Indoor Dog Park Action Plan

January 17, 2009


Above: journal sketch I made from one of the photos I took at the indoor dog park at the Metrodome. Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and Holbein gouache. I was using Holbein gouache because I have some I'm trying to use up on my studio palette, and because, as I say on another journal page not shown in this post, "I wanted garrish colors." l also wanted heavy opacity. This journal page had a text page from a mystery book pre-pasted across the gutter and the quotation was something I wrote down at lunch, but it does work well with the image in a weird kind of way! The journal pages are about 6.5 inches square. Click on the image for an enlargment. (If you are able to read my writing on this page you'll see that the snow storm we had on Monday meant the postponement of a class I was teaching and I ended up painting five page spreads in the "extra" 2 hours.)

Yes there were bright lights, fast movement, and lots of noise at the indoor dog park the other day. And yes I didn’t get anything resembling a finished drawing. But now I have a plan! I am practicing before the next date: February 3 (6 to 9 p.m.; people are free, $1.00 for a dog).

I threw some of the photos I took with my small digital camera up onto my computer screen. Since I was working without a flash, and a less than stellar lens for this type of work, and my subjects were moving fast, the photos are mostly blurry.

Right: The photo I used for reference for the poodle sketch that heads this post. On the left side of this image you can see the small poodle I was sketching. Elsewhere you can see a blur that was another dog, like most of the other blurs that were dogs. Actually some of the photos, if they were lit better would be quite beatiful because of all the blurred action, but I digress. You get the idea. Click on the image to view an enlargment.

To me it's O.K. that most of the images are blurry.  I made them even more blurry, by sitting way back from the computer screen, without my glasses and sketching. I was attempting to simulate an less than ideal viewing situation. Something that would give me more visual cues than the speeding dogs, but still not a "pristine" viewing experience. Also I didn't want to focus on details (which is my weakness in situations like this). I wanted to work loose but have some accuracy.

My goal was to remind myself what dog anatomy is like because it has been too long since I’ve had an in-house model and it seems I get precious little time with friends' dogs these days. With a bit of a refresher course I think that faced again with the same sensory barrage as my last trip to the indoor dog park, I might actually be able to capture a bit more on paper.

Why in some of my dog park practice sketches I’m even working on people’s feet (since that is mostly what appears in the photos).

I don’t have any problems at the zoo, so it should be workable. That’s what I always tell myself, and then I set out a plan.

Left: one of my quick brush sketches using the aforementioned photos. Here a chihauhau and rat-terrier mix. To increase the looseness of my  approach I also worked with a flat watercolor brush to add the color and cut in around the dog's form.

So for the past couple of nights I’ve been drawing dogs, blurry dogs; and I’ve been having a great time playing with line and throwing color about. This has led me to other discoveries. The first of which is that it is time to break out the acrylics again. I mentioned this in another post. Maybe the dog park post? The need to do some big paintings is just brimming up out of me, and that’s always fun. I’m also coping with my dogless state better, because all this focus on dogs reminds me how wonderfully joyous they always are.

An added benefit is that I’m drawing even though it has been too cold for me to run my usual errands and outings and there are no pears in the house (what I would typically draw if I couldn’t get out).

The way I see it, even if the results on February 3 are still 30-second gesture drawings the practice will have been worth it. Practice is always worth it. I’m thinking about some compositional issues and I have a couple paintings planned! But even more important, I’m making my hand and eye and mind work together. With this plan, and continued attendance at the dog park, I’ll get the results I want. And I’m having fun. Tackle something outside your comfort zone today.

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    Roberta and I will be there also.

    It helps to study first.

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