Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hobbes again!

This cat is Hobbes. I may have mentioned this in an earlier post but repeat it here: Hobbes passed away from injuries received in an encounter with a vehicle. In an earlier entry to this blog I posted the first study of this cat. Here is a second study, again in oil paint but this time on canvas paper; the image measures about 4 x 5.75 inches. As with all the cat paintings thus far, I used only three colors plus Titanium White: Yellow ochre, venitian red; ultramaring blue..Click images for larger view.
(NOTE: I've edited this post by putting the finished/signed work in place of the photo of the work-in-progress.) 

The greenish line that appears in places where the cat form meets the background color was an accidental result that I liked well enough to leave in place. It came about as the result of three other actions: First, I'd painted the background a yellow and then, not satisfied it was the color needed there, I wiped it out with a rag. Next I painted the background a mixed green (lemon yellow and ultramarine blue) but wiped it out too. That left a bit of green in places around the edges of the cat, which I left when I decided to paint the background venitian red with a touch of yellow ochre. I liked the result and so left it.

Cat eyes -- well, any kind of eyes -- are just plain magic fun to do. I use hog hair brushes so it is a challenge to paint the details. It means you don't "worry" them. One stroke. If it's "right" then great. If not, wipe and make another stroke. I get to know the brush very well and automatically turn it one way or another to take advantage of any traits it may have developed from use and then put those to use.

With Hobbes I decided to scratch the whiskers in rather than paint them in as I'd done with the painting of Bizou in the previous post.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bizou again!

This afternoon I sketched in oil a 3.75 x 5.5 inch study on canvas paper of the cat Bizou. Bizou is the large black and white cat I posted a painting of a couple days ago. This time I focused on his head and primarily his eyes, which are interesting because they are actually bi-colored (particularly his right eye.) Again, limited palette: venetian red, ultramarine blue, naples yellow and yellow ochre (which I mixed with the background hue.) I consider this sketch essentially finished and probably won't visit it again other than to frame it. I am pleased with the eyes, especially because it's a small work  Click on the images to see them larger.
(NOTE: I've edited this post by putting the finished/signed work in place of the in-progress image.)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Urban Tree Branch - Black Cat

This painting is shown here in-progress, though I don't feel like there is much, if anything, more to paint or adjust. I rather like it just the way it is and feel like maybe all it needs most is my signature. I title this one "Urban Tree Branch" because it reminds me of how the big wild cats will drape themselves on tree branches to either snooze or keep an eye on everything below. It is oil paint on stretched canvas and measures 14 x 18 inches.  Click on any of the images to see them larger.

This painting is very loosely done and also very loosely based on a small photo reference. As always, I free-hand sketched with a number 4 filbert brush and blue/red paint. Like the little Calico kitten I posted previously, this study is done on one of my existing paintings, in this case one of my "warm-up" paintings. Below are a couple of close-ups of details from this work.

I like the accidental overlays and adjustments that happen when I work quickly, as I did with this painting. And of course, the underlying painting contributes something to the work as well. I used titanium white and just three colors here: naples yellow, ultramarine blue, and venetian red. No black.

The cat's outstretched leg and paw would seem "unfinished" but in this stage it also is highly suggestive of motion. Something for me to think about -- do I refine it more or leave it as it is. I'm inclined to do the latter.

In this last detail view, the hind side of the cat is very sketchy in appearance too. The tail pinched against the legs or partially hidden in the pink cloth that is covering the back of the upholstered sofa. Accent pillows are propped on the sofa's back and make a more interesting backdrop for the cat rather than a blank wall.

Ten days ago I started with no paintings of cats. Now I have close to 40. Gradually I will post more of these works on this blog.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cats! More Cats!

Today when I left the studio, I didn't count how many cat oil paint studies I have as of today, but I'm sure it's close to two dozen - maybe more. Here's my favorite one so far; I think it has the highest "cute" rating:

This study (and the others in this post) will be worked on a bit more - perhaps not much at all, as I'm satisfied with it as it is at this stage. Maybe all I'll do is add some whiskers. The background colors are the remnants of an earlier landscape study on this masonite panel. I like working on top of previous works and in this case, the existing pattern of colors added greatly to the white areas of the kitten's chest, belly and legs. THis painting measures 7 x 9 inches. Below are two close-ups of details from this work. First, the face. If this were a real kitten, I'd take it home!

In the next detail, the positive contribution of the underlying painting's colors is especially great in the legs and body. Click on the images in this post to see them in a larger format.

The next photos posted here are studies based on a few of the very few responses I got to a facebook posting I made several months ago when I called for 100 pets to paint in 100 days. No strings attached. The low "turn out" was disappointing (five pets from four people) so it blew my project. 
But yesterday I decided to do small studies of those pets that were submitted to the project. These are not "complete" yet, though like the kitten shown above, I might leave them as they are. The next few days at the studio will see what happens. 

This oil study is of a cat named Bizou. It is oil paint on masonite panel and measures about 5.5 x 8 inches

Here's a detail from the study of Bizou. This cat has some interesting markings on its muzzle and also two little "freckles" of color on each of its forelegs:

This next study is of a cat named Hobbes. In the photo Hobbes was stretched out on a wooden deck. The owner indicated that Hobbes had not survived an encounter with a vehicle. With that thought, I decided to portray Hobbes as if lying on a grassy space. Besides some adjustments to the cat's coat color and whiskers to add, I also envision painting some gone-to-seed dandelions in. Those will represent both the fleeting and the promise of life. This study measures about 7 x 9 inches.

