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Old 07-02-2005, 12:00 PM
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Re: July Classroom - Painting Domestic Animals

Ah, I think the hampster might be a guinea pig. Just an observation. Spritely look fella though.
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Old 07-02-2005, 12:19 PM
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Re: July Classroom - Painting Domestic Animals

Quote:
Originally Posted by theIsland
You're already good enough. If I can find one of my pet portrait photos from those days, I'll post it so you can see my beginner phase. Let's just say they were less than impressive, I was rarely happy with them, yet people loved them! Maybe they don't have high expectations when they're commissioning an artist from the back of a magazine, or maybe they're just so tickled to see their pet in paint they don't get caught up in the finer details. Doing pet portraits from client photos is one of the most difficult, nerve wracking things I've done, but it's a great way to learn.

You own that gorgeous refined animal? Lucky you! It looks like it's coming along very well. I like the natural pose you've chosen. Dappled greys are the hardest color to paint, especially in acrylics, so I'm impressed with your dapples, and your color. I'm really loving some of those shadows on the face. The color and value are right on.

I agree with your assement of some of the things you're not so happy with, except the eye, which I like. You know what I think happened? Your initial drawing was correct, but you might have lost part of your drawing when you painted the background. Some parts got a little too small, like the muzzle. (I hope you don't mind - I've converted the images of the photo and painting to line only. This is one of the tricks I use when my eye gets fatigued and I need a fresh perspective on a structural problem.) I can understand not wanting to risk losing the delicate colors you've achieved on the muzzle already. I often choose pleasing paint over drawing when I have to decide on one. But perhaps you could beef up the bottom line between the cheekbone and the muzzle, though, especially at the point where it meets the cheekbone? That's a low-risk fix, because if it doesn't work, you can always just cover it up with background paint and return it to its current state.

The neck looks a bit heavy now, but I realize you're not done. When you define the crest and seperate it from the muscles of the neck, it'll look more elegant. Those two areas are in full sun and close in value, so it might be tricky. I usually use a bit of blue (reflected color from the sky) on the top of the neck muscles, to seperate it from the more vertical crest.

Looking forward to seeing your detail work. I think this is a real winner!

Tami


Thank you Tami! I am so glad you did that because I was thinking I had to thicken the muzzle up from on top for some reason- I guess I didn't know what I was thinking but your examples made it much easier to see where the prolem was. I think I can do what you sugested and still hang on to what I like. This was so helpful! Do you have a special computer program to convert paintings/photos into line sketches? This is a great tool.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I really appreciated the time you took to help and I really appreciate your encouragment.
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Old 07-02-2005, 12:32 PM
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Re: July Classroom - Painting Domestic Animals

Dewi, what a handsome animal! Is he your dog? It's always nice to see them with natural ears.

You're off to a great start. Your drawing is very true to the photo. Was the distortion in the photo - big head, small feet - intentional, or something that just happened? Nothing wrong with distortion - some very famous artists have used it effectively in their paintings. But if you decide you want your next one to be less distorted, try standing back further from the animal when you photograph it, and zoom in to make up the difference.

You can use a mix of white and black to make shadows on the white parts of the dog. It's the easiest way to do it, especially if you're feeling overwhelmed by the difficulty of this piece. If you'd like to try something a little more advanced, you can try adding some color to the shadows to make them a little more lively. In the photo, I see a lot of color. On his chest, I see greyed blues, which turn to more of a greyed violet on the shoulder, just above the hand. But the area inside his legs and under his chest is reflecting the color of the wood below him, so those shadows are much warmer. If you decide to add color to the shadows, your existing grey would make a great underpainting. You could glaze very thin transparent washes of paint right over the grey.

Are you worried about the thick brown paint because you wanted to keep the paint transparent? You could fix it by painting over it with lighter paint, but of course that would make it opaque.

You've done a great job on drawing those big, soulful eyes. I think when you get those done, and the nose, your painting will start to come together very well.

Tami
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Old 07-02-2005, 12:35 PM
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Re: July Classroom - Painting Domestic Animals

Quote:
Originally Posted by hcowdrick
Ah, I think the hampster might be a guinea pig. Just an observation. Spritely look fella though.
Ah, yes, I see what you mean. I know so little about rodents. My only experience was with George, my hampster, who committed suicide soon after I acquired him by making a U-turn in his Habitrail tube.

Tami
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Old 07-02-2005, 12:43 PM
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Re: July Classroom - Painting Domestic Animals

Quote:
Originally Posted by ColorsoftheRainbow
Do you have a special computer program to convert paintings/photos into line sketches? This is a great tool.

You're very welcome. I used Photoshop, but you could probably find a way to do it in most photo editing programs. First I desaturate the color so it's a black and white image. Then I use the "Find Edges" filter. I increase the brightness and contrast until the lines are nice and black, and the white parts are white, then use a white brush tool to get rid of any everything but the outline. (Can you tell I use this little trick a LOT? )

Tami
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Old 07-02-2005, 05:23 PM
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Re: July Classroom - Painting Domestic Animals

First - thanks to the person that posted the link in the "note about july's classroom" thats how I found this thread.

Second - I've only read the first posting and I was nearly bought to tears over your awesome story!

I am really looking forward to reading the rest and getting to work soon on painting my family dog (Pepper - irish red setter) that is now 12 or so years dead - from a good referance photo and my cat (Flash) which is still alive.

They maybe Acrylic on paper though.

Have to finish my knife painting of a waterfall first. But I'll be sure to do at least one animal this month.
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Old 07-02-2005, 10:21 PM
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Re: July Classroom - Painting Domestic Animals

Quote:
Originally Posted by hcowdrick
Ah, I think the hampster might be a guinea pig. Just an observation. Spritely look fella though.
No a hamster is a hamster and a guinea pig is a guinea pig. They are both rodent but are different species.
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Old 07-02-2005, 10:22 PM
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Re: July Classroom - Painting Domestic Animals

Tami, I like the way you have gone from intense detail to a somewhat abstract feel. Thanks for all this information. I will have to read this again.
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Old 07-03-2005, 07:47 AM
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Re: July Classroom - Painting Domestic Animals

Thanks Tami, I really enjoyed reading this and cant wait for the next bit

I have made a start on my dog and may post when I have made some progress if I am happy with it.

Dawn
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Old 07-03-2005, 08:07 AM
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Re: July Classroom - Painting Domestic Animals

Hi everyone!
I'm really excted about this thread - I want to do a painting for my Dad of his Irish Setter Chamois (pronounced "Shammy"), who died back in 96. He requests paintings of her from time to time, and seeing as I haven't given him a father's day gift yet, I have to get my butt in gear! Sham was also "my dog," our family dog, I was 14 when we got her. she was a real sweetheart.
Here is my reference photo:

I have to get some time to get the drawing right, then I hope to get started soon.

Tami, thanks for doing this classroom! You are one of my favorite artists, I initially fell in love with your big, bold, loose and colorful style,. I hadn't seen your acrylics with the drybrush technique or the pastel over top, I really love them too. I have been using lots of drybrush myself lately, mostly because it seems to be a softer transition (and I don't have a lot of confidence yet), I really like how you used it all over those paintings so purposefully and effectively. I am still expirimenting myself, tho I think my learning curve is increasing, I am finally starting to understand the pigments and different techniques a little more. ok, enough rambling! off to draw!
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Last edited by artcrazy : 07-03-2005 at 08:09 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old 07-03-2005, 11:46 AM
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Re: July Classroom - Painting Domestic Animals

Part 3 - Taking Great Reference Photos

I know most of us aren't going to rush out this month and take photos for this project, and I don't expect you to. If you're like me, you probably already have photos you want or need to paint from. One of my demos this month will be one I've put off far too long, a portrait of our neighbor's dog and cat from a photo supplied by his partner. It will be a present to thank him for pet-setting for us. And I might finally try to paint my cat Toophy, who died in April at the age of 11. Oddly, I never painted her when she was alive, because I didn't need a painting on the wall when I had the cat by my side. Now it's time to give it a try. From what I've read so far, some of us might be doing similar kinds of projects.

So this lengthy post about photography might not apply to you, but I offer it anyway, for those who might want to get more deeply into making paintings of animals in the future.

It's not necessary to work from reference photos, but they sure can help. Animals move constantly, making it difficult to make more than quick gestural drawings and color notes from life. It's nearly impossible for the human eye to catch all the details of an animal in motion.

Before photography, artists sometimes used dead animals as their models. Some of the poses were, you could say, a bit stiff. Imagine a rotting horse arranged on the artist's studio floor, pegged and tied into a pose approximating the artist's idea of action. Devoted artists knew their subjects well, learning structure from the inside out through dissection and anatomical studies. They were skilled at painting colors and textures, but understanding how a living animal moves was out of their grasp. In the entire history of art, no one got it right! The consensus was that a galloping animal looked like our modern idea of a rocking horse , all four legs ridiculously outstretched, with the back feet on the ground.

In 1887, Eadweard Muybridge shocked the world with his stop-action photos of a galloping horse in motion. Reality was very different from theory. Muybridge went on to photograph many more animals and humans, changing forever how artists portrayed living creatures in action.

Now we all have this amazing photographic tool at our disposal. We can capture any motion, any expression, in a split second. Our only challenge is not to overuse the camera, because while it exposes truths, it also lies. It can cause distortion, and inaccurate colors and values. If we don't compensate, our paintings will just look like photos. I don't know about you, but I think I could save a lot of time by framing the photo and putting it on the wall, rather than spending hours copying it. A lot of non-artists think it's a complement when they say, "It looks just like a photo," but I'm always disappointed to hear that.

The most important thing in taking photos for reference is good light. Never use a flash as the primary source of light! It's almost impossible to successfully suggest three dimensional form on a flat surface when the light source comes directly from the front. All the highlights are dead center, and all the shadows are placed equally on the sides. Colors and values are almost always incorrect. Copy a flash shot successfully, and it will always look like a painting copied from a flash shot.

So, for your own sanity, use photos taken in good natural light. Try to avoid light that comes directly from the front, or from the back (unless you know how to get the exposure right). Experiment until you see a good pattern of shadows and light. Think about what makes the animal look good, and what will be easy to paint. I often like the light coming from a point somewhere between front and side. If you're taking photos indoors, try placing the pet near a window.

