I call this painting “Oliver Twist”, subtitled “Please Sir, may I have some more?” The plaintive expression connects with me on some underground level, and that goes a way toward explaining why I have not been keeping this blog up to date. I have not stopped painting altogether, but I slowed down considerably, and the only explanation I can give is emotional. I just didn’t feel like it. No, more than that–I had no reason to paint. I wasn’t selling much, wasn’t winning much. I began to face the facts: I am competent. I am sometimes outstanding. I am mostly unremarkable. I want to be more but I will never be more. Please Sir, couldn’t I be more? No, ma’am, just be grateful for what you got.
Cats and dogs are probably my favorite subject. I swear I feel as if I am inside the head of an animal that I am painting. For a while there, I thought I might make a career out of animal portraiture. I tried a little bit, but it never took off. I even painted a commission that never got collected and paid for. I thought it was a successful painting and it found a following when I offered it as part of a raffle benefiting East Colony artists. A Siamese cat:
The photo isn’t very good, but I captured the animal. I do dogs too. After painting a portrait of her cat Pebbles for a friend of mine, I found I had a good photo of her dog Rocky that I wanted to paint. My friend wasn’t interested so I did it for myself. Rocky was afflicted with the dog version of ADHD, and it had been hard to get a snapshot of him not in motion. But this one view caught him noticing me, wondering what the heck I was up to–he paused long enough to register puzzlement. I call his portrait “A Moment of Doubt”.
The portrait of Pebbles was not nearly as interesting.
Recently I finally completed a portrait of one of my granddaughter’s cats, which commission had been a Christmas present for her. The family pronounced it successful.
Bella, for Natalie
In the course of painting Bella and Oliver Twist, I asked for advice from Gloria Najecki, an outstanding dog portraitist. You must check out her website, here. I asked her, how do you handle whiskers? I was having great difficulty finding a balance between superrealistic whiskers and sloppy whiskers. I had not learned a technique for the realistic portrayal of whiskers and was worried that my sloppy suggestions of whiskers was detracting from an otherwise pretty good animal. Gloria admitted that whiskers aren’t all that important for dog owners, but cat owners put great store by the cat’s whiskers (rightfully so, in my opinion). I carried on with sloppily suggestive whiskers. What else could I do?
I can’t stop talking about animals without revisiting one of my all-time favorites, Sparkle, a champion white British retriever of some kind.
I pulled off this 8×10 portrait of Sparkle in the course of two hours; I had found the Zone. Compare that effort to the months I spent on Bella. Maybe dogs are easier. I do love dogs a lot, but I love cats too. My next animal portrait is likely to be a new resident, a puppy brought into the house by my other granddaughter. This is Orla, a Bernese Mountain dog mix: