Piecemeal Style Portrait of Two DogsSeptember 10, 2018
Today’s sketch is one of my favorites of my year so far. I made it using a Sktchy muse photo for inspiration and in the photos of my working process you’ll be able to see how I pull a photo up on my iPad and position the iPad to work, whether at a drawing table (as I started for this sketch) or the easel (as I finished.)
Note: I’ve been holding off writing this post because I was hoping to get permission to show the photo inspiration from Sktchy in my images of my work set up. I haven’t heard back and I want to post about this image today so I’ve blurred the inspiration photo reference when it appears on my iPad in my process photos. If you want to see the original photo that was my reference please go to Sktchy (my profile—rozstendahl) and scroll down my sketch list to see the pups painting. Click to open it and then swipe right to reveal the photo reference that inspired my painting. (The agreement when you join Sktchy is that you can use the photo reference and do anything you want with your resultant artwork—but the image belongs to that muse so you really do have to ask permission).
Small point—look, I had great fun sketching this. I really love it for a host of reasons. But I will tell you I have more fun drawing from life and if you’re just starting your artistic journey I want to encourage you to draw from life instead of photos so that you don’t get into bad habits. That’s all. No lecture. Except never draw from someone else’s photos without their permission.
“Jill, Quick Distract Him With Your Forlorn Cuteness. I’ll Get The Treat Bag. We’ll Share.”
That’s the title of this painting. Jill is obviously the dog on the left, the blue dog. The go-getter and plan maker is the white dog on the right.
If you have had the good fortune to live with more than one dog at a time you will be well aware in so many daily ways that
- Dogs are pack animals.
- Dogs work together as pack animals towards a common goal.
Now if you have Alaskan Malamutes those goals are typically to hunt in concert with one another to catch prey animals.
Smaller dogs, unless they are ratters—well, I’m not sure what happens as far as hunting.
But in every household I’ve ever visited with small dogs there is one dominant personality who likes to plan and another dog, like “Jill” here, who is the bait to help reel in the fish. (The fish can be another dog, a cat they live with, or a person in the household, though the last is the sign of a deeply dysfunctional household. If you notice your dogs dissing a human like that you need to get a behavioralist in ASAP as you are obviously not up to handling the situation. It’s not healthy for the dogs or the humans; and depending on the size of the dog it could have serious, dangerous consequences. This is a lecture!)
Actually if you are interested in developing your skills as a confidence man having two small dogs is a great way to learn some tricks about really selling a con.
But I digress. I have no personal knowledge of the two dogs in my reference photo (you can view that on Sktchy as mentioned above), but my experience observing small dogs led me to interpret things and exaggerate those things in this fashion.
Also I don’t use black paint. I use blues and complements to make neutrals, and here I went pretty much with blue.
In the first process photo above (process photos are numbered) you can see how I started my sketch on a 6 x 9 inch piece of paper by drawing first the head of “Jill” and then realizing that my scale was way off so I’m going to be doing piecemeal. (You can find out more about Piecemeal Style and Piecemeal Portraits by searching those two sets of keywords in my blog’s search engine.)
In that first process photo you can also see the stand I put my iPad Pro (9 x 12 inches or whatever it is) on when sketching from a photograph.
Once I realized I wasn’t going to fit even both heads on that small piece of paper I started taping on additional pieces of paper to create a larger sheet.
In process photo 3 you can see a closer look. The 9 x 12 inch watercolor paper I taped the first 6 x 9 inch sheet to is either Hahnemühle Harmony or Expression. I forget, both were handy as I was testing them. I covered that sheet with Montana marker—a light orange that was going dry. Once the tape went down and the sheet was attached to the first sheet I continued sketching, but this time I realized I wouldn’t have room for the feet, so I first added the other sheets at the feet. Those are scrapbooking papers left over from a collage piece I’d just finished working on. Those papers actually work well to mimic a sense of carpet.
In process photo 4 you can see that I’ve gone in with watercolor to do some shading in the faces and in the cast shadows at the feet.
At this point I’m faced with a decision. Am I only going to finish a portion of this piece and leave a lot unpainted? Or am I going to bring things up to some sort of finish throughout?
Sometimes when I paint I really only want to work on a certain aspect of the image and the rest is left unpainted much to the confusion of the audience. For me I’ve finished the bits that interested me and I’m emotionally and pictorially finished.
In process photo 5 you’ll see that I have gone over the washi tape used to attach the papers together with a heavier application of the same orange acrylic marker I used earlier.
I do this because I need to “fix” the brush pen ink that crosses the slick surface of the washi tape (otherwise it will bleed into watercolor or gouache because it doesn’t dry on the slick surface of the tape).
Additionally I need to change the texture of the tape so that it is more receptive to the paint that will cover it eventually. I have a lot of methods for creating texture here, and encourage you to experiment.
Your approach will need to take into account how much you want the design of the washi tape to show through. Sometimes, you can get away with simple straight coverage of the maker on the tape. It really depends on the next media you intend to layer down. You might want to do some test cards to see how best to use the acrylic marker to get a surface useable for the next media you want to add. The great thing about acrylic markers is that they dry quickly. If you don’t get a useable surface for your intended project you can try a second application that is thicker, thinner, or texturized in some way by use of paper towels, sponges, brushes, etc.
Once you cover the maker with paint lines you have to realize that you’re all in. If you don’t create coverage over the entire piece you’ve now got some glaring “partitions” and breaks in the image.
This is the point at which I put the entire piece up on the easel. If I’m going to really cover everything I don’t want to be working on the table. I want to be able to get back from the work and look at it, and to take broad strokes, if desired, over large portions of the background. It will be easier to do that standing up. Placing it on the easel also locks it place. I would have had to clear the drawing table off to do that flat, and then not had the long view I felt I needed.
In process photo 6 you can see the piece up on the easel. I’ve begun the under coat on the blue dog. This is important because the way the blue dog turns out will determine how I want to proceed with the white dog for values and which color family I’m going to stay with.
At this point that I decided I wanted to SCRIBBLE. So I got out the Caran D’Ache Neocolor IIs which are water-soluble wax pastels.
This is also the point at which I was so intent on working that I stopped remembering to take process shots and just worked all the way to the end in one shot. (Some day I’ll remember to set up a camera to take automatic shots.)
Basically, if you read any of my posts on water-soluble wax pastels like the Neocolor II or the Stabilotone now known as the Woody you’ll know that my next steps are a succession of dry layers that I wet, scribble over, wet, repeat, or at any point create a final layer that is a dry layer smoothed with some finger blending.
At the very end of the process I go in with white gouache to create some colors or effects I can’t get with just the stick material. You’ll see that on the white dog.
Note: I’m sorry I can’t recommend a brand of stand for your iPad. I have three stands: the two you see in this post’s photos, and another with a very long extension arm that I use in the TV room. None of them are made any longer. If you want a stand go to Amazon and search for iPad Pro stands and pick one with the features you like. Each of mine are from different companies bought because I liked the earlier one, needed another, and found the previous one was discontinued, and had to hunt again. I’ve had three great choices just by following my own advice. It’s a growing market and I know you’ll find something you like. Think about how you need it to attach to something as one of your criteria.