Monday, May 7, 2012

Introduction to a Multiple Pet Portrait

My Take on a Portrait with More Than One Subject

In my previous post, I talked about portraits and how I LOVE them.
From Wikipedia: A portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant.
Couldn't this apply to any subject? I'm going to say "Of course!"

The purpose changes a little when doing portraits with multiple animals or people. The face and expression  of ONE is no longer predominant when adding more than one subject. But, that's not to say it won't be successful. Given the right references, it can be an awesome painting!  

Let's say you've decided to commission an artist to do a portrait with two or more pets in it instead of multiple individual portraits.  First realize it won't have the same impact as it would with one pet.

Wooly Malamute | pastel | 16x20
Having more than one dog/pet in a painting gives the feeling of a pack, the camaraderie/social aspect of them together. A dog and cat (or two separate species) could play off how well they get along, or how NOT well they get along (so many images flashing in my head of FUN portraits!)

The detail will be there, but may not have the same impact as having one pet to concentrate on. The concentration will be of the togetherness, not their individuality. Both are great options and both can be beautiful.

Combining Reference Photographs...Consistency is Key!

There are other considerations to a multiple pet portrait if you don't have photos with them together. In addition to the recommendations for an individual portrait, keep these in mind:

  • Lighting
    • Should be consistent if there are highlights and shadows (and there should be for a good portrait)
    • Type of lighting (all indoor light or all outdoor)
    • Best to take all photos on the same day and in the same location for the best outcome for consistency 

Yorkshire Terrier "Chloe" in natural light

Yorkshire Terrier "Chloe" in indoor light

  • Direction 
    • From the photos you have, are they facing the same way?
    • If not, would it look natural for pets to be looking at different spots in a painting? 
      • Answer: Probably not. Chances are, your pet was looking at you, a bird, or a treat. I doubt that if you had all your pets in the same spot, they would choose different subjects. Think of holiday pictures you've taken or have been in with a group of people. Do you consider it a success if you have people looking in all directions, or when they're looking in the same direction?

Mixed Breed "Hercules"

  • Angle
    • Your relation to the pet when you're taking the picture. Are you above them? At eye level? It doesn't really matter, although I've found that at eye level is best, but you want to make it consistent. If you're at eye level with one pet, make sure you're not at a completely different angle with the other pet.
German Shepherd "Nicholl"
Alaskan Malamute "Dash"

  • Proximity
    • Optional, but it will make the artist's job a little easier there. If you zoom in on one pet, and don't on the other, you may not have a realistic size relation in your portrait. If an artist isn't familiar with a particular breed, they won't know how one pet compares to the other if they don't have photos of them together to judge. 
It all comes down to one word - CONSISTENCY.

In the End, It's Your Call

It really is an individual decision. What feeling do you want to convey? If you want to be able to look at EACH of your pets as individuals, I would encourage separate portraits (like the example above). If you want to go with the "pack", then I would recommend the group portrait. Just keep in mind there is more work on both parties to ensure consistency.

Portraits are commissions, after all. Artists who take on commissions, want to please the customer. So if you only have a limited amount of photos and the pet is no longer around (RIP), that's OK. We work around what's available and if we can get it, GREAT, but if not, at least we know what we have to work with.

However, the better the photo, the better the outcome...

I'll leave you with one of the sketches I've done for a pet portrait I'm working on right now...(one of the earlier FAILED compositions. Can you name the issue I have here?).

Sketch of pet portrait (Alaskan Malamute, Samoyed, Siberian Husky)

Friday, May 4, 2012

What is the Definition of a Portrait?

Flower Portraits? Why Yes, I Do That Too...

If you're familiar with my work, you would know that I like to paint and draw animals, people, as I was writing this post about portraits and what I like to focus on, I realized that what I'm really painting is portraits. Portraits of people, animals and flowers.

In my bio/statement/about me sections that all artists should have, I say the same things...that I'm drawn (hahaha) to the details of a subject. It makes sense when I put my portraits together...

