Sunday I joined 5 other artists sketching free dog portraits at Wet Paint in St. Paul. It was part of the Paws on Grand celebration which happens ever August and turns the whole of Grand Avenue into a pet friendly land. It's quite fun to see.
This post shows some of the sketches I was able to finish on this day. I have to say that while I enjoyed meeting all the dogs (and their people) and seeing my favorite bird TJ, my output was down this year. I only managed to finish 14 portraits.
Left: This was my second sketch of the day and the dog really wanted to focus on other things. I heard the clock in my head counting down and did something I have never done at Paws. I took out my camera and took a profile photo of the dog so that I could look at the photo for 30 seconds and just get a sense of what the dog looked like. I then put the camera away and sketched the basic shape of the dog directly in pen, and painted in the eye. This was an approach I was hoping to do (detail just with the eye), and it captures his emotional state. But it was time to move on to another dog.
I know there are certain "causes" that led to this. Sitting next to Ken Avidor while he baited my subjects with dog biscuits was not one of them.
Left: Another minimalist approach. Focus on the eyes and the ears for this little cutie. Squirrelly dogs led me to abandon direct sketching with pen and I switched instead to sketching with an orange watercolor pencil over which I painted (dissolving some of the lines, and leaving others). It worked pretty painlessly for me for the rest of the afternoon.
I've been dealing with an injured right arm/elbow/shoulder since early July and physical therapy exercises have not righted it yet. Reaching is difficult and lifting. Typically before Paws on Grand I will practice drawing dogs for months—calling friends to park myself at their houses and stare at their dogs. My injury made driving difficult so I had to content myself with the occassional passing neighborhood dog. I have also been working large lately (even before the injury) and I decided to do so on the day, but didn't really have a clear plan of approach, except that I had a lot of mixed media ideas.
Left: An adorable Westie. I gave him a background to capture his outline.
Every year I forget one other thing. Drawing a friend's dog, or drawing dogs at the dog park is a totally different circumstance than this. Here we have dogs lining up and "behaving" for often an hour or more before their turn. Their people are excited and anxious at the same time. The dogs don't know what to make of that. They are asked to sit still in front of their owners, but there's a lot of interesting stuff happening over there…And so it goes. All but the aged or service dogs just squirm. And I have 8 minutes a dog. Needless to say the clock keeps ticking and most dogs took longer.
Left: TJ the conure posing with her portrait. This was actually one of the quickest portraits I did. I've sketched her before. I was stymied by the lack of suitable paints to mix for a good orange, however, since I've only ever had dogs to draw at this event my palette was skewed toward fur colors. My friend Tom Winterstein had stopped by to visit with several of the artists. In desperation I looked up and said, "Do you have any orange paint?" He pulled out his travel palette and sure enough, Cadmium Orange. I was never so glad to see it. That's why I titled this post, "Getting by…." It's a great thing to have so many friends who are artists, who can shout you a little bit of Cad. Orange when you didn't think to bring it! Click on the image to view the enlargement.
But going over the 8 minute limit did allow me to chat a little while I was working and find out some interesting things about the dogs and the people. And my favorite bird TJ showed up. She's a conure. She is one of the most beautiful birds I've ever seen. She sat happily on her owner's finger, calling out now and then. It was very fun. Also she is so comfortable going everywhere that she sat perfectly still for me as I worked.
But what was it really like? You ask…
Sometimes, as you can see from this photo Ken took of me while I worked (and why wasn't he working we might ask?—actually he'd just finished his last dog) some dogs didn't even care at all about us, didn't care that we were interested in them. And certainly didn't help us out with any interesting views. I was working from memory by this time.
I can also tell you that I had a bunch of great dogs—interesting, lovely, often squirrelly, but always sweet. I even got to sketch the most adorable 8-month old Boston Terrier. Of course I was screaming in delight. (It turned out well but I haven't processed all the photos.)
And all the dogs came with patient, kind owners who didn't put up a fuss when I used blue paint to render their black-furred dogs.
Also I came up with the perfect seating arrangement, which I'll post about on another day. I was low to the ground—dog level, so it was easier to sketch than ever before. And I even had a little handy table at my side, which meant I didn't have to reach down to my water and other media. I was feeling no pain. Though I did have to have an assist at the end of the day when it was time to stand up because I couldn't put weight on my arm, I was that low down.
If you came out to have your dog's portrait sketched on Sunday I hope you had a great day. If you just happened to walk by and wondered what was happening, now you know.
Thank you to Beth, owner of Wet Paint, and Virginia who ran the event, and to the other Wet Paint staff who were helping out (esp. Greg and Chris who set up the wonderful tents to shade us) for making it happen and giving us an opportunity to reach out to the pets on Grand Ave. this day.
If you haven't been over to Wet Paint, today would be a good day to go to this independent art supply store. They have a great staff, a ton of fantastic supplies, and the knowledge to help you get what you need. Support them every chance you can.