Sunday, January 11, 2009

Christmas commissions

I had two commissions to do for Christmas presents, and have been reluctant to post any pictures of them until after Christmas as I wanted to make sure the recipients had received their gifts. But because things have been so busy I haven’t been able to get round to putting the post here until now.

The ‘lion up a tree’ was lovely to do… lovely because it was a big cat and it seems far too long since I have painted one. So just that fact alone made it enjoyable to paint. I really did enjoy doing this guy…. he looks just so relaxed. It was also pretty straightforward technically, as the commission remit was to reproduce a photo taken by the person who was to receive it as a present; although they didn’t know it was coming.
It was painted in oils on canvas (16”x20”). I did a little enhancement here and there; mainly bringing more colour and form to the lion and tree branches and created more depth, by ‘knocking back’ the background by ‘misting’ it over slightly with a pale translucent glaze. I also shifted the composition slightly up and left of the original photo, so added more foliage and branching to the right and bottom of the image to make up the missing sections.

The other commission was technically a wee bit harder and challenging. The commission was for three dogs from separate photo’s to be made into one picture. I had to try and judge the animal sizes in comparison to each other and also the images of the dogs, in the photo’s I was to work from, were quite small with little detail… particularly on the black dog. Sadly, all three animals are no longer alive, so I could not see them for myself to get an idea of character and get better reference. Consequently, the painting of them was quite a challenge.
Painting pets is quite tricky, as your perception of an animal can be so different to the owner’s. Also the animal may react and hold facial expressions and body postures with you that are so different from when it interacts with its owners. So trying to portray an animal as the owner saw/sees it can be very difficult.

The painting was done in gouache on watercolour board and I used the background from one of the photos to set the scene. Due to the few photos that I had and their ‘quality’, I had to rely on them heavily for the dogs, as I had less scope for artistic manipulation than if I had many photos and had seen them myself. I had a few German Shepherd pictures in my dog ref file, and used them to help with some of the detail; although I had to be careful as each dog, obviously, looks different. I arranged the dogs in a composition, taking their stances directly from the original photos. I drew each one up separately then scanned them into the computer to play with composition and size comparisons. When I had something that I felt was comfortable, I printed them out to size and transferred them to the finished backdrop. The outdoor photos looked overcast, so I added more light than they gave me, both on the dogs and the landscape, to liven and warm the painting up. Finally a bit of improvising with the foreground grasses and it was finished.

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