I transferred the finished drawing from my finished draft onto a piece of watercolour paper making sure I have taken into account the extra space around the outside needed to stick it to the board and to allow some play in the size of the finished piece. It had been stretched first, taped to a board and dried overnight.
Materials used here are hot pressed 140lb watercolour paper and acrylic paint. My lightbox is an old cutdown amazon box with an unwanted picture frame glass front for the top and a spare loose strip light taped inside!
You might be asking yourself what has cooking got to do with art?
Paintings can so easily have a little too much time on them becoming overworked and a little laboured. I thought a good analogy might be the outcome of cooking a Victoria Sponge cake .
If you slightly over cook one of these cakes it smells slightly over-cooked when it comes out of the oven, it is slightly over-coloured with a bit of a crisp edge on the outside edges and it loses some of its subtle cakey fragrance to a more caramelised finish (to be polite). But if you slightly undercook it, it will be moist and tasty, has a full buttery flavour, and on the downside it might lack a little colour. Which is best? Definitely the latter for the tastiest cake.
Catching the cake at it’s optimum moment is possible with practice but there is little variation from one cake to the next so eventually a plan for timing and temperature will make it perfect. Obviously this is very different to the variations that are possible from one painting to the next. But the idea of relating over-cooking and under-cooking a sponge cake to painting is purely for the reason that stopping a bit before the optimum moment will allow a painting to look more vibrant, spontaneous, and more intuitive rather than laboured and probably a bit muddied. It might not be perfect but it is likely to be a better finish. Just like the cake.
Trying to under-work a painting is soooooo hard by comparison to overworking. Over-cooking or overworking it is easy. It is easy for me to see bits of my paintings that might be improved and therefore I could keep picking at it. So today I am trying very hard to not do any more to this painting of a Springer Spaniel.
What could be done to try to prevent getting to the over-painting stage? I wonder if in the back of my mind I think people who look at this picture might find fault for me not “tidying ” everything up, and somehow I have to let go of this idea at an opportune moment. Perhaps the questions I should be asking myself are: How happy am I about the painting? Can I get away with finishing it at this moment?
I am tempted to keep going on this painting, but I think I might get away with stopping right now. So hands off, let’s clean the brushes and here is Fred smiling.
My portfolio of dog portraits is slowly but surely expanding.
I have taken on a couple of portfolio exercises to get a proper feel for the difficulty rating. They are:
a) a photo which does not have all the pictorial information because the resolution is too low and
b) a photo which is in itself not a great composition but it is the only photo we can get. These are situations a pet portrait artist may find themselves in and with these problems in mind they will then have to decide whether a successful pet portrait will be the outcome.
a) This is Amber. Most of the photo could be enhanced using the contrast tool to get more information for reference. This worked for all but the eyes. This was the most challenging and time consuming of my two examples. I had to make up the eye reference material, or cross reference it elsewhere. This meant it became time consuming and a fiddle mucking about with the “lost” information. The eyes are the most important focal point (apart from the muzzle also in a dog) and not succeeding in making them look “right” or more to the point “convincing” would spell disaster for the whole painting. One other point about this photo is the position of the tail gives a very long slim shape to the overall composition and so it was much better to take the important head area instead where there are alot of dynamic shapes to keep the picture interesting.
b) This is Gooner, obviously an older dog, which you can tell by the expression and posture. The overall shape is not very dynamic and more of an overall circular outline, not the best shape to use for a picture composition. This painting is taking much less time on account I hav all the necessary information in front of me. I took the liberty of using artistic licence to move the eye gaze so that the image was more engaging. Everything is in place and the painting is almost finished.
Below are the results of my endeavours:
Amber is completed
Gooner to the right is still work in progress.
There are times when another factor comes into play and that is when the pet owner has produced the only photo they have of their dog and it is just like the Amber example above. Perhaps this might persuade you as a pet portrait artist to take on the commission. Of course all these things can be discussed at the outset with the pet owner giving you the commission perhaps with deposit for work up front and other caveats would help mitigate any disaster!
My conclusion is that not having all the information is extremely time consuming and the outcome is not certain. It is up to the Pet Portrait Artist to determine the risk!