Studio Cats

black cat on drawing table

Giuseppe is ready to start painting.

Giuseppe says he’s ready to start painting.

Just about everyone comes with me when I go upstairs to paint or downstairs to do laundry. The laundry is fine, but, much as I love them all, I really don’t want them walking around on my stuff in my studio, whether I’m on my table or at my easel. This is a challenge, especially for the big four who have to investigate everything I touch, and for Cookie and Kelly, who have always enjoyed being near me while I worked.

black cat bathing

Mr. Sunshine takes me seriously.

The secret is to get everything ready and sit down with another project, either reading or crochet, and let them all mill about and do their thing.  After ten or fifteen minutes they’ve learned as much as they want and gone off to settle down for a nap after working extremely hard. In today’s case, everyone was upstairs, at least four of them sleeping on a bed on the floor in my studio and at one point all of them were in there. It’s an 8 x 10 room; things were a little crowded.

In the end, I said we needed to clean up, and Mr. Sunshine interpreted that as any self-respecting kitty would do.

The New Portrait, Second View

proof of portrait

Second proof of the new portrait

Among other things I’ve been working on the new portrait, and here is the latest update. Today I had the opportunity to work on it during the afternoon (with much feline assistance and supervision) and still had daylight to photograph when I’d finished my session.

I’ve been working more on color issues than finish work, determining the final set of tones for a unified overall composition. Some color combinations you can get away with in a photo but they don’t work well in a painting because the painting image is enlarged and I think our eyes are willing to overlook certain things in photographs understanding that we don’t always have as much control as we’d like. I also don’t mind changing the colors in a portrait from the actual to ones that suit the subject better.

The blue blanket is nearly one-third the height of the portrait and carries a good bit of the color in the painting. It’s a lovely rich shade of blue but looked jarring with the more pastel shades of teal and peach in the rest of the painting as I had continued to work. I put it up on the easel and looked at it for a few days and didn’t get accustomed to the combination and still felt it looked out of place, and so decided to change the blue to a muted teal.  It’s partway through that transformation in this version.

detail of portrait

Detail of upper left.

Once I’d decided on that, I’ve done more toward completing the background than the subject, and this is typical at this point. Technically, pastel is just plain dusty and the areas that are completed first tend to get dusted over with later colors. I do brush this off, but Peaches the kitty and her flower will decidedly have more detail than the rest of the painting and as much as I want to get to her fur and the flower petals I’d rather dust errant peach and pink and gray pastel off the background than dust teal and green from her.

There is a pile of books on the table, another flower in a vase and some other things behind the curtain in the left corner, but aside from pulling out some interesting details like the corners of the books I’d rather leave these with less detail. There needs to be some restful areas in a portrait like this, even if they have shape like the blanket, so that your eye comes first to the subject. I may add a little more to this corner, and I’ll probably bring the green more toward the teal but not match it exactly to give the portrait some depth.

detail of portrait

Detail of window view.

Outside the window was another area I worked out today. I’d been debating about the deck railing and the trees. I had already decided I’d keep the deck railing because it also added depth to the scene; when I sketched up a version without it the scene looked more flat. I also wasn’t sure I wanted the pattern of the trees right behind Peaches and her flower and originally sketched it in as shades of blue and white as sky and clouds. But I loved the way the tracery of the branches and trunks appeared and it reinforces that this is indeed a window not just a light-colored area so I kept them muted so not to interfere with the main subject.

I don’t make changes lightly, though, since the scene is often one so familiar to the people who commission me. Something that may seem trifling or indistinct to me may be part of a treasured memory. I’ll meet in the middle.

Next time I’ll probably get that blanket under control and finish off the background, and finally I’ll be able to work on Peaches!

Read all the articles about this portrait:

A New Portrait

The New Portrait, Second View

The New Portrait Final

Visit Commissioned Pet Portraits on this blog, and also visit my website to see a gallery of My Cats, Commissioned Cats, Commissioned Dogs and A Portrait Demonstration.