We just had new carpets fitted upstairs right in the middle of me getting work ready for The Painted Cat exhibition at the Llewellyn Alexander gallery in Waterloo – Glutten for punishment!
Anyway, all went well and work was submitted on time plus I now have a lovely tidy art studio. It’s amazing how much stuff you accumulate over the years. You only realise that when you have to move it out for new carpets!
Anyway here are the step x step images for one of my latest wildlife works:
Well February is nearly done and that means I’m another year older!
Thought you’d like to see what I’ve been up to.
You might recall that I am working towards a Pet Portraiture Diploma with the London Art College…well this is the last piece that makes up my penultimate set of work. the brief was to create an artwork with an animal in surroundings that portrays it’s personality.
Now I didn’t think I was into animals in clothes, but I have to say I loved doing this piece.
It all started when I went to the supermarket to do the shopping. I was in the drinks isle and I saw a wierd looking bottle. Anyone who knows me would tell you that I’m a marketing mans dream. If it’s in a lovely box or an interesting shaped bottle then it’s in my basket! Simple as.
So take a look at what that little bottle sparked off..
Hope you enjoyed the journey…next time I’ll be starting on a design for a Christmas Card for a pet rescue centre…
You can see from the gallery that I’ve got to the first level of detail on the second image. Once I’ve finished the third image I will add more detail to the whole picture and the final tweaks of contrast.
Hopefully we will have a finished piece by the end of the week!
Well what a busy weekend! Had my mother-in-law, Pauline, with us for the weekend as she is moving from Luton up to Rushden into an assisted living apartment – a big upheaval for an 80 year old!
Anyway, we toddled off to the Hollowell Steam Rally and Heavy Horse show, mainly because she adores horses and also because I wanted to photo’s of them. Let me tell you, pushing a wheelchair up and down those hills gives you muscles on muscles. I could have a rant (as my friend Sue would say in her blog) here about the number of people who moaned about the fact that we had taken a wheelchair to the event! But I was a good girl and just thought at them that they should be grateful that they don’t have to use one.
Anyway got some good horse shots for future paintings and some wonderful shots of owls and falcons.
Eventually everyone went home and I was left to the peace and quiet of my artwork…
Heres a (rather grainy) shot of Shadow – I have tweaked the colour of his eyes a little as they were a little too green before.
When you look at the group shot you can see that there’s now a difference between Spirit and Shadow. Still need a little more work, but that will come once I have all the cats finished. I started adding more body colour to Inca and defining the markings on his head, then strengthening the darks.
Again, Inca has lovely markings and wonderful flecks of light over the dark. You can just see in the last shot that I had started adding undercolour to the kitten, Carminah, too.
As will all the others, I started with the eyes, then added the under colour before moving on to defining the markings. I need to sort through my reference shots now to find a good shot of her tail. She was unhelpfully sitting on it when Tracey took this body shot – who would work with animals eh? ;0)
I definately want to place a toy in that space between her and Spirit as she has that mischeivious look in her eye! So while you look at the group shot so far, I’m off to raid Amber’s toy basket!
This is the life! My lovely husband has just made me the most luscious large, foamy cappuccino, (I knew that coffee machine pressie was a stroke of genious ;0) ), with 3 jaffa cakes on the side; which leaves me in the ideal position to tell you about the progress with the Bengal 6.
So when we last spoke I had just started on Spirit. Since then, I have completed the Open University assignment that is due tomorrow and had time to get out the pencils! So you can see from this shot that I carried on building up the layers in Spirit’s body fur. He has such amazingly rich markings that he almost glows.
Here’s a closer look – I love this alert expression that he has – almost like he’s about to pounce on you! At this point I also started to add some shadow and depth under and around him. I should mention that these images were taken with my iPhone! John (hubby) was doing a lecture the other evening at a camera club in Kempston and it was such a beautiful evening that I decided to go along and take my work with me so that I could sit in the car and do it, but I forgot to take my camera.
Anyway they are not too bad, maybe a little grainy, but you get the idea.
This image makes me smile. It shows an almost finished Spirit – I say almost because in both shadow and Spirit the whiskers are missing. These are usually the last things to add and it’s amazing the difference they make. I always have to stop myself adding them at this stage because invariably I’ll want to strengthen the background or shadows which means going over any whiskers that are in the way. I smile because in this shot you can just see a ‘naked’ Carminah peeping in – looks like she’s saying “What about me?”
