Sweet Alex

Pen/pencil drawing

Pen/pencil drawing

I am oh so sad to report that, in the end, we were not able to keep Alex with us. Once he settled in and became comfortable in our home, it became apparent that he had a rather dominant German Shepherd personality. He remained submissive to people and was as smart as I could hope for, but very quickly he decided that we and our household were his responsibility.  Even at only 4.5 months, he felt he had to seriously defend me from other barking dogs and noises around the house.  I got into contact with a wonderful woman who runs a GSD rescue in Indianapolis and she was able to find him a more suitable home right before Christmas.  This family has had extensive experience with working GSDs and will be able to assure he develops into a very responsible member of society.  I am sad for me, but glad for him.  I know that we took good care of him for the five weeks he was here, but in the end, he was just too much dog for me and I really wanted him to be able to reach his full potential.



The night before Alex left, I took a dozen pictures of him and picked out one to paint. The first photo shows a bit of my methodology for the portraits.  While I don’t grid for the home portraits, I do for the animal ones.  I find it gives me just that edge to lay out the eyes and mouth correctly.  I have a piece of gridded acetate I place over the 4×6 photo and away I go.  After the pencil up and most of the inking is done with the nib pen, I erase all of the grid and miscellaneous pencil lines.  (Another reason why I like the sturdiness of the watercolor board.)  I let it sit for a day and then add the watercolors with what I hope is a fluid and loose brushstroke.  After another day of reflection I may add a bit more watercolor, but voila, normally it is done.  He is a handsome fellow, is he not?

Our Christmas tradition continued

Candy cane cookies on the most beautiful countertop

Candy cane cookies on the world’s most beautiful countertop

Now, I am not into baking from scratch much but candy cane cookies at Christmas are the major exception.  I remember being a small child watching my mother roll these cookies at Christmas and then eating them hot out of the oven.  After cooling, they became quite hard (but still tasty) and we ate as many as we were allowed.  And my kids grew up having them too.  They are a refrigerator dough cookie so they take a bit of prep time, but it’s worth it.  I don’t cook mine quite so long so they stay softer for a while, but in the end, they are just as good.  I think I have made these cookies for just about every Christmas since the kids were born.  Except the year I broke my hand of course.  Buttery dough on my cast just didn’t seem like a good idea at the time.

Part of the tradition is to have your initial made into a cookie and for those of us with a big letter, it was almost like getting an extra half cookie.  My kids and John were lucky though.  If you hang the curve the right way, ALL of the cookies are their initials.  Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all!!

Back to the drawing board in a few days.

It’s all in the mail now

Florida color

Florida color

I finished the last commission and got it in the mail Monday. Phew. But I am pleased with it. I think I enjoyed working on this one as much as I  anything I’ve done recently.  It has a pretty red brick with dark accents and a grey roof with reddish shingles intermixed.  The portico in front of the garages is unusual too.  I really liked all of the turned gables.  It creates interest in a very long house.  There is plenty of landscaping, but it is not overdone.

The last Christmas commission

Florida architecture

Florida architecture

I think this is probably one of the nicest houses I’ve done for a commission in recent years.  It is long for a ranch but the architectural features add a lot.  All of the turned gables break up the front and the 2 story entryway makes it visually interesting.  And at 16″ wide it’s a reasonable size so I can work easily with the details and the color.  Working the layout wasn’t as bad as it might seem but it did take a while.  The purchaser gave me a 7.7 mb file so I easily made up my enlargements and the angle for the front door was great.

This one will be colored with the pastels.  It’s a pretty red brick with darker accent ones mixed in.  It reminds me of my favorite brick – the one I had on our previous home – minus the creamy ones.  It has white trim and plenty of landscaping.  I’m almost done with the pastels and will ship it out tomorrow so the finished product will be posted next.  So far I am pleased.

I like this much better

With an ink wash

With an ink wash

After I let the black and white house set a few days, I decided it needed something else. The picture I had to use wasn’t great and the camera distortion was a bit much. The longer I looked at it, the more I felt this one looked too flat. Also, the house was a medium green with dark shutters and I didn’t feel that I reflected that well enough. The ink alone didn’t seem quite adequate so I decided to add a wash. Much better. I think I added enough depth to make it a much better picture.

Right now I am inking the last order.  It’s bigger at 16″ x 8″and a much more complicated house, but is progressing well.

Number 4 out of 5

Little inked house

Little inked house

This has been a busy holiday season for me.  I received commissions for 4 architecturals and one pet portrait in the last 6 weeks. I’m happy to say I’m starting on the last one.

But first, this.  The father of the purchaser is selling his long time family home and his children wanted to give him a memento.  As with the others, I unfortunately had difficulty with the photo quality.  There was a line of trees directly in front so they had a hard time getting a shot which included the front door without using a wide angle lens. I ended up having to use a combination of a real estate listing photo and the the ones they took.

Black and white has its own difficulties compared with color.  I have to indicate the shadows and even the tone of the house without the aid of the pastels and yet not make it too dark.  I am still considering how to finish this.  The house is a medium green with dark shutters. I want to show that it is not white without losing it all in the foliage.  I haven’t decided, but maybe I’ll use a light grey wash.

I’d like to get this out tomorrow and get started on the last one.  It’s a 14″ x 10″ color so it will take a bit more time than this one.

Ready for the mail

Th doctor's office

Th doctor’s office

I managed to send out this drawing today.  My commission gifts purchasers this year have been so thoughtful in getting them ordered early so I have had a relatively easy time getting them out for the holidays.

This was more of a challenge than it appears.  The stonework was a multicolor of off white, brown and grey.  The gable shingles were a taupe and the siding (which came out white in the picture) was a very light shade of the taupe.  The handicap parking was its own special blue.  And then the sign.  White or gold on black is doubly hard.  Between my eyesight and my shaky hands on little letters, it was quite the effort.  I finally went out and bought some small quill pens and white ink to redo the lettering.

On the best note, the woman I did the dog portrait for got it today and loved it. Hooray and whew at the same time.  And I got another house commission yesterday.  It’s just an 8×10 black and white so it will go quite quickly and I should have it out by next Monday.  That’s good because I am supposed to get another 14×10 color in the next few days.  This will be my best ever Christmas season since I opened my etsy store in 2010.  That one I may have to rush a bit to keep ahead of the holiday postal crush, but I’m not worried yet.  LOL

Inked office building

The medical office building

The medical office building

After finishing the dog portrait, I moved on to the medical office commission. I had the same problem of too small photo file size from the client, but fortunately, one of the whole building was big enough to enlarge. I penciled in the basic layout from it and have had to use pictures still on the computer to finish the inking. I can do it that way but it is much harder having to turn to the side to look at the computer rather than a photo right on my board.  I think I may try to get a white marker of sorts so I can make the works on the sign a bit clearer.  White on black is so hard to delineate and the actual lettering size is quite small.  Pastels up next so I can to have it in the mail on Wednesday.