Portrait of Alex | charcoal | 16x20

Bovine Curiosity | charcoal | 18x24

Himalayan | pastel | 16x20

Even when you look at the flowers I have done, you see the same thing...close enough to see some detail, but not too close that it becomes abstract.

Violet | colored pencil | 8x10

Antique Rose | colored pencil | 8x10
Carnation | colored pencil | 8x10

Reference Photos

Here are some of my photographs that will someday be "portraits"...not all of them are great photos, some are blurry, but I'm not a photographer. I just play one for reference photos.

Dairy Cow in Chapel Hill NC

You would never know it, but this is a Belted Galloway at Fearringon Village, near Chapel Hill NC

Some cats have it made...this one hangs out at the Westin, St John, USVI

Baby monkey at the NC Zoo in Ashboro NC

Our cat, "Chopper"

The walkway the zoo has now is amazing! You can feed the giraffes and be eye to eye with them!
Flower (petunia or pansy? I always get them mixed up)

OK, I'm pretty sure this is an orchid. I've been known to take photos at random places.

So, there it is. I have a problem. As much as I LOVE landscapes and trees and all that purdy stuff, I think I just get on autopilot when I see something I like.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Regrets? Yes and No

Whenever anyone I work with learn I have an art degree, I get the eyebrow raise. My job is in clinical research and really has no place for art. Do I have regrets? Maybe, but not for the reasons you may think.

I will always be thankful for getting an art degree. Even though the "art" doesn't help me with my current profession, I'm thankful for two reasons:

I Learned How to See

An EARLY sketch of boxes, plates, cups
As much as I hated drawing box after box, or the constant measuring - once I got it - not "oh, this is how I do it", but "oh, this is WHY I am doing it", it made perfect sense! It's something I wish I did in high school or even earlier than that. As simple as drawing boxes made me see the angles and measuring made me see something as simple as eye placement on a face. I was able to see objects as they truly are and not see them as I think they are. I was and continue to be thankful.

A later sketch of fabric draped on a cylinder

I Learned How to Think think about society as it relates to history, as it relates to the world, throughout history. I was a sponge when it came to learning about cultures and historical facts. I fell in love with ancient history - Greek, Roman, Ancient Sumerian, Japanese, Chinese, etc... not ancient, but still fascinating was the Moghul Empire.

I also took classes on the history of religion, where I learned aboutAncient Sumerian culture and then later took several classes on Christianity through the ages. It was an eye opening experience to say the least.

One of my favorite classes (looking back of course), was a course on Abstract Expressionists. This was the perfect combination of my interests. It wasn't just about art, but also about the historical, political, and cultural events that surrounded the movement. It was a great class that I remember 15 years later. And I still have the books.

Helen Frankenthaler: Mountains and Sea (1952)

The classes I took weren't really taking me anywhere successful career-wise. I wasn't taking law classes, or statistical classes or even design classes for a lucrative profession. I wasn't interested in those careers. I wasn't interested in a career at all. Maybe I needed a little more guidance in that since there was a moment after graduating where I thought, "Oh. What now?"


Looking Back...

I would do the same thing, take the same classes, but would add to them. Take more liberal arts classes (yes, more!)...but it would have helped to have taken more practical classes on being an artist, like framing, printing business cards, brochures, etc. and a stress of KNOWING YOURSELF ENOUGH TO EXPRESS YOURSELF - being more comfortable in the world AFTER the degree may have steered me to this earlier on. But maybe...I just needed to learn this in my own time as a "student of life". ;)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Artist and the Writer

As some of you know, my husband's "hobby" has been writing. It's been laying dormant for a while, but he's recently come back to it full force.

As he talked to me recently about ideas, it occurred to me how similar, yet different we are. We are both creative people. In general, artists and writers go about their lives internalizing their experiences, yet in completely different ways.