Now it’s Inca’s turn.
The base colour coat for the eyes is first then the underpainting for the blocks of colour in the face.
Comparing these two images you can see how brave you have to be with these areas of colour. The raw Sienna colour is aptly named as it does seem quite raw on it’s own, but by the time the graphite tail is added on top everything begins to calm down a little.
You can see the difference here that the darker top of the head and detail over the Sienna makes. You can also see here that I’ve started to add a suggestion of colour to Inca’s body.
This is the wider shot that I took just before I added the detail to Inca’s head, but you can see how the whole is starting to pull together with the background and shadows slowly starting to build. I’m off to finish Inca now and start on the kitten.
I’m sure that space between the kitten and Spirit is crying out for a toy!
At last, I managed to get some quality time this week with the Bengal 6! This weekend I was at a cat show in Peterborough and this little family caused quite a stir…
So, you’ll remember that we got as far as the outline last week…now was time to start some proper work.
This is a portrait on light grey velour in pastel. Mostly the blocking in is done with stick pastels which are great for larger areas, then for the fine detail I used Derwent and Pitt Pastel pencils.
With such a large piece I like to make sure that I start on the left most side (as you look at it). Since I’m right-handed, working from left to right ensures that I’m not smudging work I’ve already done.
I started with Shadow (I love their names) and as ever I started with the eyes…and suddenly there he is.
Next is to block in the main under-colours. Bengals have exquisite markings and their coats are almost luminous, so a vibrant undercoat helps to develop the depth of colour that you see in their coats.
Here’s a closer look. You can see where I’ve started to go over the undercoat on the nose the brightness of the yellow ochre is still coming through.
These photographs give a good idea about the colour, but they were shot in a hall with flourescent lights. And no matter how much you compensate in the camera, the images don’t really compare to seeing the thing in real life.
At this point I leave the face for a little while to add some body colour. This helps me with the overall blending of colour and I can flip back and forth between the face detail and the body colour. I find that graphite pencil is ideal for adding very fine detail into the face. Again when you sudy the lighter bengals they have a layer of fine, but darker, hairs that add depth to the colour.
Adding a little background colour here helps Shadow to stand out and suddenly creates a much more 3D image. The background will be refined as I gradually work on each of the cats in turn.
You can see in the images on the right and below that I’ve started to build up the layers in the body and the face.
I think it’s always interesting to look back at the outline to see how the piece is gradually starting to come alive. The outline of Spirit looks almost bizarre against the work on Shadow.
Finally, I get to a stage with Shadow where I am happy enough to move on to work on Spirit. This desn’t mean that Shadow is finished. He will be tweaked (in the nicest possible way!) as I work on the other cats.
Starting work on Spirit
OK, so now I’m ready to start on Spirit’s eyes.
In this image you can also see that I’ve started to block in some colour around the nose and eyes. As I mentioned earlier, at this stage it looks a little too vibrant, but remember that this is under-colour and there is a layer of detail to go on top.
I got so engrossed in Spirits face here that I nearly forgot that I was photographing the progress ;0). So there’s a bit of a jump here.
There were lots of Bengals at the cat show that I was at, so you can imagine the interest in this piece. My order book is once again stuffed with reference photos…
So here are my final two shots for this installment. Spirit is still looking like a little tiger on the image in the left as there is a layer of dark to go on top of this colour.
the final shot on the left shows progress so far with Spirit against his brother…
Come back for part four to see Spirit completed and work on Inca and the kitten…
So how do you agree on a layout for 6 cats in one composition when you have a portfolio full of images and infinate possibilities?
For me the answer is Photoshop. It’s a great tool for quickly and easily pulling a composition together to show to a client. I started out by selecting what I thought would be the best images to work with – you saw those in my last post. With Photoshop you can build up your composition in layers, a bit like a scrapbook except with no glue!
These are the first two layouts I tried.
I sent both to Tracey and Steve to see what their comments were. Like me, the guys favoured layout 2 with a couple of tweaks.
We spent 30 minutes on the phone one evening moving cats around and trying different images.
Our biggest issue had been getting a good shot of Carminah the kitten, but we solved that with the ‘jiggery-pokery’ that I mentioned in the last post.
