Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bard - Scottie To The Rescue

As I said last time, I didn't have a good reference for Bard and ran into trouble modeling his shoulder. After going through my horse's photo album (he has his own, just like my kids), I found one good photo with sunlight coming from the correct position and was able to use it to help me place the highlights and shadows on Bard's shoulder and neck. It even shows Scottie with his head turned similar to Bard's pose. I still ran into trouble, though, since Scottie's shoulder is more lean than Bard's. After several phone interruptions and one angering phone call in particular, I got disgusted, wiped off all I'd done to that point, and started over. The second attempt went better and soon Bard had a believable shoulder, complete with highlights.

I finished up for the day by adjusting the neck, painting in the mane and adding more highlight to the head and then called it a night. All that's left to do now is repaint the background, which I'll do today. Then I can put it aside to dry, sign it and wait until it's dry enough to varnish.

Thanksgiving will be so much more pleasant knowing that Bard is at long last finished and can go to his owner next month.

Click on Bard's image to see it on my website. The other image is the reference I used of my horse Scottie. That's my daughter holding him.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bard-Entering the Home Stretch

Although the light was better, yesterday was somewhat of a frustrating painting day. The problem is that I don't have good reference for Bard's neck and shoulder in sunlight from the right angle. The main reference was taken on an overcast day so does not have good highlights or shadows, and it's the highlights and shadows that give the horse his form.

Anatomy books are only so much help because what you see on the real horse or a photograph doesn't correspond to the superficial muscles. That's because the underlying muscles and bones also make up the form: the lines, curves, dips and bumps that one sees on every horse if you study closely. And every horse is just a little bit different from every other horse.

So, when working from poor references, one has to rely a lot on knowledge of anatomy, past memories of observations and knowledge of where the highlights and shadows would fall when the light source is coming from a specific direction. Sometimes you just have to "wing it" and try various things until the image looks right. Unfortunately, I never reached that point yesterday and gave up when it was time to watch "CSI".

So, today's version is not quite there yet. The shoulder definitely needs to be redone, and the neck needs more highlights. I may just draft one of my Breyer model horses, a stocky Quarter Horse like Bard, to show me where the highlights should be for the next time I paint. Until then, I'm letting the paint dry. It wasn't quite dry enough in places yesterday which meant the former layer lifted off as I painted over it even though the layers are fairly thin.

Still, I have the satisfaction of knowing that the painting is entering the home stretch, which is always a good feeling. As usual, click on the image above to see a larger version on my website.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Painting and Tweaking - Bard

We've had incredibly gloomy weather for the past week or so which has made photographing Bard difficult. But today is quite a bit brighter (although the wind is howling and the snow blowing), and I was able to get a good photograph of Bard without the easel light, making for more even lighting over the canvas.

Last Friday before I left, I managed to squeeze in 45 minutes of painting time and threw a light coat of paint on the shoulder and neck. The purpose was twofold. First to reach a color tone that was closer to the head and second to add another layer of paint so that there would be the same number of layers, roughly, on all parts of the horse.

This week I've tweaked the head a little more and am now working on the neck. Yesterday the light was so low in the studio, even with all the lights on, that it was hard to work, so I didn't do a whole lot. I hope to get much more done today as soon as I finish this post.

In case you're wondering, Bard is not a particularly overweight horse. He has a cresty neck because he was a stallion for the first 6-8 years of his life. It's hard to believe that this docile, mellow horse was once a snorting stallion. He does definitely "come to life", however, out on the trail sometimes since he LOVES to go for trail rides and gets impatient with a slow pace.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Whole Lotta Tweaking Going On!

So much for best laid plans.

Despite my best intentions, and because of some necessary business phone calls, I was not able to progress to Bard's neck and shoulder today. However, I did spend the whole painting time tweaking here and there, correcting and adding more highlights and also his forelock. The good news is that I'm calling the head finished. I've reached that point where my artist intuition tells me that if I tweak anymore, I'll just muck things up.

I'm quite disappointed that I wasn't able to get farther today, but the hardest part is at least done, and next week I'll have plenty of time to continue. I was momentarily tempted to just keep painting until late evening, but that would have meant postponing the packing until tomorrow and that would have delayed my departure for Atlanta until way too late. Besides, it's not a good idea to paint when tired. It can be decidedly counter productive. So, Bard will just have to wait until next week.

You should be able to see a bigger difference today. Adding the forelock changed his look quite a bit. His forelock always seems to be a bit disheveled, so that's how I painted it.

Again, you can click on the image above to see a nice large version on my website.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Peppermint Kid Update

There was no progress on Bard yesterday due to an allergy attack that leveled me for the day and required an afternoon nap; something I never do unless I'm sick or exhausted. Cleaning out closets and drawers brought it on due to all the dust stirred up.

But, today was another story. After a run to Traverse City for an appointment and a stop at the Goodwill to drop off former closet inhabitants, I was able to get in an hour of painting before dinnertime. Click on the image above to see a larger version of today's progress on my website.

