Sunday, January 27, 2013

So where are the portraits of my own critters???

Much like the cobbler's children or the hairdresser's own hair, my fur-face family members have been neglected on the portrait front!

It's time to fix that starting with the eldest, Lucy Cat.  Our dogs, Cocoa and Buck, wear the name McArthur, but it seems to me that cats are just too independent to take another's name, so Lucy and Ellie have retained their own surname, Cat.

Lucy came to us from a rescue home almost 18 years ago.  She was a tiny kitten with ring worm when we got her.  Even then she was very spirited, and my husband named her for the Charlie Brown character - fittingly.  Our old dog Mousse was still alive, and not yet old, when we got Lucy, he being a good sized chocolate Lab.  Tiny Lucy took one look at him and decided that he would not be in charge, she would.  Before long their favored sleeping position was with Mousse curled up in what had become known as "Mousse's chair" and Lucy asleep on his back.  That became the basis for one of my earliest hand-drawn Christmas cards.

Lucy developed a reputation among friends and family as a bit of a challenge.  She'd sit on a chair back and hiss at any one who walked too close.  She chose her spot on the furniture and he or she who dared to sit there would simply have a lap full of cat in short order - but dare not presume to pet!  Our old pet sitter used to tell me that Lucy would be friendly for a bit, then would simply chase her out of the room.  (OK, really? Who runs from a cat?)  For some reason she especially didn't like small dogs and they simply weren't to be tolerated near her.

We've always had a bond, Lucy and me.  If I'm sick, she will lie on my chest and purr, even pat my face with one little paw.  She's never bitten or scratched me, but she's given me many warnings!  And, over the years she has mellowed.  It's been a long time since I've had to wrap her in a towel and trim her nails one paw at a time.  Even the vet now refers to her as sweet.  But, watch out.  The younger Lucy lurks just beneath the surface of her fluffy fur; irritate her at your own risk.  I say she still runs the house with an iron paw.

So, choosing a Lucy pose to paint was easy - it had to capture her intensity.  And, choosing a portrait size - well the 24 x 24 inch - so she will be large and in charge on the wall.

This is almost right.  It just needs a slightly exaggerated sense of intensity, and I can supply that when I paint!

Lucy tends to pull one eyebrow down when she's giving the stink eye, and her stare is strangely human.  

Easy color choice on the background to bring out those eyes!

Yep, that's Lucy!

The last couple of years have been difficult for my girl.  She who never, ever got sick has had a couple of bladder infections and is on what will be life-long treatment for a thyroid disorder, pretty common in older cats.  She gets a joint supplement that keeps her able to jump up on the bed.  Right now, as I type she is lying at the foot of the bed where she can keep a close eye on the two big dogs asleep on their beds.  

I need to get to work on a commission of a beautiful boxer.  Then if I can find time, I'll squeeze in our Cocoa, next in line by age.  Keep watching. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How the portraits come to life

Sue is owned by a young man I've never met.  His mother asked me to paint her as a gift to him.  The first photos I was given were not usable - too distant, too indistinct, out of focus - so I asked mom to have her son email me photos.  I soon received a bunch of photos.

A number showed Sue in costume: 

Not the look for the portrait, but it gives me a glimpse into her personality.  She happily wears whatever her human puts on her without objection.  

One really caught my eye for it's fun factor: 

  Again, not for the portrait, but can't you just see the personality shining through?  This is a happy, loving dog!

The photo we selected, and both of us had input, was pure Sue.  I cropped it to a more close up view, and this became the basis for the portrait.

Next step, choosing a background.  In certain light some of Sue's shading appears almost lavender.  Nah, not a color for a young man's home.  White or off white would certainly pop her coloring, but on a wrapped canvas, it would melt into light walls.  Nope.  None of the pastels, she's too strong a personality and look for that.  
Finally, I settled on a brick red with quite a bit of brown thrown in.  The owner wants to be surprised, so the balance of the process will be without his input.

Next I laid in the background and did a very rough sketch of our girl. 

Sue gets laid in in almost a color block fashion.  I always like this stage, well except for the empty eyes, as I can begin to see the dog take shape. 

More shading and detail goes in over the next couple of days, then it's time to let it sit, step back and look for things I don't like. 

OK, fix the one ear, it's just wrong.  Soften the shading.  Emphasize the eyes.  Notice that I turned her pose just a bit more forward to have her looking at the viewer.  I like the feel that her eyes look directly out from the portrait. 


 Done!  All that's left is to deliver and wait for feedback.  I'm really anxious to hear from the son/owner and see if it says "SUE" to him.

As an aside, I really loved painting this girl.  I dubbed her Sweet Sue as we went through the process.  I very much admire the American Staffordshire Terrier, aka Pit Bull; and I detest what some humans have done to and with them.  This lovely lady is an example of how they are when treated with love and gentleness.  

Friday, January 18, 2013

A painterly experiment

I just finished painting two small portraits of cats that share a home but are not biological sisters.  They belong to a good friend of mine.  I thought, since she wanted the little 6" x 6" size, that I'd try working on both at once.  It just didn't work for me!

The two girls could not be more different.  Riley, as in Life of, is a black and white long hair.  She's very quiet, almost shy, and tends to be delicate.  Grace, so named in hopes it would bring her some, is a short haired multi colored girl, sturdier in build and tougher in attitude.  Rumor has it that she beats up on her more retiring sister periodically.

The idea that one canvas could be drying while I worked on the other seemed smart, but I didn't factor in that I tend to get, well involved with each critter I paint.  I like to know their names and their personalities and we talk while I paint.  I found that I'd get quiet, feeling gentle when working on Riley.  Then I'd turn to Grace and just couldn't pull up enough oomph for her.  Then I'd settle into Grace for a bit, try to go back to Riley and overwhelm her with brush strokes too quick and rough for her.

So, I set Grace aside and decided to focus on just Riley - she being the first of the two to join my friend's home.  Better, much better.  When Riley was almost done, I brought Grace front and center and found she was ready to cooperate also.  All that was left was finishing touches.

The girls are done on the same background so they can be placed together.  They can face one another or be back to back, depending on their mood.  

I'll be seeing their human this weekend and can't wait to give these to her. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Soon we'll be launching a new web site devoted to my pet portraits.  Yeah!  It's been a long time coming.

Here is a painting of my father-in-law and his kitty, mixed media, on a combo of canvas and mixed papers,  I would say "featuring" a pet.

And, here is something I did for my husband, he and our two dogs hiking, done in pastel on sanded paper, "including" pets.

And, this is a pet portrait, up close and personal, meant to capture the personality of the pet, done in acrylic on a gallery wrapped canvas, and meant to be hung sans frame.

It's the portraits that will be featured on the new site.  Yes, I'll still do other things; but this will be devoted to critters and those of us who love them.

Keep watching.  I'll let you know when the website,, is up and running.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


Has it really been this long since I posted to this blog????

For those who know me, you know the caregiving circumstances we are presently in.  It's taken some time for me to gather my wits, my creativity, my space - both physical and emotional - to be able to paint again, and now to blog.

For now, all I have to say is Coming Soon, my new website at