It is an awesome responsibility and honor to create a portrait of remembrance. I was touched by my collector's love for her two dogs, Odie, who had recently passed away, and Orca. The pair shared a special bond and this piece is a terrific example of how individual identities meet and meld into a unique relationship, a sort of evolved oneness. Ultimately this piece is neither about Orca or Odie, It's about how they related to one another as individuals and the choices and life they shared together.
CONCEPT & THUMBNAILS & COLOR PALETTE
In the case of a commissioned portrait, I begin with research and interviews. I explore the subjects behavior, diet, and home. I think of breeds the same way we think of our own human ancestry, and I consider stories about the subject, as well as how they relate to the members of their family. With this information I imagine who this creature might be and sketch out ideas of how they would appear in a portrait of themselves. For example, Orca and Odie kept checks and balances on one another - Odie's loving and free spirit complimented and challenged Orca, whose herding background informed her practical nature and desire to keep tabs on her family, especially Odie!
My approach to color in a commissioned work is both a consideration for my collectors taste, while also taking into consideration the different emotional or symbolic interpretation a color can represent. For example, we decided on a cool jewel tone palette. In Orca & Odie the outdoors, and in particular water, in it's many forms were important to the pair. Within the range of jewel tone colors, I created an abstract geode looking background representative of the cool and fresh alpine feeling of dancing water and twinkling snow. It's important to know my color palette before I begin painting with gouache — unlike acrylic and oil, gouache doesn’t allow one to simply paint over something unliked. The colors I select are part of the story the painting tells and emphasize the animal’s identity.
Before I begin painting, I draw a realistic rendering of my subject(s) in graphite. In Orca & Odie I had to consider the relation of their size and builds for accuracy and correct proportions. Orca has more pointed features, but a thick and ample coat of fur, whereas Odie had a boxy, muscular build with very short fur. Once the drawing is finalized, I erase my pencil work until it is just barely visible. The faint pencil marks are essential because I use my line work as a map to block in color, but it is important that I erase enough so that the pencil marks do not show through the paint.
I typically begin by blocking out the background color or the outfit, and then I apply a number of translucent washes to the face to develop the structure and depth through gradual shading. As my work progresses, the opacity of my paint increases, my brushes get smaller, and the painted details more exact. I spend hours painting individual hairs and blending until I am satisfied with the detail in my work.
How do I know when I’m finished? There is a certain level of precision detail that appears finished to me. I no longer see areas wanting for more — more hairs, speckles, sheen, shading etc… it’s a combination of experience and a gut feeling.
My portraits go beyond a likeness of the subject, they celebrate individuality, capture the spirit, and encapsulate stories, all of which bring the piece to life.
I created this space to showcase my past work, chronicle my current projects, and share my inspiration.