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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dog Portrait Commissions: Stubby I and Stubby II

After studying the regal look and features of this beautiful German Shorthaired Pointer, I told my client I was going to give him the title of "Sir" Stubby. He has such a strong, confident look about him. (He was named Stubby because of the shape of his tail.)

"Sir" Stubby
8 x 10", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson
Stage 1: Drawing and blocking in (painting the first layer of shapes and values) the subject. With a thin wash of burnt umber paint and mineral spirits, I loosely drew in the shapes and features, using a soft cloth to erase and make adjustments.
Stage 2: Completing the portrait. For the second layer, I like to start with the eyes and then build the painting from there. The eyes become the focal point and well as my point of reference for the rest of Stubby's features.
Stubby has rich features, contrasts and color. I enjoyed painting his spots, keeping them clear but with soft edges. His sun bleached coat added reds and lighter browns to his coloring. Once I felt like Stubby was close to completion I painted in the background of blues and browns to visually give the painting a sense of cohesiveness.

"Sir" Stubby II

I was fortunate to receive two portrait commissions of Stubby. This second portrait features him in an outdoor setting with the lighting enhancing Stubby's darker coat. (The reference photo I used was taken at a different time period from his first portrait). Stubby looks free and full of energy, as though he stopped running in the fields just long enough to have his photo taken.
Stage 1: Drawing and blocking in the subject and creating the composition. Working a landscape into the composition made this an interesting challenge. I didn't want the background to over power the dog. I intentionally kept the edges soft.

"Sir" Stubby II
8 x 10", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson

Stage 2: Completing the portrait. Putting Stubby in the great outdoors makes this portrait unique from the first one.
 Having his mouth open also sets this one apart. I enjoyed painting in the fall colors and hints of water from a creek. The gold flecks in his eyes reflects the color around him. The browns and golds throughout the painting tied the colors in to each other.

As usual, I am always pleased when I have completed a commission(s) but just a little bit sad too.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Commissioned Dog Portrait: Buster

I am enjoying the pet portraits I have been working on lately. This is an adorable guy named Buster. Buster's commission will be a surprise birthday gift for his owner.

10 x 8", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson
Stage 1: The composition. With a thin wash made up of burnt umber oil paint and mineral spirits, using a small tipped brush (#2), I loosely drew in Buster freehand.
Stage 2: Blocking in the first layer of color, the underpainting. The background as well as the hi-lights were inspired by the warm, yellow lighting.
Completion of the underpainting. I added touches of deep blue for interest.
Stage 3: Completing the portrait. After I had painted (blocked) in the first layer I took my time painting this final stage. Buster had a lot of personality and I wanted to share that with the viewer.

Each portrait commission is enjoyable and unique with its own story. The one thing they all have in common is the love of the portrait subject as well as its recipient.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Formal Portrait: Business Portrait, Part 3

The hardest part about a portrait like this is setting down the paintbrush and walking away. There are so many aspects of it that I want to study and analyse. For now its time to let it "rest" for a couple of weeks and then come back and look at it with fresh eyes. Adjustments will be made then for the final completion.

David P. Kunstle
30 x 24, Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson

Stage 6: Blocking in the hands with a first layer of paint. As with everything else, I try to look at the hands as shapes  instead of palms, thumbs and fingers, squinting my eyes to generalize form, shadow and light.  For me, painting hands can become very mental. Fear often sets in and then I freeze up, questioning every step of the process. And then I start talking to myself. "Trust your instincts. Remain calm and keep painting!"

Stage 7: Completing the hands and pants. After the hands I focused on the pants. This was a perfect time to paint them since my wet edges would work right into the fresh paint of the hands and blend much easier.
 Stage 8: Blocking in the background. I looked at the background as one piece. I started from the top and worked my way down placing the first layer of paint as precisely as I could so that my second and final layer would be easier.
Stage 9:  Completing the background. While the first layer was still wet I kept going and added the details of the second and final layer. I wish you could see it in person. Right now the paint is very wet and so it was hard to photograph clearly. Please check my website in a few weeks to see the completed portrait.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Formal Portrait: Business Portrait Part 2

Squeezing blue and white oil paint onto my palette and then brushing it on the canvas to make it look like fabric is always more challenging than I first imagine it to be. Working wet-on-wet, it was time to paint the dress shirt.
Stage 5: The underpainting. Blocking in the shirt and tie.The draping of clothing over the human form is always a challenge.  If you don't get it right, you know it. The folds and creases have to be believable. I tried to break the shirt down into general shapes and values while brushing the paint on with broad strokes.
Stage 5: Completing the shirt. Using thicker paint I paid close attention to my brush strokes and edges, adding detail but not too much detail. Now its time to let it rest. Next, the hands. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Formal Portrait: Business Portrait

My painting this week began with a formal business portrait. I love the variety of work that I do and welcome the challenge of a traditional oil portrait.

Stage 1: The composition. I photographed my subject in his office which had northern windows. Perfect lighting. We started with a series of shots with his full suit on but after a while the suit jacket came off and we transitioned to a more relaxed  casual pose. With a thin wash of oil paint mixed with mineral spirits, I drew his image freehand. I try to use some of the same techniques I would use if I were painting him from life in my studio; broad, swift strokes in the beginning with more detail in the end once I am happy with the composition.
Stage 2: The underpainting. At this stage I am still using the thin wash of paint with my focus on form, light and shadow.

Stage 3: The second layer. While the underpaintng is still wet, I apply the second, thicker layer of paint with every effort to accurately depict his likeness, the correct light, color and shadow. Brush strokes are also important.

Stage 4: Completing the face. Even though I know his face is probably not exactly the way it will be in the end (there are always small adjustments), I can sleep at night knowing that I have his captured his likeness and his pleasant expression. It is time to move on to his dress shirt and tie.