Above: Photo of a 9 x 12 sheet of Nostalgie (Hahnemühle) on which I used a .3 (and then for the right eye on our left I used a .005) Staedtler Pigment Liner. You can see warm up sketches with the .3 pen at various places on the page. The eye at the bottom of the page was a test run before I put the eye in on the finished sketch. (I'd left the iris and pupil blank until the very end. Typically I start with the eye and work outward when I am working from life, but the proportions of Becca's head were stumping me—a good case of draw what you see, not what you think you see! I did a rough shape of the head, like the central aborted drawing, and then kept working up from there with details.) I worked on loose sheets so I could give the sketch to my friend. Becca is wearing a little service vest that I only started to sketch. I took this photo in the greenhouse at a cloudy moment so it is a bit gray. Nostalgie is actually a very white paper.
Saturday I had a pleasant afternoon diversion. A friend was kind enough to meet me at the Como Conservatory with her service dog Becca for a drawing session. I sat on the edge of a fountain opposite where they sat on a bench (well Becca was on the ground at my friend's feet) and did warm up sketches with a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. My friend pulled out her journal and sketched me: Project Journal Infiltration lives!
After a few sheets of practice sketches I started to work on sketches I hoped I could actually finish (by that I mean I hoped that Becca would return to a certain pose which I could then complete). But my hand wasn't liking the PPBP or my Faber-Castell Pitt Artist's Calligraphy pen on this day, so I went for a more detailed approach with the Staedtler Pigment Liner.
Becca, as service dogs must be, is very calm, and while she would upon occasion look up at her owner and look around at the pedestrians, and at one point joined me in regarding a child speaking in tongues, intent upon making a connection with the three of us, Becca remained basically still. She was a wonderfully patient model.
Becca is a black lab, a very petite one. The lighting in the conservatory was actually quite nice for sketching a black dog. The overcast sky provided plenty of light, some spotty sunlight, but always enough light to show values and planes.
I haven't drawn a black lab for a long while and my tendency was to make her a little more "fluffy" than she is (though she actually does have some lovely fluffy fur). The head of this breed is actually more round and at the same time more square than the breeds I'm used to drawing. So Becca remains an interesting puzzle I hope to have many opportunities to sketch. I think it would also be great fun to play with blue gouache and create this face in different poses.
As you know, one isn't supposed to pet service dogs. When I arrived I asked, wanting to be respectful, if I couldn't at some point pet Becca before we were finished. My friend said, "We could do that now." And I said, looking down at Becca's lovely, lovely eyes, "Yes I think we'd better." The moment the release word was spoken Becca started to wiggle and came forward gently to greet me. It was wonderful. And all the more miraculous that she can perform her job so well.