Monday, May 19, 2014

The pitfalls of painting pets

Let me begin by saying that I am not a painter of pet portraits. I truly admire those who can stay afloat in the emotional waters of commissioned portraiture. Painting loved ones, human, furry or feathered seems fraught with danger and disappointment. It will be a cold day in you-know-where when I splash in that pool.

Well, as you know, it's been a rather cold spring...

So, I said yes to a request to paint a beloved cat - that I have never met. And honestly, cats are sort of foreign creatures to me. But a wonderful photo was provided with great colors that compliment and contrast with her tiger stripes and I thought, this could be a really nice painting!

The only thing is... the cat was lying down and the photo was vertical. It just didn't feel right to paint a horizontal cat in a vertical format (and I don't know how to "leave well enough alone"). So, to fill a horizontal canvas I needed more cat. No problem. It's a cat. There are pictures all over the internet.

But none were in a similar position, or the same color... or fluffiness. Thankfully the cat's extended family surreptitiously provided other photos and important information about her white socks! So, after looking at many, many images of cats lying down, a horizontal composition evolved and I was fairly sure it wasn't a bad likeness. Not quite the same as knowing it's a good likeness.

Cougie's Quilt ©2014 Dorothy Lorenze
And this is why I paint from life. Well, from actual (but, non-living) things. You can look at all their parts and not have to imagine the shape of a handle or softness of a surface. You can see where the shadow falls or why a reflection is where it is. And if you don't like where a shadow or reflection lands, move things and change it!

To tell the truth, I really enjoyed painting this cat's sweet face. The translucency in the ears and the reddish light that glows through that thin skin were especially fun to capture. Plus, painting fluffy fur is just sort of mesmerizing!

And I'm happy to say, my friend who commissioned the painting, was very pleased with the result. Fingers crossed that the cat's family feels the same.

Thanks for visiting and viewing my art.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Painting Home Alone

Does this ever happen to you - you go to visit to friend and she says "Oh, I have a new chair, I think you should paint it." Of course, by "new" she means old and by "paint" she means on canvas.

So, like a good guest, I holed myself up in her guest room (furnished with antiques) and painted for two days. A good host knows when to let guests entertain themselves.

work in progress ©2014 Dorothy Lorenze
After two days the painting looked OK, it was coming along. Her antique chair has great lines, warm wood tones and looks well used. It was the star of the painting, but not quite looking like a soloist.

There were perspective issues that needed fixing, but the whole painting was sort of muddy and that bothered me even more. No soloist here, more like a choir with poor diction! (for my Taghkanic Chorale friends)

I try to consider the effect, or message, of a painting as I'm working. This is not so easy while focused on what objects actually look like. Individually. Making them realistic, precise and exacting. Like learning notes in the first days of rehearsal. (you've done that, right?) This painting seems to be about anticipation. Waiting for light to brighten the day, waiting for someone to visit.

chair, window, stil life
Home Alone ©2014 Dorothy Lorenze, 9x12"
Often a title comes to me early on and for this one it was Home Alone. Not the tear-up-the-house-while-the-folks-are-out sort of "home alone." It's more about aloneness, waiting for a friend, waiting for some light.

Back in my studio with that in mind, I lightened and softened the door panels for better contrast. Also accented the light on the floor, brightened the window and refined the chair. And, my favorite (and scariest) part: wood grain for the floor, which added more warmth and homeyness to this scene.

The chair might be the soloist but, now it has good support from the ensemble. Now, I think the painting sings. Hope you like it.

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