I was working on Lassie’s portrait when I initiated The Creative Cat, so she was the very first I featured just about three years ago today.
Lassie was with her mom for 15 years and had just passed when her mom first called me. She was in nursing school and would graduate in the spring, and would like Lassie’s portrait for her graduation when family would be in town. A very special collie I could see by her photos, the two of them side by side into the college years and a new city.
Details like Lassie’s head tilt were very important. This face is the expressive, intelligent face her mom always remembered, when Lassie knew just what she was thinking. I just wish I’d had a slightly better digital camera then to show more of the detail here.
Lassie’s mom decided she wanted to remember Lassie in the outdoors so the portrait would have a scenic background, and its final shape would be determined by the scene. She didn’t have a photo of a favorite place, but they both enjoyed visiting parks and trails, and I have plenty of photos of places like that I began designing with autumn backgrounds; colorful and familiar, they are very popular in canine portraits and I’ve added my autumn scenes to several other dog portraits.
However, Lassie kept blending into the background colors because her fur is primarily amber to brown, the same as the leaves we see, so I chose a late summer background of a rocky little stream and a row of trees in the background. The deep green of late summer grass shows off her fur to perfection and the glow of evening sun warms the scene. There was originally a tree in the near background, but I needed to get a little more detail on Lassie before I could find the best placement for the it so it won’t be distracting, and in the end we decided to leave it out.
Painting portraits of animals is plenty fulfilling and enjoyable, but I also love to paint my local landscapes so here was a painting that would be exciting in both respects, a landscape, and an animal. Not only have I worked for years to learn my palette and techniques for fur and wet noses, but also for landscapes. Here is a detail of the strip of woods from the top of the painting.
I thought I’d include a progress photo where the background is half done, moving from left to right, and Lassie will need her last details done, but that will be after the background is completed. Working in pastel, the colors dust over each other, especially with heavy coverage like this background and the contrasting colors.
In addition, here are two detail areas that I particularly like, the rocks on the left, and the rocks and grass on the right.
While the original portrait may look completely detailed in Lassie and in the landscape, a close-up look shows that many of the details are literally sketchy, just soft indications of light and shadow that when viewed together appear as they should.
Again, I wish I’d had a better digital camera then! I like to show these details not only for your enjoyment, but for those who have told me you are learning from these portraits as well.
Reading things like this, in books and magazines in my day, and I still have many, was largely how I learned to do some of the things I do. I’m glad to pass it along.
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Now that I found the right shade of dark green, the background looks much more complete; note that in yesterday’s proof the background was only complete halfway across, but now the entire thing looks done.
Lassie needs to be toned into the background now that its tones are pretty much in place. The darker grass around her keeps photographing darker yet; I’m using my smaller digital and it tends to enhance contrasts, so it’s making her a little lighter and the grass a little darker. Her mid-range tones are there, but she needs to have shadows on her legs and the shadows within her fur completed, then the highlights.
And now that her tones are nearly correct, I think her expression, the perk of her ears and the tilt of her head are that much more clear as well—I just love that head tilt, and I feel like she’s speaking to me when I look at her.
Lassie’s portrait is nearly done, though I haven’t been able to photograph her too frequently so I haven’t done the progress updates, but here she is as of Sunday, April 5. The background is half done, moving from left to right, and Lassie will need her last details done, but that will be after the background is completed. Working in pastel, the colors dust over each other, especially with heavy coverage like this background and the contrasting colors. She’ll be a little green for a while until I get the background done, then I’ll work out her final details. I’ll probably post a new update tomorrow after today’s work, especially since it’s nice and sunny today!
A very special collie, I can see by her photos, and with her mom for 15 years, Lassie will have her portrait done.
Lassie’s mom decided to have a scenic background in the portrait, and since they both enjoyed visiting parks and trails I began with autumn backgrounds; colorful and familiar, they are very popular in canine portraits.
However, Lassie kept blending into the background colors because her fur is primarily amber to brown, the same as the leaves we see, so I chose a late summer background of a rocky little stream and a row of trees in the background. The deep green of late summer shows off her fur to perfection. There is also a tree in the near background, but I need to get a little more detail on Lassie so that I can find the best placement for the tree so it won’t be distracting.
I’ll be posting images as I work, then the final when it’s done.