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World, meet Brodie. He’s a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and he’s a great little guy.

Brodie is a handsome young man, isn’t he? My sister commissioned a portrait of him to hang in the home that they’ve been working really hard to restore for the better part of 2010. I finished the painting in October, but wanted to get pictures of it in its new home, and with Brodie, before I shared this project with you. You might think that the portrait is somewhat cartoonish. It’s not! This is probably the most realistic painting I’ve ever done- Brodie just happens to be a cartoon dog! His head is REALLY BIG when you compare it to his body. See?

I started off the project by taking a bunch of pictures of Brodie. He’s a good subject, but he does move a lot. And he likes to lick his lips. I wanted to get his fancy brindled coat as accurate as possible, since he lives in the home that the painting was to hang in- I can’t imagine how annoyed I’d be when I went to visit and some of his spots were off. My sister and her husband had a favorite (phone) picture of him that they wanted me to use for his facial expression though, so I used the photos that I took for his posture and the picture on my phone for his face, to work out a sketch.

Originally we talked about a solid yellow or orange background, but I had a really hard time with the artificial Tang/Mac-n-Cheeze orange feeling that the chosen orange gave me. Here’s my sketch transferred onto the canvas using a loose grid technique. It can be really hard to keep the proportions the same from a sketch that you’re happy with to the larger finished product, so my advice is to take it slow, be patient, and step back from your work often to check it out. I devoted an evening to getting the sketch on to the canvas, and could have taken more time! Here’s the sketch on the canvas, with two layers of that horrendous color (note the blobs of color on the sketch above where I tested various mixtures of the acrylic paint to get the perfect shade…) See how loose the sketch is, and how many revisions I made? Erasing would mess with the texture of the canvas, so don’t do that! Keep it light and loose at first, and then build up the pencil lines on the lines as they fall into the right places:

I have an art degree, but I didn’t do much painting in school. I did a lot of printmaking, so I tend to work in layers when I paint. I have a strong feeling that it’s probably not the best technique, but it works for me. I didn’t take photos of my process, because while working in layers, things don’t tend to look very good until the end. Also, I needed to focus! My sister was coming to visit, and I wanted to have the portrait ready for her to take home.
Once I decided that the awful color in the background just wouldn’t do, I used a sponge to put smudgy wet layers of charcoal and brown paint down, to complement his coat, as well as the color of the wall that the painting was going to hang on. After the background was done, I alternated white, white-pink, and gray layers on Brodie’s tummy, while alternating black, black-brown, and grey layers on his dark spots and nose, with a final shot of white, caramel (in the brindling of his coat), and black for that one warty whisker at the end:

I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. I was really excited when my sister and I decided that a stuffy, regal portrait style would be really funny with his goofy face. I am hoping that they’ll get a really ornate frame for it, but we’ll see. I’ll let you know. But here’s the painting in its home, waiting to be placed on the wall. I hope that the painting offers their little family much joy for years to come.

Over the summer I became good buddies with a fellow painter, who is dating one of my best friends. His name is Blaine, and he’s fabulous. We became fast friends, made art together, and then he took off to live in a city two hours away from here. And he took my friend with him! RUDE! Still, we had a blast, and he got me out of the house every week or so for a painting night. Here are two of the paintings I made with him- the one above he wants to trade me some of his work for, but I won’t give it up until I have the promised something to hang in its place.
Here’s another one I did- I covered up a painting I’d started a few years ago (sorry Charles, I know it was one of the few pieces of art in the world that you liked), but I didn’t like where it was going, so it just kind of sat there. Gathering dust. No good! Now it’s hanging right next to me. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a blue-green slut. Evidence:

Both paintings are 30×40 inches. These days I am pretty into abstract art; anything too literal is too much of a commitment for me. Perhaps it’s because I’m looking at all of my work from when I was in school, and it so quickly brings back all of the feelings that I poured into it, and though I suppose that the communication of said emotions is the point of that work, it’s not what I want to hang in my home and look at every day. So the blue green one reminds me of oceans and dreams, and the yellow and grey one was inspired by one of my favorite bands, VNV Nation. Can you see it?
With each painting (and with most of the media I work with) there are several layers. I like painting big like this because it’s so tactile, and I can feel it out, rather than planning each step rigidly like I do with printmaking. (I have a block to cut, which I’ll blog about later; in the meantime, here is an example of one of my relief prints, and here is one of my serigraph prints.)
I’m a few layers in to a triptych, but those I’ve been working on for some time. I need to get to it! I get to a certain point in my layers where it looks so far removed from the outcome I desire that I lose momentum. And the distraction of cooking, baking, mommying, sewing and living don’t seem to help either.

My sister had borrowed my acrylic paints a while back, planning to make a large abstract painting to decorate her bedroom. So a few weeks ago, we decided to make a painting date- to just do it, because this girl has been hanging on to my art supplies for a year now. But she was unable to bring her too-big canvas along on her last visit, so I started this one, to show her how quickly you could make abstract art… but mine ended up taking a lot longer.
A few hours before she showed up a few Saturdays ago, I covered the canvas in 2 different shades of blue- Ultramarine and Pthalocyanine. The darker color being on the outside edges, and more so on the bottom half of the piece, to give it some weight. I just squirted the paint from the tube, and spread it on using horizontal brushstrokes, using a 3 inch brush I got years ago at the hardware store. I ended up using 2 large tubes to cover this 36×48″ canvas, and it took me about 40 minutes. I was also certain to cover the edges of the canvas! My sister walked in with my mom and saw this blue on blue sea and said “that’s exactly what I want,” but of course I couldn’t leave it at that. I had to add those black circles, which I added a gel medium to. It thickened up the paint and gives it A LOT of texture. I mixed it about half and half. It also made it more opaque, which I don’t like the look of, so I went back after they dried and put some more black paint over them, without the gel medium. To add contrast, I encircled those circles with apple green lines… they were like glow in the dark! So of course, I had to add a wash (paint and water mixed 50-50) over the entire thing. And voila! Here we have it. I’m still debating on putting a varnish on it… I read that acrylics are very susceptible to dust and debris over time, but also that varnishes can act as a solvent and cause the painting to go mushy. Any thoughts or advice would be so appreciated.

Here’s the painting in its home over our bed: