Friday, 29 May 2015

Duchy, A Labrador

oil painting of a yellow labrador, a pet portrait by karen
Ending the week on the blog not with a daily painting but a commission. This is Duchy, a yellow labrador. I don't usually post my commissioned paintings, but Duchy is an exception. She is a dear, 8 year old girl, who has lived with her present owners for about 2 years. Before that, she was kept solely for breeding on a puppy farm. 

Up until the age of 6 she had lived only in a cage, on a concrete floor, had never been taken for a walk, had never experienced a lead, walked on grass, been inside a house or slept on a comfy bed. 

Yet she is the gentlest soul you could possibly imagine.

Now, despite being afflicted with arthritis, she has a very happy life in rural Devon with devoted owners and all the home comforts she never previously enjoyed. She has also now had her portrait painted. It must be said that she greeted this news with indifference. A bit of crispy bacon, however, was a different matter.
Have a great weekend everyone and thank you for looking at my paintings.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Portrait of a dachshund

Oil painting of a dachshund, davie portrait, pet portrait by Karen
Known as Queen Ulrika by her owner (and the photographer: Arūnė Andrulionienė) I thought this cuddly, fat-pawed little dog had a distinctly regal air. This dog was painted with a primary colour palette of red, yellow and blue: Transparent Oxide Red, Cad Yellow Deep and Ultramarine.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Sun Lounger

Some while ago, I bought a bunch of long, narrow canvas boards. Until now, I hadn't been able to figure out a composition that worked on that size. Well, here is one. Isn't he gorgeous? Got attitude, I reckon.

A complex scene of light and shade, cool and warm colours, soft and hard edges, I was a bit non-plussed how to tackle it without creating a muddy mess. I looked at his eyes and even they were totally different from each other (one in the light, one in the shadow) so I started in a different way to usual: the method Richard Schmid calls "the full colour block-in". Because I am the most impatient person ever, I did the block-in using acrylics so that by the time I had popped downstairs to fetch more coffee and got back up again - it was dry and good to go. This is what it looked like:

Having blocked in the main colour shapes, I then picked up my oil paints and painted the cat exactly like I usually do: from the eyes outwards:
The abstracted background was, in real life, some sort of flower bed with grassy and flowery things in profusion. I have fudged it all because I wasn't interested in that, only in the cat, and the quality of the light.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Chocolate Orange

oil painting of chocolate labrador, orange background, dog painting by Karen Robinson

This is a limited palette painting, using Transparent Oxide Brown, Transparent Oxide Red and Cad. Yellow Deep. These last two mix really scrumptious shades of orange. I used a tiny amount of black, mainly for his pupils and nostrils.
work-in-progress photo of oil painting

Starting with his eyes and working outwards, as usual.
work-in-progress photo of oil painting
This was one of those paintings where I had a bit of trouble establishing my tonal values. I think it would have been easier to work if I had toned the support first, perhaps a thin wash of burnt sienna.

work-in-progress photo of oil painting
The beauty of working on a white ground, for me, is I just love watching the animal emerge like magic from within it. Can you see - he is nearly here now? I forgot to take any more photos because at this point I was concentrating on realising the dog: he got to here and was then in urgent need of his ears!
That's all for this week. Have a great weekend and thank you for looking at my paintings.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Brown Study (2)

sepia oil painting of a spaniel, pet portrait by karen robinson, animal artist
Last week, my Brown Study was painted in Transparent Oxide Brown and Warm White; this week, I wanted to achieve more of a sepia feel to this second monochrome study, so I added Cadmium Yellow Deep. An extra colour on the palette had the effect of warming everything up; it also gave me a surprising range of additional shades and tones to play with, which helped with differentiating the dog from the background. 

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

I am Siamese, if you please

oil painting of a siamese cat, a pet portrait by animal artist Karen Robinson
...or if you don't please, as the old song put it. By the time I had finished this cat I really felt she had attitude. Painted with Pthalo Blue, Transparent Oxide Brown and Cad Red. I used the tip-of-a-brush of lemon yellow for the background, to provide some contrast.

Friday, 15 May 2015

My dad's bigger than your dad

oil painting of two dogs standing nose-to-nose, a pet portrait by Karen
The meeting and greeting behaviour of dogs continues to mystify me. Despite the title I have chosen for this piece, I don't think size does come into it much. My dog seems oblivious to it: he can act scared when faced with a dinky little thing yet stride confidently forward, tail wagging, when approached by a Mastiff type dog the size of a small mountain.
Seems to apply to other species as well. This photo is of a new-born donkey, unperturbed, greeting Uncle Buster at the  Miniature Pony Centre on Dartmoor, Devon just the other day. These photos are ©South West News Service
I realise this photo doesn't have much to do with my painting, but it is the weekend... Here's another one, for good measure. Have a great weekend and thank you for looking at my paintings.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Basset Hound

These dogs have wonderful faces, so painting him was irresistible. But such close-cropped portraits can be tricky to make into a nice painting and also the temptation to go down the hyperrealism route and paint every hair is quite strong. 
To overcome this, I used a largish, flat bristle brush for everything except his eyes and nose. It forced me to concentrate on modelling the form and curves of his cheeks and muzzle without disappearing into endless and tedious detail.
The background is a different, larger bristle brush and a mix of olive green, cad lemon and a touch of the red/orange I used in the dog's coat - more or less the complementary of green - to tone the chroma down a bit. 
Painted from a reference photograph by Karen Broemmelsick. 