This thought came to me when a random story was being told to me and hearing how my husband came to didn't come to him by LOOKING OUTSIDE - staring off into the beauty of nature...he just thinks constantly, about ideas, about people, about interactions. I know there are plenty of jokes to be had right now, but really, I'm not a thinker (haha). I'm an observer. I take walks or sit outside to take in the beauty of what I see. My husband takes walks or sits outside to think.

Artists are about images; writers are about ideas. I am generalizing way too much, and I certainly don't mean to say that artists have nothing to say, or writers have nothing to portray. As artists, our styles, medium, subject matter may differ, but I think our experiences with the outside world are similar.

We may have our own thoughts/judgments on the world and can create "art" with that in mind...
...or not. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

An Old Portrait and an Older Portrait



I totally forgot that I meant to post a charcoal portrait of my daughter in the last post! That was a major reason I did a non-art post, but I guess that's what happens when you have someone like me, posting about who-knows-what. I try to stay on topic of art, but sometimes, I gotta stray.

Portrait of Anna


Granted, this portrait was done years ago, and I'm painfully aware I should do an update. Plus, I have other family members who have waited patiently for their turn, but since theirs is free, they have no choice but to sit back and... wait some more.

Portrait of my Dad


So now we get to go down memory 20 (yes, TWENTY!) years ago. I did a portrait of my dad that I submitted and won 1st place in a Father's Day event. Looking at it now...I can honestly tell you his lips were not that "pretty". Maybe a redo is in order... ;)

It's a "stippling" portrait, made up of a bunch of dots. I did a few other drawings in the same fashion, but that's another topic... Maybe I'm not that brave to show more of my work from high school, but it might be an eye opener for some who think you gotta be born with talent. ;)


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Time for Celebration and Remembrance

Picture of Anna before school today

Happy birthday to my daughter! 

She's 6 today! She's excited, but not as much as you would think a 6 year old GIRL would be. She probably gets more excited about her brother's birthday than she does about her own.

Of course, she IS excited to see me bring cupcakes to her class, and will be excited when we go to dinner so she can see her cousins. She IS excited about her presents...but quietly so. You put her in front and expect her to burst from excitement and you're more likely to see her burst into tears.

Anna trying not to smile/cry while people sing Happy Birthday

The other day when we got together for Easter, she was propped up on the counter while we (lots and lots of "we") sang Happy Birthday to her.

I took pictures...and expected to see tears.



 It's not only my daughter's birthday today, it's my dad's birthday as well. 

He would have been 69 today. It's a fine line when celebrating a child's birthday while remembering someone who is no longer with you. It's another when they're both related to you.

My dad didn't make a big deal out of his own birthday, but you bet he was the one baking a cake for you for your birthday. It wasn't decorated fancily, and sometimes didn't look edible. But that was the point of wasn't the presentation as much as it was the what came before it...the background...the "essence" I suppose.

Our relationship was sort of like that. You talk to my sisters and brother, and of course their relationship with him was completely different. My oldest sister and him actually talked to each other. That's a concept that I've pondered over the years. And laughed at...because my dad and I didn't talk. We had the same personality...we took comfort in each other's company, but rarely talked. We would take small hikes in the woods, we would watch "The Andy Griffith Show" together, and stay up late to watch Alfred Hitchcock on Friday nights.

Even though he wasn't a great talker, he was there...and it mattered. Even though he didn't make a big deal about any of it, he was the one baking the cakes or dyeing easter eggs and hiding them.

So in celebrating my daughter's birthday, I'm also celebrating my dad's birthday...quietly. And remembering.

My dad with my sister and I (I'm in the blue dress).

Anna as SuperGirl

Monday, April 9, 2012

Excuses, Excuses (or why I haven't painted lately)

This wasn't going to be its own post, but instead a short list of excuses within another post of WHY I HAVEN'T POSTED ANY NEW WORK! 