Posed shots are not too difficult, if you know a few tricks:

1. An assistant can be invaluable in some situations! Their job is to stand where you want the animal to direct their attention, and get it just as you are ready to shoot. (I count to three before shooting, so everyone knows what's happening.) Depending on the type of animal, a variety of attention-getting tools can be used. Squeaky toys, keys (sometimes wrapped in a handkerchief and tossed in the air), whistles, a toy mouse on a stick, or even a towel on a broom thrust into the air. Silly human sounds can work, too. The key is to know just how much to do to get the animal looking alert, without freaking them out or inviting them to play. For example, check out this photo of our new kitten, taken by the breeder. Isn't she cute? But it's not the most flattering photo, because her attention isn't just diverted by the mouse on a stick. She's fully in engaged in play mode, ready to pounce. Now, this could be the start of a series of great action shots, but at this stage, it just makes her look odd and squishy.


2. If you're working alone, you can provide your own diversions. I often work the camera with one hand, and the other making circles in the air, fingers snapping. Or I'll toss something in the direction I want the animal to look. I am convinced it's possible to make an animal smile at the silly antics of humas.

3. With animals on a lead, a handler is also required. They set the animal, and keep it in place.

5. If the animal is too hyper, a bit of exercise before the session can take the edge off.

4. There are poses traditional to every type and breed of animal which show off its best features.

5. Take a lot of shots! Get your poses, and also take detail shots of features like eyes, nose, fur, feet, tack, etc. Take shots just for color reference, some of shadows, and some of the light areas.

Beyond Photography

Photographs are an excellent reference tool, but cannot replace the value of sketching and painting from life. For years, I took a sketchbook to the racetrack, making quick gestural drawings of the horses, with color notes written in the margins. I wasn't sure if what I was doing was of any value to me, because I wasn't using them in my paintings. I was just doing it because, well, I was supposed to. And back in those days we had thirty minutes between races, so it gave me something to do. But one day, years later, it all came together, and I realized what I'd been learning all that time. It was about establishing movement and flow first, then adding details in stages over that framework. Often, when we work from photos, we get overwhelmed by all the details, and miss the flow, resulting in lifeless, directionless work. So sketch from life, even if you don't think it's doing you much good now.

Also, when you can, get some paint out and take some color notes on the spot. That will help overcome bad colors in photos. Swatches can be very helpful in the studio.

Photos are a great tool, but just that - a tool. The next post will be about understanding the structure and getting it down on canvas. As before, you don't have to wait for me to post all the informational stuff to start in with your own WIP. I'm spreading out these informational posts over a period of a few days so I can keep up with the questions.


Upcoming this week:
Part 4 - Drawing - Getting the Structure Right
Part 5 - Eyes - The Windows to the Soul
Part 6 - Painting Textures

Last edited by theIsland : 07-03-2005 at 12:06 PM.
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Old 07-03-2005, 11:57 AM
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Re: July Classroom - Painting Domestic Animals

Tami,

Again, thank you so much for taking the time to teach this month's classroom. I have learned a great deal by just reading what you have posted so far. I look forward to your demos!

Dave
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Old 07-03-2005, 12:45 PM
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Re: July Classroom - Painting Domestic Animals

Maureen, thank you for directing people over here from the other thread! I'd done that on Friday, but then the server went down and took my post with it. The dog you painted last Christmas - was that the WIP you posted here? I can't bring back the mental image of it at the moment, but I remember it was beautiful work that appeared quite confident!

Godzoned, you were nearly bought to tears? We must remember to stock up on virtual tissues in this forum. I hope we'll hear some great stories about our animal friends on either side of the Rainbow Bridge, and nothing makes me tear up like a good animal story. When you (and this goes for everyone) post your photos or WIPs, could you please tell us a bit more about Pepper and Flash, so we can all know them better?

Dave, Carol, Dawn, thank you so much! I've never done anything like this classroom before, so I am trying my best to muddle through. Dawn, looking forward to your post.

Artcrazy, thank you for reposting your lovely photo of Chamois. Is that the dog in your sig, too? She is so beautiful, and that will be a great photo to work from. Your dad will be so pleased.

Drybrushing really is a great technique. It's been awhile since I've used it, maybe because I'm always in such a rush these days. I might try it on my dog and cat portrait.

Tami
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Old 07-03-2005, 06:14 PM
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Re: July Classroom - Painting Domestic Animals

I work in pastels, but I find studying other mediums is a great tool to me. I like to study what other artists do....

This is a great thread, and is also very valuable to those of us who aren't in acrylics! Can't wait to keep reading
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Old 07-03-2005, 06:16 PM
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Re: July Classroom - Painting Domestic Animals

Just like everybodyelse, I have this pet pic I want to do, but he is predominately black.
Will you be addressing the painting of black pets.
I'm not really sure I'm "quite ready" to attempt a black dog (and get it right) I only want to do it once. I have painted human black hair by mixing other colors, it came out "sorta ok".
Thanks,
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