Thursday, January 8, 2009

Jack - A Newfie Portrait

Lord tunderin' bye! I just love Newfies! (The dogs.. well, I love Newfies the people too - I'm lookin' at you Nikki!) but Newfies the dogs are just such even-tempered and lovable souls.

My most recent commission was of Jack - a 3 year old Newfie who has had more than his share of orthopedic problems (a significant concern with giant breed dogs). Unfortunately Jack has already undergone several surgeries, but that hasn't hurt his wonderful and loving personality (as a family member aptly put it "He doesn't have a mean bone, or a good joint, in his body"). And nothing can take away his enjoyment of going for a Saturday morning 'coffee run' with his dad!

I thought for this post I'd back up a few steps. Before you can even think of doing a lovely pet portrait, you have to start with a lovely picture. If you have the opportunity to take the picture yourself you can select the lighting and pose (you can't always convince your subject to behave, but that's a different story altogether!). But more often than not you don't have that option and must work with photographs given to you.

From a selection of photos of Jack I narrowed down to these ones that would potentially make a good portrait. You want to see the subject's face. Often a 3/4 turned view is desired (that is the 'classic' portrait pose) but sometimes a different view will yield a more 'artsy' looking painting. This is the one that both I and the client chose in a blind 'taste-test'.

But to render this in pastel a few things will have to be done.
First as the final portrait will be 8x10 we need to choose a crop - if we stay with this size Jack will be tiny and I won't be able to get any really good detail. So the image was cropped to show off his beautiful and majestic head.

The next problem is that the background is 'busy' - some artists will deal with this 'on the easel' but I like to play around with the photo before I start, so I used Photoshop to blur out the background in stages:

The lines show the areas of greater and lesser blurring.
Now if I were doing this as a digital photo I would go in and make minute changes at the pixel level - but this is only meant to be a reference for me to paint from, so I left a 'halo' around Jack to be able to follow the direction of his fur against the background. And here's the final reference photo:

This post is mostly about the reference preparation - but I'll include one WIP (Work-in-Progress) shot - this is early on in the painting, you can see that I have the basis of the background and major colors and forms blocked in.

This one was done with Pitt pastel pencils on Black Colourfix paper. Working on black paper is fun, and in the case of a black dog it allowed me to focus more on the highlights and that colorful foreground - but it also gave the end painting a more soft and muted feel - so that the bright leaves weren't overpowering the dark colored dog.

And the finished painting:

Here's a close-up of his nose showing some of the variation of color within the black:

All matted, framed and ready to ship!

This one was a Christmas present for Jack's 'dog parents' and the word is that they loved it. I hope Jack liked it too!


JafaBrit's Art said...

I like how you used photoshop to blur the background prior to doing the portrait. It looks really lovely matted and framed.

kaslkaos said...

Your pet portraits are gorgeous. They have dignity and expression without being anthropomorphic. Also like seeing your photo ref and how you work with it.

Mary Rogers said...

Your portrait of Jack is awesome! Thanks for showing your process.

Edward Burton said...

WOW, you do AMAZING pet portraits! You really capture the spirit of the animal. Beautiful.