Well, I had a little too much fun with my list. It's a pretty accurate portrayal of our life right now with two kids, 7 and 5 years old. (OK, soon to be 7 and 6 years old on Wednesday!)

Here are my no particular order of priority. 

    Excuse #1: FAMILY

    I have to talk to them and help my kids do stuff. Take the simple act of bathing.
    "Yes, you have to take a bath."
     And for those of you who have more than one child...
    "Whoever guesses the closest number from 1-10 has to go first."
    "I don't care who goes first...just take a bath!"
    "Did you wash your hair/brush your teeth?"
    "It doesn't smell like you washed your hair/brushed your teeth."
    "Why is the shampoo almost gone? I just bought it yesterday!"
    "Please hang up the towel."
    My kids...making mud with our clay dirt and water.
    AND I have to make sure they eat...and healthily.
    "No chips, candy, dessert until you finish all your food!"
    "OK, fine. At least two more bites?"
    "Since the cat got on the counter to eat your food, you can be done."

    Not to mention they have to get to school somedays.
        "Wake up..."
        "Wake up or you're going to be late!"
        "Brush your teeth./Brush them again!"
        "I don't know where your other shoe/bookbag/sock/shirt, is..."
        "What permission slip?"
        "Hurry or your going to be late!"
          And sports...
          "Is it our turn to bring snack?"
          "How much are the trophies/party this year?"
          "Yay (or Awww), the game is canceled due to weather."
          "Do you have your football/soccer ball/jersey?
          "Hurry up or you're going to be late!"
            Our son as goalie during a soccer game

            Excuse #2: WORK

              Sometimes I have to travel for work, and prepare presentations in front of people. If you read my previous post (here), then you already know that I'm presenting to people about stuff that's not art related. While it's a nice distraction away from my creative side, it's still a distraction and consequently, hard to switch on and off on a whim. My job is somewhat flexible since I work from home, but I also have 24/7 access to the emails (=stress).

              However, sometimes I travel to great places! I've taken a public bus in Beijing, toured the terra-cotta soldiers in Xi'an, walked from Moulin Rouge to our hotel room in central Paris (District 9 to District 1) at 2am since the metro had already stopped running for the night. I've visited the western-most point in Europe in Portugal and took pictures of a Roman gladiator talking to a guy on a segway. My favorite memories are from my first trip for work since I had to stay there for 2 weeks (2 separate meetings) and my husband came with me. We had a great time in Prague and loved every minute of it.

              Too bad I don't paint architecture/cityscapes/landscapes)
                  Prague-Atlantic Ocean

                  Pena Castle in Sintra, Portugal (near Lisbon)
                  My hubby and I near the Roman Coliseum

                  Excuse #3: HOME LIFE

                    Do you remember the Dunkin' Donuts commercial with the guy waking up really early EVERY MORNING and saying "it's time to make the donuts..." Well, keeping up a house feels sorta like that. OK, EXACTLY like that. (At least to me it does...see the last bullet)

                    It's time to...
                    • Cut the grass
                    • Weed
                    • Pick up toys (oops...this should come first)
                    • Buy new or fix yard equipment (lawn mower, clippers, etc)
                    • fix breakfast/lunch/dinner
                      • I know my astrological sign is cancer and I'm supposed to be a home maker type, loving to cook and stuff,
                        • take-out?
                        • Ask hubby to cook
                        • Find a quick microwaveable meal or something easy to put together
                    • Do the laundry
                      • yes, that means putting the clothes away!
                    • CLEAN...
                      •  Why didn't we get a shed-free dog?
                      • Really? Didn't you read that I'm an ARTIST?
                    Our dog...taking over. Did you really think I would add a picture of anything else related to excuse #3?

                        Excuse #4: ART

                        Oh yeah, that. After work, and kid stuff and home stuff...Where did my energy go? I'm too stressed and the kids are in bed. I need a glass of wine. 
                        What did I want to work on? (Cue the crickets...)

