to each other and the fact that I loosened up just a bit and painted a little more impressionisticly and not so detailed. I used more blues and lavenders to create the shadows and details. It was really a fun painting to do and it is for sale. Inquiries can come to me at

I am currently working on another commission. It's slow going trying to work it in between the rest of my life right now, but my clients are some very understanding friends. It's a fairly large piece, 16 x 20, of their horse and has been a little challenging as it's a horse of a different color. It's black, but has a lot of warm highlights and in certain light looks very reddish which has been hard to capture. I will post it when finished which I hope will be this week.

Well, I have the day off so I guess I'd better get to that painting and get it finished. It's a beautiful summer day outside and my garden is also begging me for attention. There's lots of weeding that I'm getting behind on and I also have some veggies that are in need of harvesting. Maybe that will wait until this evening when it cools off a bit. Then I'll go play in my garden, relax and watch the hummingbirds visit my feeders.