Everyone who knows me already knows what I do for fun: I sketch dogs. So at the beginning of the month I had a couple house guests who made that activity possible.
You can see the sketches I made of Zeke (a 6-year-old Australian Shepherd) and Rooster (a 6-month-old Australian Shepherd) during their 4-day visit, in the embedded video. If the embedded video doesn’t work click here to view the video on YouTube.
Having a puppy in the house is interesting. That’s all I’ll say. We haven’t had that energy around for quite some time.
But one truth is universal: If you take a dog on a long enough walk he will sleep, until he awakes and then you can feed him and take him on another long walk…
In the video of my sketches I didn’t blow the sketches up to fill the frame or apply Ken Burns effect (zooming in and out) because what interests me about a sketch might not be what interests you and I thought it would make me sea-sick.
I’m working in a Japanese lined paper notebook right now that is a little bigger than 8.5 x 11 inches. I love it. The paper is fun to sketch on and write on and paint on. I have a whole blog post I’ve been working on to explain my fascination with this paper, but you’ll just have to wait for that. This is my second-in-a-row book like this. I think they have 100 pages.
Of course the paper warps horribly from wet media and I LOVE IT. The pages make such a delicious sound when you turn them.
My first sketches were done with a Pilot lettering pen. After awhile I move on to a watersoluble (dye-based) Pentel brush pen, which I wet with a Niji waterbrush. It was difficult not having any other color because both dogs have some lovely copper on them, but because both dogs are merles (or have merle portions on them) I figured I could work on getting the blacks, grays and whites right. So I did. Lots of experimentation. One evening I just kept sketching and sketching every 6 to 9 minutes. It was great fun.
There’s lots of distortion because the dogs were usually sitting under or right next to my feet and I had to peer over my knees or twist sideways to see them. You had to stay still when you started or the guys would jump up and follow you—if you needed to go get a pen for instance. That was a huge factor in working only with the watersoluble ink pen.
At one point I left the journal and went on to a series of sketches on Hahnemühle Nostalgie, which is a very smooth paper, great for pen work.
The early sketches with the lettering pen were also all done without my glasses. I eventually got up to get my glasses when I switched to loose sheets, and then kept them near by for the rest of their visit. These were new glasses which I’m still getting used to so using them shortened the sketching sessions duration—I just had to take them off at some point. (I’m fussy.)
In the sketches you’ll see me first feel my way around the features of the dogs and try to get a sense of the shapes of their muzzles from different angles, and you’ll see me try to understand the Australian Shepherd ear (one day). But after awhile the experiments focus on gesture, the sweep of the spine, and finding some way to create a vocabulary for that fluffy fur. (Malamutes have lots of fur, but they aren’t fluffy like Aussies.)
Note: The contour sketch of Zeke at 1:44, labeled 6.8.14, 9:59 p.m.—was actually “a.m.” The images are all in the order they were drawn.
I’ve been sketching looser and looser these days (first because my glasses weren’t ready, and then because it’s just so much fun). It was exciting to smear the ink with a paper towel, dilute ink with water, charge the ink into wet patches, splatter ink about…I had goals and I’m happy to say I met them. I also “ruined” 4 shirts and a pair of sweat pants. (Like I care.)
We had a lot of fun during their visit, though I couldn’t walk the young puppy on my own because he wasn’t quite leash trained and my shoulder couldn’t take the pulling. Dick came with us on long walks and wrangled Rooster.
They were perfect house guests until the last 20 minutes of their visit—and even that wasn’t awful—it’s just that’s when Rooster decided “OK maybe this is my new home and I better make a play for dominance and push some behavioral boundaries.” He was quickly settled, and not in the way he had hoped.
The dogs were thrilled when Nan returned from her trip to pick them up. Squiggly butts.
And then they were gone, leaving memories of soft fluffy pile ups on the couch—and a whole lot of sketches.
I haven’t walked so many miles in such a short period of time in ages. I have to go for a walk right now so I don’t have to work through the shin splints again!
In January 2013 I spent time house- and dog-sitting at Zeke’s house. You can see the different approach I took to sketching him then, along with Rush, an older bitch who sadly is no longer with us.