                          I'd love to hear your excuses for not getting something done that you otherwise would LOVE to do!

                          Friday, April 6, 2012

                          What I Did on My Vacation

                          Some of you are aware that I have a full time job that is NOT related to my art. AT. ALL.

                          So in February, I decided to take a week off and not go anywhere or do anything but work on my art and art related marketing. This was a big step for me, because while I've been involved in the art community for a few years now and see myself as an artist, I see myself as a part-time artist who can't spend a lot of time doing art things. I have excuses galore!

                          My productivity isn't anywhere near what it would be as a full time artist, but I think I did pretty well on my week "off".
                          I started off by going to several galleries in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Pittsboro with my sister (check out her blog here).

                          We visited Fearrington Village and took pictures of the Belted Galloways (rare breed of Scottish beef cows), Of course I only had my iPhone with me. I need to learn to keep my camera with me at all times. I always see things that are be "picture worthy" when I don't have my camera.

                          We then went to a gallery in Pittsboro, Liquidambar Gallery, where many pieces of art were being auctioned for "Art for the Animals" - a benefit for the Carolina Tiger Rescue. (A place I need to go to WITH my camera!)

                          Agh! My first official day off, and it's a snow day. Snow isn't unheard of in the piedmont NC area, but it was the only day this winter it snowed. The kids had the day off and spent the morning making a snowman that would quickly melt by early afternoon.

                          I had an appointment at the NC Crafts Gallery, and ended up leaving behind some magnets for the gallery to sell. The gallery is exactly what the name says-- a great collection of art and crafts spread throughout.

                          I loved these watercolor paintings attached to panels here.

                          During my vacation week, I went to a few artist meetings, one that I've participated in for a while, the other I was recently juried into.

                          I also went into Raleigh which isn't TOO far, but far enough to wait until I had a few other errands. I picked up my violet painting from the Visual Art Exchange where it was hanging for a month. I then went to Jerry's Artarama...anytime I am in a 30 mile radius of this place, I JUST HAVE TO GO! Plus, if you check in on Facebook, you receive a 10% discount on any item. Not bad. After stocking up on a few things, I then went to "A and B Store Fixtures". I talk about the place in this post.

                          On Saturday, I went to a pastel workshop that I was looking forward to for a long time (I talk about it here). It was great that I was able to bring home three small pieces. I promptly re-framed one of them once I got home.

                          OK, so it doesn't look like I was THAT productive, but at the end of the week, I finished a malamute, a goat, a donkey, started an elk and a lesser kudu. AND I received quite a few interested emails from my revamped blog, facebook, and twitter accounts.

                          I'm fascinated by the daily activities of those who create art full-time and would love to hear how you go through your day!

                          Wednesday, April 4, 2012

                          "Painting" a Himalayan Cat

                          I recently painted a Himilayan cat who passed away unexpectedly. He was definitely the king of the house as can be seen by the photograph below.

                          The owner is a dear friend of mine and a photographer. I chose this photograph, even though it looks a little dark and doesn't show his eyes as well as another photograph I had. Sometimes, I just go by feel what I think would work better as a painting, but having several photos is always a plus when doing a portrait.

                          I used Mi Tientes pastel paper cropped at 16" x 20". Of course I have to provide you with the work in progress photos!

                          You can see the color of the paper in the first step. I cropped the background to concentrate on his face and body. How could I crop out his paws? This was part of his personality and was told he loved to hang out "at the bar".

                          Obviously, I added more cream color in the fur, blue in the background and darkened the chair.

                          I decided not to show a clear distinction between the floor and wall and instead started to work on the transition.

                          I played with the colors for a while, trying to pull out the highlights and push the darker colors, while keeping a believable shape to his face and paws. I'll save you the hundreds of photos I took in this process. For some reason, taking a photo with my phone as I go helps me to see the mistakes.

                          Here it is finished before I framed it.

                          And one more framed and in its new spot...