Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Portrait of a black dog (2)

oil painting, portrait of a black dog, spaniel painting, pet portrait by Karen
A companion portrait to yesterday's, with this doggy looking rather more remorseful. Painted using the same methods: very thin oil paint, applied with a soft brush, on a smooth board toned with burnt sienna. 
Allowing the undertone to show through gives the painting a vibrancy, I think. It also ensures the subject has a warm glow. I find this so important with black animals: black is the second coldest colour on the palette (the coldest being titanium white - which I must also use) and I have decided most problems I have with black subjects are caused by this coldness. 
A living creature ought to be warm. The burnt sienna is also a huge help in avoiding the dreaded mud problem. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Portrait of a black dog (1)

Oil painting, black dog, peeing round the corner, painting wood in oil paint, a pet portrait by Karen
This lovely German-Shepherd type dog peeping round the corner was fun to paint. The technique I used is almost the opposite to my palette knife paintings - as little paint as possible. I toned the board first with burnt sienna, then - when it was thoroughly dry - put the paint on with a very soft, angled brush (sold as a water colour brush, I think) and applied it very thinly. I used a tiny bit of turps if the paint felt  sticky, but otherwise straight out of the tube. Just a little bit, though - almost a dry brush technique. 
In parts I wiped some of this thin layer off to make it even thinner - on the dog's forehead, for example, where the light was bouncing off. What you can see here is a glimmer of the toned board shining through. 
The timber backdrop is Transparent Oxide Red smeared on with a bit of kitchen roll, then I made the wood markings, including the knots, with cotton buds (Q-tips)  and the tip of a metal skewer. Simples, as they say in the advert.
Hope you like him. I think he is up to something in that shed - perhaps he has found a big bag of kibble - and has popped his head out for a moment to check the coast is clear.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Puzzled face

Dachshund oil painting, a pet portrait by Karen
This expression is entirely due to her dismay that her owner is holding a camera and not a treat - that's my theory. In real life, this little dog's name is Sheila. 
Painted with a mixture of brushwork and palette knife using a restricted palette of burnt umber, transparent oxide red and cadmium yellow deep, with white and black - although I restricted black to the pupils of her eyes and the centre of her nostrils only. It is important to keep black well away from yellow. Even a genuine cadmium like this one - which behaves better than the cheaper version - has a nasty habit of transforming itself into something unpleasant if black sidles up alongside. 
This cadmium from Rembrandt turns distinctly mouldy. That is only a marginal improvement on the cowpat green I have been afflicted with on previous occasions.
This is my last post for this week. Thank you for looking at my paintings: have a great weekend.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Sweet face

Oil painting, portrait of a dog, sweet face, a pet portrait by Karen
This is one of those portraits which painted itself. I love it when that happens, especially as I was anticipating difficulties with all those shades of grey. I toned the canvas with quite a dark layer of burnt sienna acrylic first. I do think this is a big help with black or grey subjects: you can let the under painting show through and it makes the painting zing. It also ensures it is a warm painting, which I think helps greatly with living subjects as well as assisting with fending off the dreaded "mud" problem. I mixed the greys with pthalo blue and alizarin crimson, darkening with burnt umber and tinting with white.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Spaniel Eyes

oil painting of a golden spaniel with beseeching eyes. A pet portrait by Karen
All dogs can do this, I think - "The Look" which dog owners everywhere will recognise (and parents of small children, too, perhaps: mine performed much the same Look when they wanted something). It is in the angle of the neck and the tilt of the head which has to be just so - allowing for the pupils to be uplifted at a suitably beseeching angle.
To paint this, therefore, it is a question of carefully measuring the angles and getting them correct. Annoyingly, the brain, eye, hand movement can sometimes fail somewhere in the process: I found myself inadvertently straightening everything out. Which completely ruins "The Look", of course. So using a pencil (or whatever) - measure the angles. It is all in the angles.

Thursday, 12 February 2015


oil painting of two giraffes being affectionate, for Valentine's Day. A pet portrait by Karen.
An affectionate little finale to my Valentine's Day trio, this was the trickiest of the three to paint because of how close both animals were in colour and value; so it was hard to model the forms and still show there were two giraffe. I stuck to a limited palette which helped - transparent oxide red, warm white (Gamblin) and burnt umber. 
For the foreground giraffe I also used a bit of yellow ochre, which has helped to separate him from his background partner, I think. 
To try and create a comforting sense of warmth to the composition, I used Cad Yellow Deep and warm white for the toned background.
Reference photo was courtesy of Veronica on Paint My Photo.
Last blog post for this week: have a great weekend and thank you for looking at my paintings.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Pucker Up (2)

oil painting, ostrich, beak, feathers, how to paint beak and feathers
Well, this little beauty was a challenge. There were two principle difficulties: the beak and the feathers (could more succinctly be referred to as "everything" - ha!). 
The complex pattern of light and dark values in the beak defeated me. So I flipped his photo upside down on my iPad and my gessoed board likewise and painted the jigsaw of darks and lights upside down. When I turned the painting the right way up, I had a beak - puckering up. Phew. 
Then, for his lovely soft featheriness, I realised that I was not able to paint this effect in a single sitting. I painted some dark barring in thin paint and left it to dry, then applied soft feathery strokes using a comber brush and thin greyed down white paint the next day. 
Photo uploaded to Paint My Photo by Robyn (Ro) Lovelock - thanks, Ro!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Pucker up!

Pucker Up, a palette knife oil painting, a pink pig, Miss Piggy for Valentine's Day
For this week, a little bit of fun for Valentine's Day. Here is the first of three on the theme "Pucker Up!". Original reference photo by Patricia Ann Jones from Paint My Photo, this delicious piggy glories in the name of Miss Piggin Beautiful.
A palette knife painting, I toned the board with some burnt sienna, which turned out useful as the grey stonework I was planning to use as background had to be wiped off when it proved too cool and too similar in value to piggy.  I realised that a similar shade to the underpainting would make piggy pop more effectively. The colours on my palette were: magenta, Paynes Grey, Transparent Oxide Red and white.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

A little bit of love-bombing

cherub blowing a kiss, an oil painting,

Sometimes, when very terrible things happen in this world, the feeling that there is nothing at all you can do to make anything better is painful indeed. I felt that all the usual measures open to an anonymous individual - petitioning, hash-tagging on social media, even protesting - seemed futile. 

This is futile as well, of course. But at least it does no harm. Here is a pretty, chubby little cherub blowing the world a kiss. I think the world could do with some love.

Painted on board, the artistic challenge was in mixing enough values of both warm and cool greys to render the chubby cherub. I also wanted to hint at the olive green lichen stains in the stone work. The cherub was painted on a board previously toned with burnt sienna. I let some of that show through and the pre-toning was especially useful for the background as I could wipe off as much paint as I put on and create a luminous effect. Hopefully.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Extreme Lighting

an oil painting, horse, looking behind, orange light
This was supposed to be a monochromatic painting, like a couple I have painted recently, but it all went horribly wrong not once, but twice. First time, I got a sludge from which a horse barely emerged and tossed the whole thing, canvas and all, into the bin. Second time there was distinctly a horse in the sludge but it was still dire. 
The only consolation was that I am presently obsessed with John Singer Sergeant and I recalled this, which I found on this site
There are stories of Sargent wearing out the carpet as he dashed backward and forward from his easel; of sudden exple­tives as he wrestled with the problems of repre­sen­tation: ‘Demons, demons!’ he would cry out in frus­tration; of scraping-downs and rubbings-out as he aban­doned what he had begun and started again.

It has been good for me to brood on this, for people always assume that beautiful paintings materialise from the end of a brush as if by magic - I am just as bad - and that if they do not it must mean you haven't got what it takes (whatever that is). I try to remember it is hard for everyone and that persistence and patience are required. 
More in despair than hope, I decided to have another go with a different palette. I ditched the chromatic blacks, the burnt umber and ultramarine mixes that were failing to produce anything except the colours of decayed swamp, and re-laid my palette with Rembrandt Transparent Oxide Brown (a colour that seems to "behave itself" so much better than Burnt Umber), Rembrandt Cadmium Yellow Deep and Gamblin Warm White.
I looked very closely at the reference photo taken by Janina Suuronen on Paint My Photo and exaggerated the merest hint of orange that I could see in the horse's coat - the red arrows mark the spots:
I appreciate it is a bit of a jump from Janina's photo to my painting, but that is how I did it.