Eventually we decided that this would be our layout:
With Shadow & Spirit looking into the picture from the left and Jasper & Sonnet holding it all together on the right, we felt that this was the right balance.
So….next comes al the hard work.
This will be pastel on velour, so my next step was to create the overall sketch on watercolour paper, the only paper I had that was large enough for the sketch. Although you can’t see the scale here, the piece of velour that I’m working on is 70cm x 50 cm. So quite large to do justice to such a family. You can just see the corner of the A4 reference sheet in the top left. Next to transfer the drawing to the velour:
This bit always amazes me because it looks so flat! Then suddenly when you start on the eyes, animal start to appear out of the paper…
I will start on Shadow in the top left hand corner, so that I’m not resting on work previously done…then the rest of the boys in the back row will follow.
Thats all for now… part three with Shadows eyes in a few days.
I’m very excited to be starting my next comission as I’ve always wanted to draw these beautiful cats.
Tracey and Steve Fordham have a lovely family of Bengal cats and we met at a recent cat show. They were keen to commission a ‘family’ portrait with all five of their cats, so Tracey got to work collating all of their best photos and sending them on to me.
On the left is Spirit – we met at the show and apparently he is inseparable from his brother Shadow who you can see on the right here
Next is Sonnet on the left and Inca on the right and finally you can see Jasper in the shot below.
We had chatted a little about the layout at the show, but I had a little time to think about such a large piece as Tracey and Steve were off on a Med cruise. When we caught up to plan the layout in more detail, Tracey had news! A sweet new addition to the family – a kitten called Carminah. So now there were 6 in the family portrait.
The next job was how to layout the composition. Bengals are known for their highly distinctive spotted patterning. This results from their origins – crossings between small wild cats and domestic cats. Carminah in particular has spectacular markings and Tracey wanted to capture this in the finished piece, so she spent many hours trying to entice Carminah to look at the camera. Now if you’ve ever tried to photograph a cat that won’t look at you, you’ll know you’re on a hiding to nothing ;0)
For an artist this is where photoshop comes into its own. For portraits with several subjects it’s important that the client is able to have an idea of what the finished portrait will look like. Photoshop is great for creating mock-ups of compositions and the speed means that you can involve the client every step of the way. Tracey had two great shots of Carminah which we decided would work well.
We wanted the back shot from first picture with the head shot from the second, so with a bit of jiggery-pokery we ended up with this – a workable reference shot for me to work from.
In part 2 of this project I’ll show you how we worked on the layout to agree the final composition.
I had a great time at the Cambridge Cat show and met some lovely people. I picked up a few commissions so watch out for updates about their progress in the blog. Next week I’ll be in Brigg – South Humberside for the One for all cat show which is over 2 days, so I’m very much looking forward to that.
At the last show I was still working on Amber so I thought you’d like to see a step by step and the finished portrait.
the original shot came about as my husband John was setting up in his studio for a shoot. Amber decided that she would help him and was rummaging around in an Octa reflector bag to see what she could find! the result was a shot with a great expression – so alert – I couldn’t resist capturing it as a portrait.
Amber is a British Blue shorthair and typical of her breed she has amazing orange eyes.
For my lastest set of college assignments I needed to create a portrait with a contemporary look. I decided that this would be a fairly monochromatic study to make the most of Amber’s eyes. I’m sure that everyone has seen the type of thing in wedding photography where you have a black and white image with spot colour to highlight a particular feature.
That was the feel that I wanted to create, so I chose a background colour that matched Amber’s fur.
This first image looks quite scary I think, it shows the outline and Amber’s piercing eyes.
If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that I like to work on Hahnemuhle velour with pastel and this was no exception.
Next I started to block in some of the shadow area around the eyes. At this stage I was using Daler Rowney soft pastel sticks – they have a really good range of cool and warm greys.
You can really see the difference in lighting here. The first two shots were at the Addlestone show and the next shots were at the Stevenage show and in my studio.
This shot shows detail being added to the face and shadow to some of the surrounding area.
I wasn’t really sure on the crop that I wanted until quite late into the portrait, so I used ultra-low tack masking tape to try and find what I was after.
Eventually I decided that this crop was too tight and ended up showing more detail of the ba, as I felt that it told a better story.
Almost finished, just the final details to be added
A few more darks added to the fur and the shadows strengthened, then it’s finished.
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!