Pet portrait

The Sweetest Cat in the World

philcollage

acrylic paint and fabric collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

About 13 years ago this little yellow cat appeared in the bushes in front of our house and meowed incessantly for days until we finally let him join our other cat as a (reluctant to us) family member.  He had that piercing Siamese kind of meow, which makes you want to do anything to shut it up.  Food always worked, and later it was petting that worked.  And after a few years, he had us trained well enough that he only had to ask once, and we knew what to give him. My boys named him Phil after some poker champion (go figure) and I had no say in the matter.

Fast forward a few years.  I’m not sure when it happened that Phil learned a technique for getting any passer-by to pet him.  He flops down in front of you while you’re walking, so that you have to do a quick little dance step to avoid stepping on him.  His soft exposed belly and audible purr is enough to get the message across, and most people find it impossible not to scratch an ear or rub that belly.  That’s my favorite part.  He’s my buddy whenever I’m outside gardening, or sitting eating my lunch or doing my Chi Gong under the trees or sketching.

The hallway of our home exhibits some of my paintings of previous pets – Alexander the cat and the bunny whose name I’ve forgotten.  I wanted Phil there too. So when I introduced a new mixed media lesson in the Muse group on fabric collage, I decided to try doing Phil’s portrait.

This pose is a typical daytime one.  He loves to sun himself in the dirt in the garden and look up at us langorously as we pass.  I took a picture and did a line drawing of the pose on the paper.  On a trip to the fabric store I picked up swatches of fabrics I thought would be fun to use.  The rest is probably obvious.  I cut strips of the cloth, piecing them to fit the drawing and then added paint to complete the picture.  I imitated the style of one of my favorite mixed media artists Mark English.

phil

golden brown ink, dip pen, watercolor in watercolor sketchbook, 8 X 5″

Another one of Phil’s typical poses.  He likes to sit under that table between our chairs outside watching me while I eat, and then falling asleep. Look at that face.  Like I said, the sweetest cat in the world.

Festival of Feathers

feathers

fountain pen with Noodler’s Golden Brown ink, watercolor in Strathmore w/c sketchbook, (9.5×7.5″)

We joined the crowds at the Santa Rosa Bird Rescue Center’s annual Festival of Feathers on Saturday to practice more standing and sketching  (in a jostling crowd).  Most of the birds were relatively good posers (except for the raven) and there’s just nothing like coming up eyeball to eyeball with these elegant wild creatures. We lasted about an hour and a half and then were so exhausted we had to stop.  The sketches were done on site, the painting afterwards.

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Japanese bush pen with water soluble ink.

The raven was completely black, but that felt like it would be too much.  After “melting” the ink line to create volume I added just a touch or two of color.

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Wowl is the poster child of the bird sanctuary and my absolute  favorite!

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Butter, Eggs, and the Cutest Chick Contest

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Fountain pen, watercolor on HP w/c paper (handmade journal, 8X10″ spread)

Saturday my intrepid sketch-buddy Carole and I attended Petaluma’s famous Butter and Eggs Festival along with a good portion of the population of the north bay area.  We set our sites on the Cutest Chick contest which was held in the middle of Kentucky street and consisted of a mob scene of parents with be-feathered babes waiting for their moment on stage before the judges.  Clearly the babes had not been asked if they wanted this honor, and there were parents wondering “What was I thinking?!” Nevertheless it was an event which brought smiles to all.

We insinuated ourselves in the middle of it, sketchbooks open and pen at the ready.  These drawings were done in this fashion, standing, and later painted when we rested in the coffee shop.

buttereggs

I was experimenting with the Pentel brush pen with the drawing on the left. This dark pen is often good for anchoring the dark values with painterly marks (see Mark Taro Holmes)  But the effect with babies the effect seemed too harsh, so I put it away.  There were in fact feathers floating everywhere, and I could imagine the local craft stores selling out of their feathers.  Or maybe, since it is after all Petaluma, famous as the home of chickens and eggs, they were gleaning from chicken coops!  There were also a lot of orange rubber gloves on or falling off of little feet.

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The streets were also full of booths of all kinds from food and crafts to petting animals and donkey rides for the city slickers. These ducks were molting with their high fashion poof hats.  There wasn’t much action, since we caught them at nap time.

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By the time I found a donkey that was not carrying children slowly down the street out of sight, the sun was beating down rather fiercely, and I got out my emergency sunscreen.  Mistake.  Never put your sunscreen on while you’re sketching, because it gets on the paper and acts as a resist for the paint!  But better than burning I guess.  .

cucinoparadiso

I use my sketchbook for all kinds of drawing play. This one on the left was a homework assignment in the new Sketchbook Skool course titled “Stretching”.  Basically it’s an ink blot (blotted over to the opposite page) doodle.  The exercise is to drip ink, blot, draw with a wide dip pen and ink.

So we’re still in Petaluma, and are wearing out with watching the interminable parade with every band and civic group and school and etc. walking slowly by, and we duck into a restaurant to eat in peace and do some more sketching.  I open the page to the blue/black ink blot and am inspired to sketch the couple sitting beneath a painting.

The World’s Best Model

woodrow1

 

Sketching Woodrow in Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Do you see the green/blue behind the horse’s tail?  That’s the swimming hole by our campsite that we frequented each afternoon and had practically to ourselves.  One day we heard a ninnying and found this beautiful Arabian there in the shade, his human family in the shade below.  Excited, I got my chair and sat in front of him, Woodrow the horse that is, and commenced to sketching.

Well, I’ve sketched chickens and goats and sheep and cows and dogs and cats, all of which resulted in quick sketching, as in glance/memorize/hope for the best.  This noble creature almost stood still for me.  And can you imagine a more perfect subject for sketching?

woodrow

A Dreamer on a Walk

crinkled masa paper, sumi collage, inks on w/c paper

she’s a dreamer on a walk
and always the birds
and the wondering
the movement at her feet
a nest of quail so careless
to build a home so low
vulnerable
she will be their protector
but how
how to secure life
without smothering it
how to let it be free
and still safe

I have a baby chick who is not well. I even lost sleep over it last night I think. Kept picturing its eyes half closed, so still, and me the only creature to keep it safe and well, but how?  It’s a bit better today, but I will take no credit for this.  Time is what’s needed and a safe place.

These concerns always work their way into the art.  This piece was a demo in last weekend’s SAturday Muse Group where we worked with crinkled Masa paper, painting onto its damp surface and later using it for collage over the first piece.

One Smart Chick

Acrylic on canvas, 30 X 24″

My latest painting in the chicken series.  This chicken is about three times life sized, which is how a chicken feels when you get down on their level and look them in the eyes.  Undoubtedly it’s the effect of the direct, unblinking gaze and threat of a sharp beak so close to one’s eyes.  They’re not really threatening – it can just feel disconcerting in certain moments.  Our cat Phil knows all about that and he hunts birds for dinner.  But the chickens are positively unnerving to him!

The Dog Named Bear

Bear, watercolor on 300 lb CP paper, 22 X 26″

I paint the occasional pet portrait.  This gargantuan dog named Bear was a particular challenge.  The owner wanted a large painting to go over the fireplace in the family room. Because the family was local I was able to take my own photos, and I really lucked out when the cat named Bart showed up in one of the shots looking through the window!  That was the easy part.  But a big, black dog with only the tiniest spot of white to offset the big blackness – that is a challenge to a painter. So I invented some red and blue and even a bit of green to enliven the picture.  Happily the owner saw her gentle giant in the portrait and was pleased!  Whew!