Monday, November 22, 2010

Portrait Marathon update: Skye DONE!

Ah!  Done!

Skye's owner, Leslie, told me that Skye likes to really MOVE, treating the yard like a Nascar track.  Her (further) use of race car terminology tipped me that she's a fan (I hope I got that right!)  The reference photo is a stark stare, eyeballs ready to pop out of her head, she's so intense.  I decided to throw in a Nascar reference with their logo, redone with Skye's name.  She looks like she's revving up, on the very edge of jumping the starting gun.

So, how did she get to the finish line?  Let's start from the top.

This is the reference image, cropped to the area I would be using, and fiddled with 'til I could see her brindling a bit (at first I thought she was just all "blue"!)

Skye is a blue-fawn brindle, so I thought I'd play on the warm lilac tones.  What?  You don't see lilac?  Really?  Hm.  Well, it's part of the mix, I think.  Let's see how it works out.

I found a Nascar logo, and reworked it in Photoshop, inserting Skye's name in a similar style.  I thought it needed more racing imagery, so I tossed in a racing stripe, fading rapidly into the distance.  Once I got the reference image how I wanted it, I printed it out to use at my painting table, and drew the outlines onto the canvas.

Looks like a paint-by-numbers set at this point, right?  (I just remembered from early childhood the smell of the oil paints in their tiny plastic cups, no bigger than thimbles, that came with these sets ... how did we clean up?  Was there turpentine?  I do remember the cheap plastic-hair brushes!)

Where was I?

Right.  Painting Skye!

Next, I wanted to lay in the logo, then get the background started, and give an overall tone to Skye herself.  Again, I wanted to separate the background from the subject by using warm colors in one place, and cooler in another, so golden yellow went in all over, except where Skye is, and I washed in this pale lilac over Skye, scrubbing out the highlights with a wet brush.  I did put in some of the warm yellow and raw sienna in her eyes, to get them started.

Next, it was time to get serious about getting shadows established. Using a deep violet, mixed with burnt umber or raw sienna, I started darkening areas I knew I wanted more shadow in.  I also used this mixture on the background.  Raw sienna starts to pick up the areas of brindling on her body.

Still no pupils.  She looks like the proverbial deer in the headlights!  Let's work on that in the next phase.

That's better.  Now you can start to see some much deeper darks going in, with payne's gray, and some ultramarine blue in the body.  Too blue, though.  I'll have to work on that.  The darks in the photo came out way darker than they really were at this stage.  I had a lot of toning to do, yet.  You can see where it's going at this point, though.  She does look a bit like a purple and gold Dalmatian, don't you think?

From here to done was a matter of many, many, many washes of payne's gray, raw sienna, back to burnt umber, violet, some highlights in naples yellow, deepest shadows with a mix of payne's and umber ... then a few highlights thrown in towards the end, to bring out details in the eyes, around the muzzle, and so forth.  It's between this phase, where you can start to see good depth, to the finish where all the really finicky works happens, going from rough to fine, from okay to hey-that's-pretty-good, and finally to, "Okay, I'm calling it.  That's done!"

Then I fiddle with it for another hour or so.  :P

So, that's Skye, start to finish.  Hope you enjoyed the progress.  Let me know what you think!

Next up is ... Hm.  Let me see.  Who IS next?
Ah!  Lori's ol' man Tuck!  I have a special warm spot for this curmudgeon.  He's very special to Lori, and lucky to have her.  Cool.  Okay!  Onward!


  1. Very Cool! I've been at an agility seminar all day & couldn't wait to see the finished product & the surprise :) Another great job!

  2. That is an awesome step-by-step...maybe one day you could post your process Witty from last year. Michael

  3. O M G!!!!She looks so cool Xan! Its funny that you said what you did about the lilac. I've always known it was there! Thank you so much!!!

  4. See? I knew the lilac was in there! :D I'm so glad you like it, Leslie! Yeay!!

    Michael, I'll have to go back and look at Witty's portrait, and see if I can figure it out. Looking at the scan I took, I can probably work it out, but I wouldn't have any progress pics. Still interested?

    Thanks, Christine! :)

  5. LOVE it! So clever. I definitely saw the lilac tones in the photo and you carried those through really well.

  6. Fascinating, and so very lively in the finished portrait! This is becoming a sort of memoir/novel--full of suspense, characters unfolding--maybe needs a little more plot. . .
    your fan/mom

  7. Plot. Hm. Let's see ... How's this for a general outline: The main character (me - it's a first-person novel in the form of a blog/memoir), an artist, tentatively enters the field of pet portraiture. Along her journey into this phase of the life of a commercial artist, she is drawn into each pet's story, even as she draws them. Story after story unfolds. Her own story is revealed to be an anthology. What will she learn, what transformations will she undergo, under the constant stream of sad, funny and loving stories for which she becomes the illustrator?

    I realize I left out the most important part (the transformation), but I don't know it yet! Stay tuned!


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