Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What 55 Hours Looks Like

So… I’m hoping that none of my regular blog readers have been thinking that I’ve fallen off the face of the Earth – LOL! – since it’s been a while since my last entry! I’ve been extremely busy – dealing with the local transit strike, end of school year activities AND completing my latest commissioned pet portrait.

Michael responded to one of my advertisements for ‘pet portraits’ this last summer. His companion of just over nine years past away in the spring and he had asked me to paint Digger’s portrait. I was deeply honoured to be given such a responsibility.

I had two other commissions to finish first, then I went almost two months without doing any artwork at all (while searching for, buying and moving into a new home!) and as soon as we moved the local transit union went on strike – shutting down all bus services in London – which ended up costing me over two hours a day as I had to find alternative ways to get to and from work… leaving very little time for anything else.

I really wanted to have Digger’s portrait finished before the christmas holidays so I had to make some personal sacrifices – no blogging, no facebook, no emails, no nothing except the painting. Joanne was (as always) a wonderful support as she took over my regular household duties – laundry, dishes, cleaning, etc – to give me every moment possible to complete this art. I missed my christmas dinner with my co-workers, cancelled a few weekend socials so I could lock myself in my artroom with my paints and brushes.

As is often the case, I find my adrenaline pumps with more life when I’m feeling ‘under the crunch’. I enjoy totally submersing myself with my work and then when it’s done, I always enjoy a feeling of completion which allows me to totally relax for a few days before I’m at it again – with my next project!!!

So… here’s how the project went –

By hour 10 the paint had just started to flow. To get to this point I had to select the proper size board for the painting, prep it with several coatings of Gesso (a base coat), scan the original photo and play around with different effects before I could print the image in order to trace it onto the board.

The first four hours of painting is usually my slowest. I can spend up to one hour mixing just one colour – though in most cases this task still takes about twenty minutes per colour. It’s so very important to bring a consistency to the paint pallet – to make every colour relate to each other on some level – and this is always very challenging.

This photo shows how the paint is applied. I call this technique ‘contour painting’. Each shape in the painting becomes unique unto itself and I focus on these shapes as individual entities. Using a very small brush I simply – though very time consuming – trace around the inside of the shape. As each ‘contour’ is painted, I begin this process again, slowly filling in the entire shape.

On the right hand side you can see that there are a few additional inches of board space that I was originally hoping to fill in with an expanded beach texture…

…as this was already my 18th hour I had to figure out how I could alter my design so that this painting didn’t take me until the new year to complete. Simply, I got rid of the beach design element. I figured that the portrait was to be of Digger and so the beach was expendable.

This is when I started to have a lot of fun. All the main colours had been mixed and now it was time to start bringing in the highlights or complementary tones that would give this painting a little more ‘shazam!’ There were quite a few of these colours needed.

By hour 43 all the highlight colours were mixed.

The thing that I like most about painting is the way that the colours all work together. Digger is a black labrador and it’s interesting to see how the colour black is not used in this painting at all. His face is painting using three shades of green, four shades of red/brown, two shades of gold, three shades of red and purple, but it all seems to work!!!

The most spiritual part of any portrait comes to life when the eyes are painted. I was really starting to feel the excitement building when I reached this portion of the painting.

To look at the design elements – or breakdown in shapes and colour – of the eyes, you would never say that the eyes look like eyes. They seem to be unrelated shapes of different colour just floating around space together.

But when all the colours have grounded each other together… and you stand back a few feet to look, something magical happens. The eyes seem to have a fine gloss over them, which really surprised me, that totally gives them a different aura when compared to the rest of the painting – even tho’ all the same colours are used and nothing special was added to the paint to produce this effect.

Ha – after fifteen years, this world of art that I love to frequently visit still astounds me with all of its mysteries.

Now, all that was left to paint was the stick and the beach.

This happens quite a lot – something in an uncompleted texture grabs my imagination and says ‘Stop painting… look at me… be inspired’. My plans for the beach included about eight different colours, but after I had painted just the first colour I had to stop.

Sometimes this ‘stopping’ phase will result in a change in plans for the rest of the painting. Sometimes it just gives my imagination fuel for a possible future initiative. When I get to this point I know that it’s time to quite for the day – to give my imagination time to have its battle with itself until the morning.

I woke up yesterday morning with a big smile on my face. My mind’s battle had ended and I knew what I needed to do to finish the last few hours of my work. I completed the painting as I had originally planned and the texture idea that the incomplete beach gave me became a sketch in the back of my mind. I’m planning to paint a wall mural very soon and this new texture will be playing a part in that design – I’m almost positive!

At 2:34 pm on December 22, 2009 Digger was done!!!

Since Digger has passed away I didn’t want to give the painting a mournful title like ‘Digger Will Be Missed’ or anything stooooopid like that. A television commercial came to my brain and I heard its slogan ‘Time Well Wasted’ – referring to the comedy network. I was looking at the portrait and thinking of the stick in Digger’s mouth and I said to Digger, “Ha – looks like your stick is well tasted!”… and then the title ‘Time Well Tasted’ came into being.

I thought that this title was perfect. Digger had passed away quickly due to cancer so he never had the chance to live his full life – all he got was a taste of life and by judging the happy expression in his photos I thought that his taste was a good one.

I met with Michael last evening and he absolutely and positively-tooting just LOVED it!!!! We talked about his dog, we talked about this painting, we talked about a wonderful number of things and we were both very glad for this experience.

So, for those of you who thought I had fallen off the face of the Earth, please be assured that that was not the case. I just took a little vacation with my paints to visit a special friend.


1 comment:

choose-the-path said...

Thank you for sharing your artistic process, fascinating! It made it clear step by step in a way I had not thought of before. I think this painting will bring much comfort to this gentleman.