I keep having this dream that I’m lying in a big field of tall grass, and the wind is blowing and the sun is shining. I can’t imagine where I’m getting that idea. I’ve never even been outdoors.
Mr. Sunshine is channeling my painting, “Apple Trees on a Windy Day”, on the easel above him. Read more about this painting in my shop on Etsy.
Well, at first glance there’s not much difference between the second post on this portrait and this final version until you look a little closer at the details. At this final stage I add textures where necessary, even out the highlights and shadows, make sure the color palette hasn’t shifted and make sure all subjects are the right shape and proportion.
It’s surprising how easily these details can throw things off if I’m not careful. Up to the final passes for details, I was working over the entire portrait each time, mostly to work out the palette and settle the details of shape and proportion and keeping an overall vision for the portrait. Getting down to details focuses on one are or another and that’s when things move and change.
Here Peaches not only has patches of color, but she also has fur, divining her texture from the blanket. However, in working the highlight from her chin down her chest and adding the nice soft haze of white fur I managed to work the leading edge of her fur out too far and in the process added a few pounds of weight! Poor Peaches, she doesn’t need that sort of thing, but when I removed it I had also drawn over the hazy trees outside the window and had to redraw them.
I clarified the flowers to see each of the petals, and went back and forth with the shade of pink. I had originally used a brighter pink which was not accurate and was too bright for the painting, so I toned that down with a slightly browner pink. I also shifted the blanket from the original bright blue to more of a teal shade to coordinate with elements in the curtains, which would also be in the person’s room, and the blanket’s highlights are blended so it looks fuzzy and soft. The highlights on the vase had made it look very shiny though it wasn’t, and those extreme reflections were also a little harsh for the soft tone of this portrait, so they got toned down.
The most important detail, the sweetest part of the whole image, was Peaches’ face where she has it happily pressed into the flower, her eyes closed, the sunlight shining through the flower petals coloring her fur. That had to be perfect, not photographically so, but in spirit. I enjoyed working many other areas of this portrait, but capturing the gentle shadings and gentle details of her face, her chin and neck and her ear were my favorite part of this portrait.
It will be given as a gift a little before Christmas, and I’ve shipped the framed piece to my customer. I can’t wait to hear what she thinks, and then how her friend reacts. I’m always honored to be trusted with another’s gift, and so happy to be a part of its giving.
Read all the articles about this 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.
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.
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:
Bidding is closed on this print, but you can still purchase one on my website.
Peaches is 20 this year, and though it doesn’t really work out this way, she is nominally 100 years in human years. Now that’s reason for a celebration!
I’ve written about Peaches several times since I’ve been blogging (and even before that), probably more often than any other cat in my household. She came to me five years ago with her sister for me to foster after their owner died and they were almost euthanized because the woman’s son thought it would be cruel for them to spend their last days in a shelter. We lost Peaches’ sister Cream to renal failure about ten months after they arrived, but Peaches quietly integrated her little self into the household without incident and even increased her health while here.
I’ll be writing more about Peaches in the next two weeks leading up to May 1, the day we’ll be celebrating. In addition, other bloggers will be sharing stories and tips and poems and art around all of our blogs about living with and caring for older cats and other animals.
Let’s Get Started
I am offering to the highest bidder a signed 10″ x 16″ giclee* print of “Peaches and Peonies”, the proceeds of which auction will be donated to FosterCat.
How to Bid
- Bidding begins April 18, 2010 and continues through midnight on May 1, 2010.
- The opening bid is $25.00
- In the “comments” section of this blog, please enter your bid amount and any message you’d like to include. If by any chance you cannot enter a comment, please e-mail your bid to me and I will enter it into the comments section according to its time stamp so that all bids will remain in order; please only do this if there is no other way to enter your bid.
- At midnight on May 1, I will review the comments for the highest bid and inform the winner the next day via e-mail. For this reason, please use your own account to bid so I know who it’s from.
- The highest bid is the winner, not the final bid.
- Bids entered on other blog posts or on Facebook, Twitter or any other means except commenting to this post and direct e-mail to me are not valid; believe it or not, everyone is not on Facebook or Twitter or even other social networks, but everyone who can read this message can reach the internet and can send an e-mail, so that makes the bidding fair.
