Polo part 2

In my previous post I showed the step by step of Polo a beautiful white and tan Maine Coon.  Well now he’s finished! In the last post we had reached his bib and I was working on the body fur.
I had chosen the sand coloured velour to help tie together the white with the little bit of tan that you see on his ears.
Even so,  I felt that it needed just a little bit more depth to lift Polo out from the background.  The colour representation here does not really do the original justice, but I used yellow ochre around the left edge (as you look at it) and the same with and undertone of warm grey on the other side.
I think he looks very regal in this portrait, let me know what you think…

All wired up…again!

Isn’t it amazing how much you rely on the Internet these days?  In fact any computer system.
Much as I love cute little furry animals, I’m not too impressed with the sleeping spot that one of them chose last week.  We have a transformer box on our estate that steps the power down from the grid to enable normal domestic usage.  Often small animals decide to investigate with dire consequences… and we lose our power. 

Unfortunately, last weeks hari-kari took our office server with it and we have been offline for a week and a half, not good when you rely on the nework for business. 
Anyway all back now, so I thought I’d show you the progress of one of my latest commissions:
His name is Polo and he owns a human called Barbara ;0)
Polo is a beautiful Maine Coon, mainly white with tan patches on his ears and tail.  Barbara wanted to show off his tan bits, but as with all animals it takes a long while to get the right photograph.  Finally she settled on this great portrait.
The key thing about portraits of white animals is the background choice.  It’s tempting to go for black “to make the animal stand out”, but does that always work?
In my gallery you’ll see a Westie – Lucy – that I did on black velour.  Black paper is one thing, but black velour is a whole other kettle of fish.  It’s extremely difficult to get very white whites on black velour.  The portrait of Lucy works well because Westies often have that coarse undertone to their fur, but for Polo I though something more subtle would suit.  Barbara and I had chatted about trying to show off Polo’s tan markings, so I suggested that a sand coloured background might work.
As ever I started with the eyes once I was happy with the basic outline.  Then I moved on to the features around the eyes.
I start with a basic undertone then layer the detail on top for each segment.

It’s amazing how many colours you use to render a predominantly white cat. So here we are so far.  My biggest problem is the whiskers.  I itch to put them in at about this stage – don’t ask me why ;0).  There is still plenty of work to do before that, whiskers are usually the last thing I put in, but they make an amazing difference.
Anyway I’ll be back during the week with an update on Polo and I’ll introduce you to Pug!

Geoffs artist’s reference images – Mandarins in oil

I was recently fortunate enough to work with a great photographer friend of mine on his reference image CD’s for artists.
Geoff Stone and his wife Ros are local photographers and good friends of mine.  If you are looking for some fantastic reference images for your artwork click here to vist Geoffs site. Choose “Artists CDs” from the main menu to see the CDs on offer.

Currently you can choose from:
Volume 1 – Birds
This CD contains 102 images illustrating 75 different species of birds from Europe and Africa. The images are sized to print at A4 but can be re-sized and printed larger or smaller.
Volume 2 – Animals
This CD contains 100 images illustrating 22 different species of animals. The images are sized to print at A4 but can be re-sized and printed larger or smaller.
Being a photographer who specialises in wildlife, Geoff produces images that are top notch, very detailed, sharp and well worth the £20 +£2 p&p.
I chose a particularly eye-catching image of a male Mandarin duck and then I saw the image of the female. After a few preliminary sketches I had created a composition that I liked with the two of them:
This is my first piece using Winsor and Newton water mixable oils and I have to say I am a total convert.  No stinky turps and the oil behaves just like any other oil.  I prefer to use the various mediums created for this range of paints to thin and to create glazes, although I do use water with it , but sparingly.
I’ve used artistic licence to brighten the water a little, but I particularly love the luminous quality that you can achieve using glazes in oils and I think that is somthing that you can see in this piece. 
It’s nearly there, I keep going back to it between commissions so another couple of weeks and it should be complete.
The only problem with these CDs is that my head is now full of new wildlife compositions based on all the wonderful shots available, so be warned you’ll turn into a paintaholic once you get them!

Shows and sore throats

Yesterday I attended my first cat show!

It was the Southern British Shorthair Show at Addlestone in Surrey and as I am owned by a British Shorthair myself I didn’t know where to look first.  They are such beautiful cats in an amazing palette of colours as you can see from Poppy here…but more of her later.

Setting up
My lovely husband packed the car for me at 6:30 am while I prepared some lunch to keep me going.  As ever I had decided to take the kitchen sink just in case.
I don’t know about you, but when I was a child I went everywhere with a suitcase full of felt tips and crayons and pencils and paints…it’s still a bit like that now.

So it’s not surprising that 8 trips to and from the car later I had managed to set up.  The organisers had placed me in the foyer just infront of the results frame, an ideal spot really.

I have 2 pieces of sturdy trellis that are hinged in the middle.  This provides an ideal frame work to show off a few framed originals.
The tall pull-up banner was great value for money as people can see you from afar.
I guess the most important thing is to make sure that you are drawing while you are there.  People love to watch artists at work and this was no exception.  Since competitors were there all day it gave them a chance to see a portrait evolve from the very start.
My demonstration piece
The obvious choice for a British Shorthair show is a British Shorthair! My British Shorthair, Amber, to be exact (although she would contest ownership – in her eyes I’m on the staff).  This is a great shot captured by John as she helped him to set-up in his photographic studio. (She was making sure he’d left nothing in the reflector bag).
I decided to create the piece in pastel on velour – just ideal for cats, especially shorthair like Amber.
I used a grid to transfer the drawing from the original to the velour, then started on the eyes.  I love to do the eyes first as I can immediately start to see the piece coming to life.
Next I blocked in some colour using soft Sennelier pastels.  Finally I start working my way around the image layering the detail in with sharp Derwent pastel pencils and graphite pencils.
This is as far as I got during the day.  I spoke to so many people that I lost my voice by the end of the day.  there was so much interest and it was so enjoyable.
I’ll add the whole WIP to my main website as it progresses to the finished piece.
Many of the compeitors came over to let me know how they were getting on and those who were competing for the first time were sooooo excited!
So what about Poppy?
Well Poppy was also attending her first cat show; in fact Popy was the first pet that her owner Kim had ever had.
…And she won her class! Clever Poppy!
Poppy’s mum has decided to celebrate with a beautiful comemorative portrait – quite right too.
Once we’ve agreed on the right image work will start, so watch this space.