Friday, 19 February 2016

 The good Dog. 
My very first painted pet portrait.

Kensei, detail

I made a drawing of Madiba for Hugh in 2014, and ever since he's been telling me that I'm going to do another of his dog, Kensei. Late last year I noticed that he started referring to the 'painting' I was going to make of Kensei, and tried to convince him otherwise, but to no avail.
You see the prospect of painting fur is fantastically terrifying. I don't have much experience with portraiture, I'm not 100% comfortable there yet, even though I love love love it. Also details are MUCH easier in pencil! And dogs are made of details. And like love and friendship and moist noses and sunshine.. but I digress.

Since facebook became the place you share less-than-motivational posters of minions and videos of puppies, I had started following more and more artists from around the world. (and unfollowing people I went to high school with, but would not stop to chat with in a surprise grocery store encounter) And I have been inspired daily by unbelievable techniques, so many examples of greatness. And it's hard to not let SOME of that seep into your brain :P

I was most inspired recently by these two painters: 
David Kassan - have a look and 
Jennifer Balkan - look! 
David for his gradual building up of layer on layer of colour, and Jennifer for her pastel tones and strokes. Now you will no doubt see nothing of their work in Kensei, because I can't be them, they are masters. I was simply mindful of their work. And that made such a difference in this portrait! 

Have some In Progress shots: (looks like he's wearing a tie!)

Found the shape then:

And the completed painting: 

Kensei  |  60 x 45.5 cm  |  Acrylic on Canvas
I'm so very proud of this painting. The kind of proud that's frowned upon. People sometimes forget that pride isn't always a sin; I mean satisfied, fulfilled, rewarded, delighted.

Because I got to try a new thing. I layered tones with fur-like strokes, instead of trying for individual hairs. I got layers of blues and oranges in without making it look like a child coloured it in. I left the left side loose - I usually don't have the guts to do that. For the most part I used a mix of Windsor Blue and Burnt Umber instead of black. In sunlight the part around my signature that runs up to his ear, and details in his folds and around his eye is Violet. And I did something I learned from Heather Horton blogs, I was a mindful painter. Think twice, apply brush once. In so doing I finished this painting in a week and a half, which just about halves my usual time.
Also: experimenting and learning is super invigorating. I actively enjoyed every second of this. I had daily moments where I'd catch myself thinking 'I shouldn't be enjoying this so much'. 
I had so much fun, that yesterday when I only had to darken a fold and then I'd be finished, I ended up working for 5 more hours. I had to force myself to stop. 

Having completed my 2015 commissions in January, this is strictly speaking my first painting of 2016. What a wonderful start.

Special thanks to Hugh for not allowing be to draw this. I would've missed out on so much.
Here's a look at his Madiba in case you were too lazy to click on the linky:

Detail from Hugh's Madiba | 525 x 380 mm
Pencil on 160 gsm paper

 Nadia se Oranjes 
Yep, Another Orange Gerbera

Nadia is a collector. I can count on her to contact me about twice year with a couple of photos, and the text in the email saying 'What do you think?' And we take it from there.

In November '15 she emailed me a lovely Hibiscus, and I replied with an image of the painting of an orange Gerbera I had made for my cousin. Apparently completely blocking out the emotional carnage of making a complete painting in one colour, and painting 3000 water droplets.. She loved the idea, and I sent her some of the reference photos I had taken for the previous commission - too many to decide it seemed, and they couldn't - so I sent them my favourite three (orange, red and yellow), not at all thinking of painting it, just looking at composition. And they picked the orange one. Naturally. 

So it's coincidentally the exact same flower as the previous commission (very photogenic flower this), but with different lighting and focus point. Interesting challenge.
To make matters worse, I was in the middle of talks with the Popsons burger people, and it didn't look to me like they were going to go for my quote, so I was keen to get Nadia's commission ASAP. 
And they both agreed to their respective commissions a day apart, with the same deadline - end of Dec '15 - the one time of year my husband is on holiday. And it's only Christmas and New Years, and the time to catch up with family and friends.. and rest? Nope.
But I have a couple of years to go before I say no to  work.

This is the previous commission for Linda: 

100 x 70 cm  |  Acrylic on Canvas
And here's Nadia's:

90 x 70 cm  |  Acrylic on Canvas
Pretty cool to see them side by side! (so to speak :)

I struggle to find a favourite between the two, they are so different. I do prefer the dramatic lighting of Nadia's, but vibrance is HARD to do realistically, and there are technical things in Linda's, tiny little details they'll only notice later on, and I like that kind of depth. Both are great show pieces.

You will appreciate that I bought two bunches of Gerberas to photograph, to make sure I'd get something usable. Funny that I'd end up painting just the one flower! 
These photos were taken in my kitchen, best lighting at the time, and sprayed with a little water bottle-thingy that I use to dye my hair. There's some pointless trivia for ya.
Another: This was painted during the heat wave. It was bonkers. You want to mix enough of a given tone to put it on every petal and in every drop of water, and the paint dries before you can say 'It's so hot my brain is melting'. I'd usually start early and work till about 3 pm, at which time the 'studio' turns oven, the brush keeps sweating out of my hand, and my legs are so sweaty I'm slipping off my chair. It was not easy!

For brownie points, Cat being a gargoyle in front of the WIP - after he drank some of my ice water. 

Li'l Popson

Time to breathe! I'm gonna run through the last paintings I worked on.

This is li'l Popson. My second commission for the US of A.
I was contacted on behance by a company looking for a 'photo realistic hamburger'. That's already tricky, since I don't consider my work to be photo realistic, but there are those who do. (These days it's not about what the word means, but what the speaker thinks it does) Turned out they were looking for something in the direction of a Tjalf Sparnaay. Which I will never be. But it's hard to resist a chance to test your skills like that. 


90 x 60  |  Acrylic on Canvas  |  December '15/January '16
I picked the best photo I could find from their reference pics, but there were things that were tricky to see. I had to improvise a little, using random google images of burgers. Which is strange, I never work from different photos. And as you probably know, I've never-ever done a background like this. Nice challenge.
The hardest part of the whole process was photographing my painting, progress and complete. I had made a deal with the company that my payment would be in three installments, 1/3 deposit upfront, 1/3 upon receiving a high res image of the completed painting (since they really actually wanted it to use on the website as a design element) and the last third upon receiving the painting. Of course it's always a little tricky photographing paintings, because the colour changes in every type of lighting, and you have to be true to the painting. Colour wasn't the slightest issue though, it was the dreaded glare!
The Reeves Mars Black - which I looove - is glossy. I rather like using glossy and matte paints together, I think it adds a some depth. My camera thinks its the spawn of satan though.
Long story short, at least a week of my very tight deadline was spent taking pictures of this painting at different times, various angles in and around the house. Sorting the photographs, cropping, emailing, and taking more. Friggin' mission. But it paid off. :D

On an angle

Also I got to do the whole exporting a painting thing. That's always happened through galleries before, so it was super nerve wracking. but it went smoothly. And I learned A LOT. So that's cool for future commissions. Regrettably the client ended up receiving the painting the week after the burger-joint opened, due to shipping times mostly, super anti-climatic. 
I like the painting though. Yum.