Gretchen

I am not one much for little dogs, but Gretchen was special.  A golden-red, smooth haired dachshund, she was a sturdy, unregistered purebred.  My mom wanted a small dog (and dad wanted none), so we ended up with her.  She was an active dog that loved going places in the car.  All you had to do was jingle the car keys and there she was right next to the front door, ready to go wherever.  Though I shudder to think about it now, her favorite place was up on the ledge under the rear windshield where she was out of the way and the view was good.  It seemed made just for her.

Where’s the toast

She adored buttered toast and no matter where she was when the toaster clicked up, she was in the kitchen in less than 5 seconds.  Mom always made one for herself and one for Gretchen.  Who could ignore those  begging eyes.  She could also flip a treat off of her nose into her mouth without skipping a beat and it was so funny to see her crossed eyes watching the little morsel until we said “okay”.

She had a blanket in her bed and when she wanted to sleep undisturbed, she burrowed in so completely that you would never even know she was there.  She used a quick flip of her long, pointed nose to shift the blanket up and over herself, slowly but surely burying her sausage body within its folds.  When she deigned to emerge she was as warm as the toast she loved.

And one weekend when I was alone in the house, she jumped off of my bed and ran down the stairs headed for the kitchen.  She stood in the dining room barking her head off towards the rear windows as I turned on lights and cautiously called her from the second floor hallway balcony, from which I could still see her.  I am convinced to this day that she stopped our home from being burglarized.

Of the four dog portraits I have done, I think I am the least satisfied with this one.  I don’t really like the head and eyes much.  The skull dome is not quite right and the eyes are a little off as a result.  I have been fooling around with it for the last hour or so and there has not been much improvement so I think I’ll just let it go.  Of all of them, I like Ding Dong Dog the best and then Brandy’s portrait.  They ring the truest both emotionally and artistically.  I think I will be back on the architecturals next.  I’ve finally gotten into the mood to work with the pastels again.

Ding dong dog

Dakota puppy

After wonder dog Brandy came the golden retriever Dakota, otherwise known as Ding Dong Dog. Where Brandy had sense and a calm disposition, Dakota had….well I don’t know what she had except that I’m not sure if she could have more than one thought at a time in her head. And preferably it was an EXCITING thought.  There wasn’t a mean bone in her body, but at 80 pounds in adulthood, her exuberance made her a bit of a handful.  I had rugs with the fringe chewed off and kitchen chairs where the lower rungs were scarred.  Just the right height for a resting puppy to occupy herself.  Rawhide chew toys that were supposed to last weeks were consumed in 2 days.  She definitely did not have the soft bird mouth that Brandy had.  I wish Cesar Milan had been around then as some of his advice would have been quite helpful.  She finally was able to be calmer when she was about 6 1/2.  We had 30-40 teenagers over for a 2000 New Year’s Eve party and all of that activity with so many people finally forced her into brain overload.  After that she was able to have a bit more self-control.

I don’t normally do portraits of people but this photo just seemed so cute.  And Dakota looks so innocent.  Once again I sketched out the picture in pencil and then inked with the  nib pen.  The only part I am unhappy with is the lower lip.  It should be a little bit rounder.  All in all however, since I haven’t done a person portrait in years I am not too displeased.  After the inking, I started in on the watercolor layers.  I took most of the afternoon alternating with the lower collie picture.  Once again I want to not overdo it.  In some ways now I may be too far in the other direction and not putting enough color in.  It is such a fine line.  I will look at these again tomorrow.

Collie portrait

This collie picture is based on a picture of the pet of a relative.  I love sable collies, having grown up reading books by Albert Payson Terhune.  I wanted a Lad of my own and did have a wonderful, gentle collie for a few years after college.  He, like Brandy, was wonderfully balanced and a joy to be around.  Sadly we lost him too soon.  I am pleased with the balance of colors on him although I may come back an add a little bit more definition to the head with the pen.

