Pet portrait

Festival of Feathers

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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.

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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.  .

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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

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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?

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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!

Aussie Canine enthusiasm!

adelaide“Adelaide”, watercolor, 20 X 14″

When someone approaches me about doing a portrait of their pet, usually a dog, I ask – what is the most familiar and endearing pose for you pet?  You know, the one that melts your heart.

Well, this particular pet parent said it was when Adelaide, her Australian Shepherd, jumped up at the kitchen window where she was looking out.  An unusual request for a portrait, but I was game.

So in my back yard Adelaide performed her remarkable jumping act while I snapped numerous pictures.  A particular challenge to paint, I must admit.  Give me the seated, head tilted, paw up and tongue out pose any day, but a dog in the air?!  Well, here she is, the flying wonder dog!