Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Loola Mae

What’s in a name? Doesn’t she just look like a “Loola Mae”? It fits her sweet nature, her delicate frame, her trusting eyes and smiling face. I think she’s perfectly named. I understand that she came into the lives of Jane and Kevin about a year after the loss of their first Sheltie, Jessie. It was time, Jane said. Kevin capitulated, then instantly fell head over heels! Wouldn’t you? Look at that face! Oh, Loola Mae! I’d love to bury my face in your beautiful mane and give you a hug and a kiss, in person, not just through my thoughts as I paint your image!
This painting is a birthday present for Jane, from her loving and thoughtful sister, Susan.
Shhhh…don’t tell her. It’s a surprise!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Zeke's Black & White Baby Toy

By the end of the day, here’s what I had. I’m fairly pleased…it captures the idea I was going for.
Susan pegged it when she told me that in the initial sketch “ Zeke's posture in that picture reminds me of a guy bellied up to the bar....one foot up on the railing, his right elbow on the bar, his shot glass cradled in his right hand....asking the bartender to "fill 'er up, pardner"....
That pretty much describes Zeke: The party doesn’t start until Zeke gets there!

He’s had that B & W toy since before we got him. I scented it all up with my smell, then mailed it to him (to Debbie, actually) in a zip loc to preserve the scent. Wanted him to know what he was getting into, before we went and picked him up! Worked like a charm – he LOVES that baby toy!
When he was just a few months old, we were sitting out on the back porch, talking about how smart dogs are and how well they understand what we’re saying (and thinking!). To demonstrate, I said, rather casually, “ Hey, Zeke, go get your black and white baby toy and bring it here.”
I’d never even called it a “black and white baby toy” before, much less ever asked him to go and get anything! I had no expectations. But, I’ll be damned if he didn’t immediately trot off through the dog door, into the house, and emerged a very short time later with his black and white baby toy! We were stunned!

This toy is very rarely out of his sight. He carries it with him from room to room and he always knows where it is. Sometimes he buries it in the garden for safekeeping, but mostly, it resides somewhere nearby The Zeke.

How to Paint an Apso, Day 2 Part 2

I’ll have to do this in several installments, to show the progression.

I used some linseed oil as my mixing medium. It’s the same oil that is in the paints.
It took me about 45 minutes to mix up the hues that I wanted to use, then I began to lay in another layer of thin paint, in the same values as the underpainting. I’ve worked on most of the painting, except for the eyes, nose, his St. Francis medal and back ground.

Here’s where I stopped for some lunch.

How to Paint an Apso, Day 2

Here’s a picture of the corner of my studio, lights on and ready to get started for the day.
While I’m picking out some music, Zeke asks to be put up onto his “spot”, there, on the chair.
That’s where he stays virtually the whole time I’m painting. Good thing I stand when I paint.
Sadie lays down below, in her little studio bed.

I laid out my palette with Winsor & Newton Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Yellow, a dab of Cadmium Red, and Titanium White. I always try and use as limited a palette as I can get away with. It’s amazing how many colors you can mix with just a few primaries. Rembrandt usually used a very limited palette of three or four colors, plus white.
Look what he did with it! I think it keeps the colors balanced and harmonious.

Zeke’s coat is a wonderful mixture of silver and gold with charcoal tips. Those colors are mixed throughout his hair, and there are very few places where one color dominates. Depending on the angle of the light, he has either a golden or a silvery shine. That makes it a little challenging to capture the right colors. Luckily, he’s laying right here on my stool, so I can match colors directly to the area I’m trying to paint. He’s a pretty willing model.

How to Paint an Apso, Day 1

Here’s a painting in progress, from start to finish.
Today, I drew an outline, or contour sketch of Zeke holding onto his favorite toy from a digital photo I took several weeks ago. I put the photo into a digital frame and use that to refer to as I’m drawing, and later, painting.

I prefer to draw whatever I’m going to paint, first. Sometimes I do a completed drawing, “suitable for framing”, other times I do a sketch like you see here, with just enough information to give me what I’m looking for to begin the painting. In this case, I need to know exactly where his eyes are in relationship to his nose (don’t Apso’s have the cutest little anchor-shaped noses!).
And where the darkest darks and lightest lights are going to be.

I draw first because I like to draw, I want to work out the composition on paper before I commit to oil (more easily corrected), and because it acquaints me intimately with my subject. I know it very well before I ever squeeze out the paint.

My support, in this case, is an 8 x 10 masonite board about ¼ inch thick, covered with raw linen. I glue the linen onto the masonite with archival glue then gesso over it, once it’s dry, several times.

Just before I started this painting, I mixed some Terra Rosa and Raw Sienna together on my glass palette, mixed in some odorless turpentine, and rubbed the transparent mixture onto the linen-covered board with a soft rag.

I traced the drawing onto tracing paper using a white pencil. Then I turned it over and rubbed dark charcoal over all the lines, centered it over the now-dry stained linen board, and traced over the white lines with a red pencil. I don’t trace the whole drawing, just the general outline and the critical details. And I don’t always do this, but when it’s critical to get the eyes and face just right, I do. Saves a lot of time and frustration!

Then, I used a mixture of Burnt Umber and Ultramarine, mixed with turp to “draw” over the lines. I switched to a larger brush and began sketching in the darkest darks, adding more turp to the mixture to lighten the values. I looks sort of like a watercolor stain at this point; no opaque white is used at all, just turp to thin it down. More background shows through where I intend the painting to be lighter. No paint is applied where I want it to be the lightest. And I didn’t bother to put anything on the background, yet, either.

I could just continue painting over it right now, mixing and using thicker paints in the colors that I want the painting to end up being. When I’m doing a little 5 x 7 painting, or have more time in the day, that’s what I do. But for now, we’ll call it quits, let this thin underpainting wash dry overnight, and mix up the palette fresh tomorrow.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Panchen's Journey to the Other Side

Farethee well, Travelin' Man!
With tears of sadness at your departure,
With tears of joy that now you see and romp in the light of the Son,
I bid you Godspeed!
I pray Mychal met you with welcoming barks accompanied by all the Gompa Apsos who have gone before!
One day, I'll see your face and your bright, shining eyes will see mine, as well, there, on
The Other Side!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Champ in the Sunlight

We get up every morning with certain expectations of how the day might go…plans, responsibilities, wants and wishes, dreams and daily chores meet us face to face over the bathroom sink.

The sun shines on our life most days, even without our realizing or acknowledging it.
In spite of uncertain IRA’s and plunging 401k’s and rising gas prices, pestilence and persecution by fire, flood and drought, we soldier on because that’s what we do.

We get up in the morning expecting the day to be, more or less, like the day preceding it.
Then the phone rings, and a toothache turns into a fatal tumor. Life changes, like the song says, in a New York minute. Everything we knew in the morning evaporates by the afternoon, and we have to re-group, start over, make new plans.

Champ here, lies in the sunshine, soaking up the life-giving rays of the morning, living his life one sunbeam at a time. Whether or not he knows, or cares, that his mortal life in this spiritual realm is short, is quite probably irrelevant to him right now. He knows the joy of the morning sun on his face, and I’ll bet he’s happier right now than we’ll ever be…..