I’m not sure where I will go from here.  I have a zoo trip in the offing and perhaps another road trip visiting small southern Indiana main streets.  I do have a few more pet photos.  I haven’t decided whether or not to list these in my Etsy store.  Maybe I should set up some listings for breed pictures.  Doing portraiture on commission is a lot scarier than the home portraits.  Our eyes forgive a lot more in architecture than they do in living portraiture.

Dogs and Daisies

Brandy

She was big and black – and the world’s best dog.  As I was perusing my photos, I came upon Brandy, the dog we had before the kids were born and the first dog that they remember.  Incredibly gentle with our babies and toddlers, she tended to intimidate strangers with her size and deep black color.  I have a picture of our 15 month old eye to eye with her and kissing her nose.  There is also one of the two of them relaxing on the lawn, our daughter resting between her legs.  At close to 80 pounds and sporting double dew claws, we think she was a lab/Great Pyrenees mix.  I have been thinking of doing some pet portraits lately, and thought she would make a great subject.  I used a nib pen to sketch out her basic form and then layered on the watercolors.  She was stone coal black except for one white paw and a white patch on her chest.   The sun would bleach her fur out a little, which accounts for the bits of rusty brown.  I am not sure I am done with her portrait at this point.  I may decide to darken her up a bit but I didn’t want to overdo it just yet.  I welcome your opinion.

Black Eyed Susans

On the flower front, my cone flowers and black eyed Susans have started to be affected by the heat and drought.  The petal arrays on both species are smaller than normal and on the cone flowers the purple color has been seriously bleached out.  You know it’s bad out there when these start to wilt as they are usually pretty hardy.  I picked a few Susans from a shaded area that still looked fairly good and brought them in to paint.

I kept this one simple too, once again outlining the flowers and leaves with the nib pen.  I layered on the yellow for the flowers, following up with yellow ocher, appropriately doctored to a golden orange.  I layered the leaves with skip’s green and then with sap green.  Then I added a little burnt sienna and my purple.  This one seems to have a more illustrative quality to it than most of things I have done but that was intentional for a change.

I think I like both of them.

Berries, bucks and me

When I pick berries it is not in the carefully laid out rows of a commercial operation. It is out on the edges of our fields and rife with the potential for difficulty and excitement.  There are wild rose bushes to grab skin, hair and clothes and while the blackberry bushes are not quite as lethal, they are not much better.  Then there are the chiggers.  For anyone who does not know, these little mites will drive you to distraction with a red bump and serious itching that lasts for days.  I’ve never seen a snake, but I’m sure I came close a time or two and didn’t know it.

The rapidly approaching blackberry season and the appearance of the first fawn in the yard put me in mind of an adventure my Great Pyrenees mix and I shared some years ago at our last home.  Like here, it had large fields surrounded by black raspberry and blackberry bushes where I was able to pick gallons and gallons of freshly ripened fruit.   She loved to accompany me on my meanderings around the fields, relaxing in the shade when I found a patch to pick.  We  were lazily moving  down the edge of the woods to a little outcrop that was mostly berry bushes and a few smaller scrubby trees.   We had been out about an hour, me juggling three buckets half filled with fruit and her following. 

Suddenly, directly in front of me, a large buck with a huge rack leapt out of the underbrush.  Leaves, branches and who knows what else went flying though the air in all directions as he crashed out of his supposedly hidden bedding spot.  We must have jumped about three feet into the air.  Brandy was so surprised she didn’t make a sound – not even a woof.  We looked on in startled silence as the huge buck bounded away, his sleep rudely disturbed and with vines and underbrush hanging from his large rack.  It was quite a sight.   Brandy looked back at me as if to say What Just Happened?  All I could say was Wow!  After we caught our breaths and our hearts started to beat again, we continued on with the picking, once again treated to the wonders of nature all around us.

Resting does

I’m taking a short break from the art experiments right now for a very good reason.  I just started on a commission home portrait of a cute town home that will take me into the weekend or thereabouts.  I’ll post it when I’m done.