Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lou and Friends

Pet/People Portrait in Acrylic
About a month ago I was contacted by a very sweet lady who thought her portrait request might be a bit unusual. She wanted a portrait done of her husband, Lou, and their five cats. That didn't seem so unusual, but, then as her voice choked up, she told me that all of them were deceased and she wanted a happy memory of them all together in heaven. Well, I have to say that choked me up a bit, too. Having lost loved ones and beloved pets I hold in my heart that they are all happily in heaven visiting with God every day. It's how I deal with the pain of being separated from them, but I have to say I've never formed a picture in my mind of how that would look. This sweet lady had an idea of how it looked to her. She was trusting me to take her idea and make it a reality.
I agreed to meet with her and look over her reference photos and discuss her ideas a little further. I explained to her that I primarily painted pets and animals, not people, but she felt I could accomplish what she had in mind. If her husband looked a little different she was good with that as she felt he'd look better in heaven anyway. I wanted her to know that I'm a stickler for detail and capturing an accurate likeness so would do my absolute best to make all of them easily recognizable. 
Now, I have to say I was excited to try this portrait as it was a little different from what I normally do, but in the past I have turned down commissions of people portraits because I'm not fond of doing them. Something about this lady and her idea intrigued me though and I thought it would be a good challenge. I was right about one thing. It was a good challenge, but not in a bad way. 
This painting was a challenge because it required me to use the creative talents I've been gifted with to visualize something that I could not see. Normally, I try to paint from good reference photos and not make up what I can't see, though sometimes it can't be helped. The idea she had for the painting required the cats to be in poses different from the photos she had. The only two cats that I used exact photos for were the two Siamese at the bottom of the painting. We had no pose references for the Siamese and yellow Persian at his knees or the Siamese in Lou's arms. For all of those I had to rely on my knowledge of cat behavior and anatomy and some reference photos I took of a friends cat. The rest I filled in with descriptions from my client and a little heavenly help from the Creator of them all.
I have to say, the painting was actually a pleasure to paint. I chose to do it in acrylics as I felt if we needed to make any adjustments to poses or expressions it would be easy to do in this medium. It turned out that I did have to adjust a few things so the process went smoothly. The heavenly background was done using an airbrush to get a soft, ethereal effect and I think that worked  out quite well. My client was delighted with the way everything turned out and that always makes me feel good to know I've created something very meaningful to them.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Violet-Green Swallows

Feathered Rocket-a.k.a. Violet-green swallow

My morning walk today took me to a place called Asotin Slough. It is a habitat area created along the Snake River and is one of my favorite places to walk as it's usually quiet and filled with a variety of wildlife. Since it's supposed to be spring (at least that's what the calendar says) I was hoping to find some of the spring migrants winging their way through. This mornings treat was dozens of violet-green swallows working the river for bugs.
Violet -green swallow
 These birds are fast little buggers! I tried to follow them with binoculars to make the correct identification as they are very similar to tree swallows. Then, for amusement and to make myself crazy, I tried to photograph them. HA-HA!! Do you know what that's like? Think feathered rocket weaving back and forth then changing course in the blink of an eye and you'll have a pretty fair idea. Out of sixty some odd photos I was able to get a few that are semi recognizable as birds. But I got the correct i.d.!
Violet-green swallow sketch
Back home under more controlled conditions I printed out the somewhat fuzzy photos and made a quick watercolor sketch to record the aerial acrobats I enjoyed watching. Violet-greens get their name from their color. The adults head and back is an iridescent dark green with a lovely iridescent blue violet on the rump area above the tail. This can be seen in good light, otherwise it appears almost black especially when they're zipping by at a high rate of speed. They can be distinguished from tree swallows by this color and also the white above the eye and across the rump. There again, at high speed it's a challenge to determine. They have long pointed wings and, I was surprised to see from the photographs, rather plump, though very aerodynamic short bodies. They are definitely built for speed and maneuverability and they demonstrated that quite well for me this morning!

 " In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks"  John Muir

This morning I sought quiet, solitude and a chance to see a spring migrant or two. I found all those and so much more. 
Happy Spring!