Hope everyone had a nice Xmas. I guess the culture is coaxing us to be cynical about the December festivities, but in retrospect they still hold a very special place in my heart –maybe because my mom loves Xmas so much, and I know fully well that when the time comes that she is no longer with me, I will identify Xmas with her memory even moreso as the years pass…
Anyways, here are the two commissions that a friend of mine asked so she could present them as presents to her mom, dad and ‘bonus mom’. The two little ‘mini German shepherds’ are Swedish vallhunds, which is a dog breed I didn’t know until now –and I happen to consider myself a pretty knowledgeable dog person! These little dogs are utilized in Sweden to handle cattle, so I immediately came up with the idea of putting the two little doggos chasing a happy sheep. In order to accentuate how this winter scene was set on the northern part of the globe, I decided to put a typical aurora on the sky. I know fully well the greenish light of these northern lights should have impacted the atmosphere of the overall scene, but I was on a tight schedule so I chose to ignore it.
What I did *not* try to ignore is the complex fur these two particular vallhunds had, which were necessary to reproduce as accurately as possible in order to make them distinguishable to their owners. I chose a ‘synthetic paint’ brush for the job and resorted to several tones of fur until I was satisfied with the result.
The second piece depicts my patron’s mom, who loves both hot air balloons and cairn terriers. Since this happens to also be the same breed of Dorothy’s Toto, the composition’s theme blended extremely well. Here you can see that one of the furry guys is wearing raindeer antlers, while the other is sporting a halo and angel wings; that is because the angel dog departed into the ranks of the heavenly kennel a few years ago –I was told by my patron her mom actually cried when she saw the greeting card, which is probably the greatest compliment my work has ever received.
In this piece I chose to make the dogs’ fur as ‘realistic’ as possible, erasing my usual ‘pencil lines’ at the end. This is somewhat difficult to achieve and forced me to plan the work carefully and be patient, but the end result was very satisfactory. I also made sure to add some ‘blushing’ tones into the skin of my patron’s face in the ears, cheeks and nose. This is something I didn’t use to do on previous works but now I see that, even though it may seem too ‘exxagerated’ at first, it gives more vibrancy and life to the artwork. As you can see, I’m still learning and experimenting –and that is quite all right with me!
Overall what I discovered is that portraying dogs is in some respects more difficult than portraying humans, and that’s because there are very subtle things you need to observe in order to capture what makes the dog stand out from the rest in the eyes of their owner –maybe it’s the color of their ears, or their distinctive fur coat. Maybe if it was just one dog it would have been easier to ‘cheat’, but being a pair required the extra effort. In the end the result pleased both my patron and her parents 🙂