Wednesday, March 07, 2012

FPM #10: Cosmo kitty

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Fall Portrait Marathon, Cosmo 

Cosmo the cat chose his family by befriending every person, dog and cat in the house, and then just walking in the door for good one winter day.  A sweet and congenial guy, his people are still missing his gentle presence since his passing 3 years ago.

We see him here obviously in the prime of good health, evidently surveying his chosen domain, maybe looking for just the right lap, or fuzzy side, to jump down and snuggle with.  You'll also notice that this photo, while in relatively high focus, is also in black and white.  So, Cara-Lea gave me the option to play around a bit.  Add color or not.  Add it all over, or not.  Get creative with my whole approach, or stick to the tried and true.

Cosmo in color
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She gave me the photo on the left here for a color reference, and that eye color just demanded to be taken into account!  So, that's part of the decision.

Cosmo-color added
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I'm going to play it a little bit by feel, and start with a very careful monochromatic underpainting, with the assumption that at least some of it will stand on its own in the finished painting, while some areas will likely get some color.  This colored version of the photo is sort of how I'm thinking of it to start.  Maybe less color in the cat bed, or just confine it to the edge closest to Cosmo's face.

I want to be able to get that wonderful texture that stripey cats have, where the hairs follow a general flow, but interlock, and each hair is multi-colored, making a complex pattern in any tiny given area.  Whew!  As I'm working on canvas, which has texture of its own, I won't be getting every hair everywhere, but I want to have the ability to get the ones I really want, to suggest the whole.  So, as I always do, I sanded the canvas before transferring my drawing, being a little more vigorous than usual.  I wiped it with a damp cloth, applied a mid-tone gray pastel to the back of my drawing, carefully taped it in place over the canvas, and drew over it to transfer the drawing.  Once it was all there, I carefully removed the paper, and cleaned it up with a kneaded bit of Blu-Tack.  Where the wooden frame defines the edge of the canvas gets especially smudgy since it's solid where the rest of the canvas is stretchy, so special attention there.

Cosmo - work in progress
5" x 5" acrylic on canvas
©Xan Blackburn 2012
I still have my trusty Payne's gray on my pallet from Sammi's portrait, so I dilute that down, and wade in, sketching with my wet brush over the lines, trying to get the feel of the hair directions right from the start, checking against my reference photo for the inevitable vagueness inherent in the transfer method.  I went ahead and washed in some general tones as well, in the background as well as in Cosmo himself.  I like that this color separates as it settles into warmer and cooler particles, making the color very rich and interesting, like watercolor paints do.

So, this is where I'm at right now.  Stage one is always pretty interesting, and full of potential: will it turn out well?  Will it fail?  Only time and work will tell!

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