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Brown Study

Brown study, monochrome oil painting of a spaniel, spaniel with big brown eyes, pet portrait by karen
I was prompted to try this monochrome study initially because I loved the little dog's face, but the rest of the reference photo was not useable and I thought it would be a means of making a nice painting out of a poor beginning.
 There is a long section in Richard Schmid's book "Alla Prima" in which he describes his approach to monochrome studies. He prepares his board using a lead based primer. This is essential for his technique, which is that - basically - he uses dark paint only and wipes it back to the lead primer to the extent necessary to achieve the lights. He does not use white paint. This wiping technique only works on supports primed with lead paint.
Unfortunately, you can't buy lead-based paint in the UK without a permit from the Department of Bureaucratic Affairs and to get this permit you have to swear an oath on the heads of your children or the children of your community that you are going to use this paint ONLY for the purposes of restoring and conserving historical artefacts (as opposed to what, I wonder? Re-painting teething rings for babies and selling them on eBay?).
So, I have to use white paint. My two colours were Rembrandt Transparent Oxide Brown and Gamblin Warm White. I have found it essential to get the darks down first without any use of white whatsoever. Once the white gets on the painting, everything starts getting lighter and lighter like turning a dimmer switch in a dark room and once you have started turning that switch the dark is never so dark again.
The other complication is that brown is a transparent colour and white is opaque. So all in all, a fiddly little piece but I think he is a sweetie.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Blue Heeler

Oil painting of a blue heeler, painting of an Australian cattle dog, pet portrait by Karen
This beautiful dog is an Australian Cattle Dog, nicknamed a Blue Heeler (with this particular colouring). I hadn't heard of the breed until recently and thought it would be a challenge to paint him in one sitting given the 'ticking' in his coat. It looked like an open invitation to descend to mud and tears.
I have worked longer on the painting than I normally would for a daily painting, but I did paint him entirely whilst the paint was wet and hopefully improved my brush control. Essentially, his coat appeared to be blue-black, with white ticking. The key was to add the white very very gently. I pretended the end of the brush was thistledown and used the lightest touches I could manage (so as not to lift the black or overly mix the two).
The dog's ancestors were originally brought to Australia from Europe, where early settlers found them insufficiently hardy and set about improving the traits they wanted to see by cross breeding dingo and blue merle collies, dalmatians and black and tan kelpies. This resulted in a hard-working, very intelligent and hardy breed capable of herding cattle over long distances.
I do not think we have any in the UK. At any rate, I have never seen one. The palette for this painting was Pthalo blue, Ivory black, yellow ochre deep and white for the dog, with permanent rose and cad red as necessary for tongue and collar.
Last blog post for this week. Have a great weekend and thank you for looking at my paintings.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Hound Dog

painting of a hound dog, painting of a tricolour dog, a pet portrait by animal artist Karen Robinson
This was a limited palette painting. Most of it was painted with Pthalo Blue, Alizarin Crimson, Transparent Oxide Brown and white. I obviously needed a bit of Cad Yellow for his tricolour gold flashes. I did those first, in fact, and worked for an hour or two on something else while the paint tacked up a smidgeon. 
Tricolour dogs have an unfortunate habit of turning greenish and muddy if you are not paying due care and attention. I have had more tricolour dog wipers than any other subject, except perhaps for tabby cats - where the same problem applies. Through trial and error, especially error, I have found putting in the gold markings first and waiting a while is most likely to result in a painting without tears.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

These are My Dog's Toys

still life, oil painting, painting of teddy bears, painting of my dog's toys
My dog, who is a 5 year old Sheltidoodle called Bilbo, is 5 years old and he has owned these toys since he was a puppy. His toys are very important to him, and borrowing them for a still life set up caused concern and anxiety. In the end, I photographed the set-up and returned the toys, it made for a quieter life. Here is the palette:
palette for oil painting of teddy bears
In the majority of art instruction books, articles or videos we will be told somewhere early on to Always Lay Out Your Palette in the same way, with the same colours, in the same order. Well, I don't work that way. 
Chiefly because I am normally painting dogs, and don't have a big need for two shades of red, two shades of blue, two shades of yellow etc so I figure - why squeeze out paint I am not going to use? 
If I am painting a subject I have never painted before - like teddy bears - I will do a complete colour chart and experiment with different colours and mixes. 
The reds for the ribbons, by the way, I squeezed out later on a fresh sheet of palette paper when the teddies had tacked up.
So, having chosen the colours and mixes, where to start? I decided to start where I always start with living creatures - the eyes. I also decided to try to paint them as if they were alive. I felt this would make a nicer painting.
step by step to paint teddy bears
I have also painted this study larger for possible entry to a competitive exhibition later in the year.
This version is 12" x 12", linen on board:
still life oil painting of teddy bears
And, for the sake of completeness, here is the owner of the toys. Enquiring of their whereabouts...