Completed pastel painting of "Lil' Red" - 14x11
Red strolled into my studio and approved his portrait! Okay, cats don't talk, but I imagined his approval when he gave me one of his sweet meows.
As I was finishing this painting, I kept reminding myself of Red's personality - gentle, compliant, a bit dim, sweet - and trying to figure out how to convey those characteristics. The edges were softened as much as I was able, but both my husband and I think he looks too intelligent in the painting!
Self-critique: The body was taken too far down to the bottom edge, the red is a bit too red, the body is too long for a vignette portrait, and there are too many layers of pastel on the body. I think the contrast with the background , though I like the background, is too strong for Red's personality. It is Red and I like his eyes. The jury is still out on whether I like the Ampersand colored board.
I have learned a lot painting Lil' Red and now the other cat in the house is next! Looking forward to tackling the "professor" cat. What are your reactions to the end result? To the process? Love to know your thoughts, so please comment.
Thank you for following the journey.
More modeling of Red has been completed
I am finally getting to "eat some dessert" at this stage of the artistic process- meaning that I have begun working on some of the details. But before I did that, I wanted to finish as much of the background as I could. I experimented a little with the background colors and smooshed (highly technical term!), with a rubber tipped brush and liked the effect. Usually pastel artists will rub with their fingers, but I resisted this time. Finishing the background made is easier for me to begin working the fuzzy furry edges of Red over the background colors.
The eyes were fun to do. I had to use my hard pastels and pastel pencils to accomplish the detail and highlights. The pure white highlight was achieved by putting the tip of a white pencil in some water and then lightly touching the painting. (I picked this tip up from pet portrait artist Brenda Mattson while attending the pastel convention last month. Thank you Brenda!) You can see that I have drawn in the hairs in his ears, worked in some more fur colors and rounded his face & neck.
Red still looks a little bug-eyed, but I will soften him up for the final stage. I am still not sure I like his fur color and wonder if I should have started with yellows in my underpainting versus reds.
...to be continued to the final image!
Local colors continue to be layered
"Are you going to do anything with the white patch on the left side of his face?" my husband asks nervously. I assure him that it will be integrated and look like a bandage. At this stage, Red does look a little scary, though I have toned the reds down a little. I have done some modeling and will continue to do more. Pink colors are being experimented with as I am discovering that Red's reddish-tawny orange color is difficult to achieve. Hmmm....
The substrate is a brown toned Ampersand sanded board and I am not sure that I like it. Note the reds that I have added in the background to show some interaction with the foreground. The painting does seem a little odd without a middle ground, but I guess that is not uncommon in pet portraits.
I have added a layer of lime green on the eyes. It is tempting to have "dessert" and finish the eyes, but then the painting would feel too unbalanced for me. Red just told me that he is not sure what he might look like when I am completed!
...to be continued.
First layers of pastel over underpainting
At this stage I begin to paint using local colors, in other words the actual colors of my cat. The shapes of the underpainting are still preserved which makes the painting read "flat." Since his name is Red, I notice that I am using various renditions of red, but I am not sure I will like the end result. Not sure why I am doubting my choices, but my intuitive 'doubter' is. Hmmmm, we will see.
I love using purple as a shadow color because it mixes well with virtually any color I layer on top of it. The background has been created with large short strokes of various blues. The dark background for this portrait is an experiment. Since this is my first cat in pastel I am trying several different things. It could also be called a 'study.' What are your thoughts or reactions?
...to be continued.
Rubbing alcohol is used to 'paint' the pastel
This step of the process requires patience. It is not difficult to do, but it is best to keep within the lines to preserve the colors.
With old watercolor brushes and a small container of rubbing alcohol, the cheap kind works fine, I paint each color section of the painting. The alcohol dissolves the pastel while permanently staining the stubstrate. To keep the alcohol as clean as possible, yet not changing the alcohol for each color, I usually start with the lightest colors first. When the liquid becomes too muddy, I then change the alcohol. It is easy to get too much alcohol on your brush and for it to drip down your pastel painting. You can choose whether you like this or not! The alcohol dries very quickly.
...to be continued.
First layer of pastel
Which colors do I apply first and where? I am in unfamiliar territory here which means that I am not real sure which layers I should use for the underpainting of my cat. Despite those decisions, I will continue as I do with my landscapes. Those shapes that are hit by the light or the sun are painted in warm colors (such as tones of red, orange, yellow & pink) and those that are in shade are painted with cool colors (blue, purple, or green).
Most artists will start with local color, but I rarely do that because I like the interplay of different colors. Sometimes these underlayers will be seen in the final painting. They do effect the subsequent layers of pastels. The eyes in animals are worked seperately and you can see that I have applied the black where appropriate.
By the way, our orange tabby's name is "Little Red," and he is a real sweetie.
How do you like these first colors? Any reactions?
...to be continued.
Drawing of Tabby Cat with Pastel Pencil
As an artist, it has always been important for me to take on new challenges. This stretches me artistically, I have to solve different painting problems and it forces me to research. Recently, I have been asked to paint people's pets as a part of my Memory Portrait reportoire. Why not? It has been years since I have painted an animal, but I willing to give it try. Besides, we have been avid cat lovers for years and I grew up with dogs. My research included looking on the web for other pet portrait artists and buying a book on the subject.
It seemed logical for me to start practicing with an animal I knew well and had easy access to. After taking many photographs of our sweet orange tabby cat, I settled on a simple, direct head shot. His name is Red or Little Red depending on the moment, though he weighs in at about 13lbs! Red is about 2 years old.
I decided to use my pastels on a 14" x 11" sanded board that is colored a neutral gray brown. I have never used this substrate before, so I have a couple of challenges going on at one time, which is not unusual for me. I drew a pencil drawing of Red on tracing paper and then transferred that image onto the board. Pastel pencil is my preferred marking pencil because it does not show through my subsequent layers of pastel. I choose a color that is compatible with my subject and that I can easily see. Here I used a light yellow pastel pencil.
The "Musical Butterfly" Takes Flight!
It is confession time. When the butterfly was tightened, all put together and inserted into the stand, I stood back to see how it looked. I was confounded to feel an emotional tug and a smile. Suddenly it looked totally different all in one piece and what a pleasant surprise! It's interesting to experience how painting on the seperate pieces these past few weeks was just the preamble to the final stage.
Now, it is time to take the "Musical Butterfly" to the painting store where it will be coated professionally. Again, figuring out how to transport it took some patience and only one scratch (of which I was very pleased). I wonder how the sponsoring organization Imagination Celebration will respond, as well as the our community.
The photographs were taken in my studio, which was a bit of a juggling act because 3D pieces are always a challenge to photo. I had to go up into my loft office to get the photograph from above.
The butterfly is officially launched and out of my hands. Soon 25 butterflies will be places throughout Colorado Springs and then auctioned in September at a gala event. The procedes will benefit the local school art departments. I cannot wait to see the other butterflies!
Tools Required to Assemble 30lb Butterfly
All the pieces of my "Musical Butterfly: America the Beautiful" of 30lbs are ready for assembling! What do I need to put it all together? I had to study all of the nuts and bolts that I was given. This led me to realize that I needed a couple of regular wrenches as well as a ratchet wrench. Did you know that 7/16" and 5/8" wrenches were required? Fortunately, I love tools and have mechanical & carpentry skills, so figuring out what I needed was not difficult. I feel for those artists who did not know they needed these tools to assemble their butterflies.
Because of the weight and odd angles of the pieces, I solicited help from my husband, but first we strategizef just how to line everything up to minimize scratches or dings. It took some patience and a few deep breahs, but we managed to got all of the bolts (10), washers and nuts alligned and tighted.
Notice that funny looking green piece of metal in the photograph? That is the bracket that will attach inside or on the top side of the butterfly. I will have to match up my design with this piece and then paint the notes and other things that will be covered up by the bracket. I am not looking forward to this because of the angle and the awkward access to do the painting. Wish me luck!
The butterfly will be done soon and ready to launch!
Underside of 30lb Butterfly
Do you see the lyre? The lyre is frequently used as a musical symbol, such as in chair backs and music stands. In the spirit of the musical theme of this butterfly, I decided to use the idea of the lyre as the back or support of the butterfly.
In this photograph, you will notice that the green music notations are visible in only one of the wings. The top wing's are not visible because I have not removed the frisket that I mentioned before. The lower wing obviously shows that the frisket is removed. I will now paint the green again to make it more vibrant.
...to be continued.
"Musical Butterfly: America the Beautiful"
Drum roll ~~~~~~~ Here is the top side of the butterfly finished!
I have entitled it "Musical Butterfly: America the Beautiful." Let me explain. My first objective with the design of the butterfly, was to create a whimiscal feeling. The other initial decision I made was to use the butterfly as a 'canvas' versus to paint an actual butterfly. Then I thought of this geographical region over which Pikes Peak proudly stands and how it inspired the words to the song "America the Beautiful." (Katharine Lee Bates, instructor at Wellsley College, MA wrote the poem in 1893, after her inspiring trip to Pikes Peak). The notes on the butterfly are the first notes of the song and a playful road leads you over the hills to Pikes Peak.
Combining art with music is something I have done throughout my art career. They seem to go together naturally and I wanted people to have a sense of joy when they look at this musical butterfly.
And what will the reverse side look like?
...to be continued.