I was quite happy with today's progress. As you can see, Bard now has a real eye. I also did some more resculpting of his face and added some lighter highlights. They will need another application to bring them up even more, but they're good for now and serve as a guide for the final touches. They were mostly dry brushed on which proved to be too subtle, so next time the application will be heavier.

Tomorrow I plan to paint most of the day and hope to have Bard pretty much finished before we head for Deer Camp on Friday. By the time we return, he'll be dry enough for the final touches and a final background layer.

Today's photo was again taken using the easel light, so the lighting isn't even and has washed out the upper half. Perhaps I can get a better one tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Peppermint Kid Again

Last week was one of those weeks when you meet yourself coming and going.

I gathered together note cards and prints to take to the gallery, wrapped and inventoried them and rushed up there just before closing time on Thursday so that she would have them for the weekend. I did get another print colored but didn't have time to scan it, so you'll just have to wait until I color another one to see how they look. It did look nice, and I hope it sells - and quickly, too!

Attempts to print more business cards were nothing short of frustrating and were not successful. The images in the new software were all pixelly, so I gave up on that until later.

On another day, I had my teeth cleaned, got my overdue allergy shots and took the board check to the barn. No visit or grooming this time since I was in good clothes, didn't have my knee brace on, and the horses were wayyyy at the far end of the pasture and down the steep hill.

Tuesday was taken up with standing in line to vote and watching the election coverage and returns. "We" won, but really the whole country won because now we can go forward under new leadership and new ideas.

Did I mention a haircut fit in somewhere?

There were also last minute preparations for the meeting with our financial guru, laundry, groceries and preparations for our trip to Ann Arbor to see my mother in the nursing home and our daughter who has a new job. After the financial meeting on Friday, we said good bye to the cats and headed south. Fortunately, we had good driving and a good visit because on Sunday it started snowing. Monday morning we awoke to snow on the ground, our first of the season, and the definite look and feel of winter in the air.

Putting all that behind me, I got back to work on Bard, aka The Peppermint Kid, yesterday and made some progress. He may not look very different, but take my word for it; the red is toned down. I found a recipe for "his" color in a book and found that it worked quite well. By mixing cadmium orange and viridian green, I got a nice yellowish brown tone. By adding in some cadmium yellow light and raw umber and white, I had all the highlights and shadows I needed and managed to redo his face by bedtime. I remodelled parts of his profile, made the eye smaller and the cheek fuller and think that he now looks more like the real version. His head still needs more work, and I'd like to finish his eye today before proceeding to the neck.

Over all, I'm pleased with the progress and hope to finish Bard up this week or next at the latest.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Plan Ahead!!

Something about Bard's painting has been nagging at me, and I've been reluctant to continue with it until figuring out just what. I knew his head was not quite right but couldn't put my finger on just where it was wrong until I printed out some of the reference photos last weekend. In studying them for what must have been the 24th time, I noticed for the first time that he has a dip and then a convex curve to his nasal bone. "That's it!" I shouted to myself. It was a Eureka! moment. In comparing the painting to those photos, the difference was at last visible.

The other thing that's been bothering me is a nagging feeling that the color in the photos wasn't accurate, so on Thursday I took my prints to the barn and compared them to the real Bard. Yup, they are way too red. Bard is more of a dun color without dun factors, which means that his coat is more brassy and gold than red and orange. Boy, was I glad then that I hadn't continued with the painting, because it would have meant painting him all over again!

Of course I should have planned ahead, printed out those photos sooner and taken them to the barn months ago. But I didn't for a variety of reasons that we need not reveal here. It's best not to go there. Now that I have things figured out, I'm eager to get to painting again, but the next few weeks are really chopped up with appointments, meetings and a trip to Ann Arbor. I've resigned myself to the idea that I'm just going to have to paint in little bits of time whenever I can fit it in and not worry about paint drying too fast or any of that. Bard has been on the back burner far too long as it is. He needs to be finished and out the door so that I can get back to other artwork and finally have some new finished works to put up for sale.

Speaking of which, sales this year have been particularly dismal what with the economy problems and all. It's been quite a long time since I took any prints or note cards up to the gallery in Central Lake which was pretty much out of all of my work, so yesterday I gathered some prints and note cards and then did something I haven't done for several years. Back when I was doing booth shows, I hand colored some of my early black and white prints, and they sold really well. It occured to me that now might be a good time to try that again. Above you can see the results of a hand colored version of my print, "Gotta Scratch". It took me about an hour to layer on the colors with colored pencils while watching TV, and I plan to do many more of these for holiday sales for the gallery and for my website.

In the past I hand colored another older print which also sold well. When I get one done, I'll show that one to you, too. We artists are doing anything we can think of to offer something new yet inexpensive to our collectors in these dismal economic times when everyone is cutting back and waiting to see what the future brings. This is definitely something I can do until I have new paintings to offer. The hand colored prints will be offered at a slightly higher price and offer something that is one of a kind for a very attractive price.

Hopefully, it's a win-win for artist and collector and a good plan for the days ahead.