Last week, you all met the Lady Olga:
Olga is a dog with very fetching spots, which I really wanted to paint because in the words of the great Sheldon Cooper: “What’s life without whimsy?”, so I asked Steve Reed to send me a photo of her that shows them. I was thinking he would send me a photo of Olga with her back to me, sitting in front of a fire or such but, no, he sent this:
So now I have to paint an entire dog, with a face, in a pose that will have to be done precisely right or else she’ll look as if she’s defying gravity. You gotta get the weight of this posture just right, is what I’m saying.
Here’s my pencil outline:
You can’t see it (above), but I decided to eliminate her right back foot which in the photo you can see peeking out behind her butt. I knew that detail makes sense in a photograph but it would look weird in a painting, and since the pose would look just as fine without it I made life easy for me and deleted it. I also knew that the black thing between Olga’s paw was a toy called a kong, but I couldn’t actually see it in the photo. So I went to the Kong website and got familiar with kongs, and drew it using a guide line (below) to make sure I got the structure stacked correctly along an axis. I also had a bit of a problem with Olga’s right front paw, which is why I use a very light touch when I pencil in my outlines because when/if I have to erase a lot, it doesn’t rub the paper raw :
Dear Reader Jeanie asked me last week, What China white paint do you use? I am using a base coat of Winsor Newton China White on Olga’s little face into which I will bleed a delicate pink:
I thank Jeanie for her question because I want to take a moment to explain that I don’t use the top of the line Winsor Newton paints — I use their Cotman line, which is not expensive, in a small 12-pan case:
I have been using this little set for about 15 years, and did the illustrations for my second and third books with them. Also, I have been using Canson 90-pound paper since I discovered it in a book shop in Paris in 1979. The point is, you don’t have to use expensive materials to get effective results, but it helps enormously if you stay with a brand of paint and paper for all your works. That way, you get to know everything that those tools will do for you. For example, after all this time, I know these paints and this paper so well that I know exactly how much water to use with each in order to achieve a variety of effects, I know how they react to each other, I understand everything that these materials are capable of. So I can exploit all their properties to make them do what I want them to do, and it suits me fine. It can suit you, too — right?
So here’s me doing Olga’s eyes with my 000-size brush (a 000-size brush is really, really fine):
Yes, I’m still using blue paint for shadows in Olga’s white fur, and I’m using the same blue for the highlights on the black kong:
I have to work quickly here, having painted in another base coat of China white and, before the paint can get too dry, I’m using a rather wet brown/clack mixture to let the two colors bleed just a little, and to use the watery-ness to give some texture:
When I have really teeny tiny details to paint, I use the same breathing techniques that snipers use: I inhale deeply and exhale slowly and that steadies my hand. I find that painting teeny tiny details, such as Olga’s ID tags on her collar, to be very relaxing. This does not require patience on my part — I am NOT a patient person; but I do like to get things just right, so I am able to concentrate and take my time:
This is our girl at the end of Phase I:
I used masking fluid to draw some blades of grass here (below) and when I removed it I could tell that I’d made a mistake by using it on the kong, as you will see later:
I am going to paint in a green grass background here because if I’d left Olga alone (see: above) she’d look like SuperDog, flying through the sky, and I wanted her on Earth. But I’m going to do a light, easy, not-too-persnickety background:
The hard part . . .
. . . is getting the green paint right up to Olga’s edge:
Done, sort of.
I looked at this the next morning and the kong bothered me:
So I re-did it, and now it’s Done.
I didn’t take a photo of the finished portrait and as I type this, it is on it’s way to England, so here’s my crappy photo-shopped Done version with a slightly improved kong:
Since it’s my birthday week I do not want to harsh my high with current events. This week I’m only doing stuff that amused me during my waking hours.
P.S. Even wide awake, I am easily amused.
That’s it for now, Dear Readers. I am taking another week off and I won’t be here next Friday, so have a great weekend and have the best dreams of your life and take a few moments to celebrate that here we are, against astronomical odds, on this exquisite blue planet that is our home in an infinite and cold, dark universe.
And we can have pickles any time we want.