- The winner will make their payment directly to FosterCat. When FosterCat has received payment, I will ship the print to the winner.
About the Painting
MEDIUM: Pastel; SIZE: 16″ x 23″; 2008, $1,500 (note that the print for auction is about half this size). There it is, that moment that turns on all the lights for me…one of my cats in the sun, the conditions that have inspired most of my portraits. Cats are creatures of habit, and Peaches chose this spot to have her after-dinner bath every day for a few weeks when the sun was right; I knew it was a keeper whether a photo or a painting, so I photographed it several times over a period of several days, knowing I’d use at least one photo or all the photos as reference to create one painted image. A painting this size and level of details is a significant investment of time, so I had to wait until my schedule allowed the night-after-night sessions with tiny sections of detail. You can also see it and read more about it on my website.
About the Print I’m Offering
I am offering a 10″ x 16″ print of this work rather than a full-size print because, first, not everyone has tons of wall space, and, second, framing would be less expensive—in fact, this print will fit into a pre-made 16″ x 20″ frame that includes a mat so you can save on custom framing.
About Giclee and Why It’s Valuable
Giclee printing uses special light-fast archival inks and is printed directly from a digital file, which is the most direct and accurate method of reproducing artwork. Prints can be made on many different papers—I use a matte-finish acid-free archival paper—and at just about any size, and when kept out of direct sunlight will keep their original color for at least 100 years. It’s decidedly a limited edition because I’m getting only one print at a time. This print is worth $75.00.
Foster Cat, Inc. is an all-volunteer non-profit organization providing temporary foster homes for cats and kittens until they can be placed for adoption. The organization provides training and support, medications, food and litter as needed, and absorbs all veterinary expenses associated with the care of their kitties. They’ve rescued, fostered and found homes for many, many older and senior cats and I’d like to help them in their mission.
Good luck! Peaches and I would like to know we can give FosterCat a pile of money to help them help other cats like Peaches.
Other articles celebrating Peaches’ 100th Birthday
On The Conscious Cat
On Catnip Chronicles
Donate to FosterCat Through Other Blogs and Websites
Other articles about Peaches
This is a short list—Peaches appears in many articles I’ve written on my household, on pet loss, and even some silly things I’ve written on my website before I had a blog! Search “peaches” in the search box for more articles.
That “blue time of day”…a quick walk in the woods after a heavy snowfall as the sun set on the distant horizon, bare trees like sentinels. This time of day always carries a certain melancholy for me, as if a deep instinctive part of me realizes the sun is about to leave and may not come back. The moment stands in all its silent beauty along Robinson Run in Collier Township, on a trail running parallel to the Panhandle Trail.
Every once in a while I do a painting that comes straight from the heart. I wandered onto this scene one Sunday evening after a quick, heavy snowfall with only my camera. I photographed it, intending to come back to do a painting–difficult as that would be at this time of day when the light changes so quickly. But by noon the next day the snow had melted significantly, and then I waited for similar conditions for two years with no significant snowfall around the right time, about 5:00 p.m. in mid January, or early December as the time of day and light would be about the same.
I couldn’t wait any longer and began with my photos and ended with my vision, this painting, Dusk in the Woods. You can also visit this work and other related works on my website in Landscapes or Art of the Watershed.
And there is a cat connection with this painting. My precious Moses was nearing her end as I worked on it, me all through the night at my easel, her at my feet, every day losing a little more physical control as, at 19, her body just began giving out. I needed a project as big as this to bear the process of her loss, and in turn my strength and calm as I worked helped Moses. I will always connect this painting with her, and those late nights when I disappeared into this scene in order to paint it from memory.
In addition, I will always be happy that the original was purchased by the couple who helped to conserve this very spot along the Panhandle Trail, and, in fact, live above it at the top of the hill.
I sell this image as a 5″ x 7″ greeting card, and I also have a range of prints both framed and unframed, from inexpensive digital prints beginning at 8″ x 10″ all the way up to the highest quality giclee prints at the full size of the painting, 31″ x 24″. I also carry it in a woven cotton blanket, mentioned earlier in this blog–in fact, this painting inspired me to have those blankets made in the first place!