In the detail shown below, you can see the transparency of some of the colors as they are layered one over the other. This was a fun cat to paint.

Okay, so this next one is not a cat. There were three different dogs submitted. This one is named Sam. A very fine looking fellow. As with the other studies posted here, this one is photographed on the easel and so there is some light bounce from the surface that could not be avoided with the camera. Like the others, this is also an oil paint on masonite. Although the eyes haven't been done yet, the work reads well at this stage. It measures about 7 x 9 inches

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Gotta Have It

The cat as subject is really taking off in the studio. Fun to take on something new and I plan to follow it as far as it wants to go. Some works are or will be of specific cats and some invented. But Neko will be sprinkled throughout (scroll down the column at right to see a photo of Neko when she was just a "pup".)

So here's a small (4 by 5 inch) oil sketch of something Neko is good at doing -- swiping goodies from the table! I've titled it "Gotta Have It."

The actual incident that inspired this little painting happened a few months ago during a breakfast. Neko decided to "see" my jellied toast with her paw. I remember just catching, out of the corner of my eye, Neko's sideways head tilt and then WHAP! I don't think I actually saw her paw hit my toast - she was lightning fast! A flash and then she was licking plum jam from between her toes.

In this quick oil sketch I simplified everything and focused on the head tilt that cats do when they are eye-balling something they want to grab on the sly. Tail straight out for counterbalance and a paw on the table cloth just in case. Instead of toast, I show a pancake topped with whip cream and cherry because it "reads" better in a painting this small.

Below is a close up of the "action" - keep in mind when you click on it that you're seeing it significantly larger than the actual work.

"Gotta Have It" is painted on a wood panel. It's probably birch (most of my panels are) but I'm not totally certain as I had painted on it some time ago (a landscape sketch.) The prior painted surface is what gives this work some of it's accidental texture. I used a number four filbert hog bristle brush and manipulate it in anyway I can to get the marks I want. I don't worry about placing every stroke just right when I work like this.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Recent change of subject: Cats

Well, this has been an interesting week. Clouds and landscapes continue to be my dominant subject but cats are slinking in here and there. Cats have always been in some of my studio work, but as the third year since Canuck's passing draws near there seems to be a growing need to paint cats - especially black cats. The portrait of Vern the orange tabby (see my previous post) set the ball rolling to try other colors and patterns of cats. Following are three studies painted with ordinary acrylic water-based wall paint using only red, yellow, blue and white (and a small dash of black here and there at the finish.)

This first painting measures 6 x 8.5 inches. 
Very little actual black paint is used. My challenge was to paint a black cat without using black as the main color. 
This is a memory sketch of Neko and how she looks so intense with her ears turned back so sharply that they look like little horns on her head. She cuts this expression when she's deciding whether to grab something (usually me) or spit or tear off in the opposite direction. She usually vocalizes the instant she has made up her mind what to do and then springs into action!
I like the sketchy quality I'm getting out of the wall paints and the immediacy of them--they dry so quick I can layer lines and color fields almost immediately and build up texture qualities. This is great because that means the paint is able to "keep up" with my thought process and nothing is slowed down. This painting consumed just five minutes. 
At the right is a detail section from the work  The layers of lines and colors are very visible. I might change the background color a bit when I go back to the studio tomorrow, but possibly I will decide to leave it as it is and sign the work. This painting is titled "Seeing the Unseen."

Click on the images to see them larger. 

This next work (also in wall paint with just the colors mentioned earlier) is a cute little tuxedo cat that belongs to a member of a group I belong to. Again, this is a quickly done painting - about 15 minutes. I title this one simply "Tux with Bell."
The painting measures 6 x 6 inches. I especially like the asymmetry of the white blaze on his face. Again, the layering of lines and colors was lots of fun and the fast drying paints let me work continuously without stopping. My brain and hand were able to work in complete immediate unison.
I'm satisfied with how the eyes appear -- exhibiting a certain amount of "depth" similar to what can be accomplished in oil paint. But wall paint is totally opaque so to get the effect of glazes it was a matter of getting the colors "right" in relationship (value and hue) to each other within the eye.
The little gold jingle bell around this cat's neck is a nice touch. I treated the white bib as a wash and overlapped the black with it to suggest the intermingling of white and black hair.

This last painting is of Sierra's cat named K.C. Like Vern in my earlier post,, as they say, on the other side of the rainbow bridge. The reference was a small image on Sierra's photo pod (or whatever those things are called.) Not a great reference photo but good enough to see the main marking/color patterns and general shape of this cat. Sierra said K.C. did not like having his photo taken and he shows it by holding his head downward and turning one ear back.
This was another 15 minute painting in wall paint. Like the other works in this posting, this is on canvas paper.
And, like the others, only the three primary colors and white are used along with just a few accent marks in black. This work is signed, as I considered it complete at the end of the session. The paper it was painted on had an incomplete single still life object on it from a painting session the previous evening. A slight hint of the object impacts the blue above the cat's head and gives the appearance of a halo - appropriate for a departed cat. Below is a close up detail from this work.
 One final note: As with all my art, these works are free-hand and drawn/painted with a hog bristle brush.

Monday, July 4, 2011

An oil study in-progress - Vern

The last few days I've created several very small to small oil paintings of black cats. But throughout the process I also kept thinking about an orange cat named Vern who recently passed over the rainbow bridge. His coloration and expression were interesting and I visualized his portrait in oil. 
This 6 by 6 inch (15.2 X 15.2 cm) study on a wood panel is the result. When does a study become a painting? I've asked that question in this blog before. In this case, although there are some things I want to "tweek" a bit (but not much--add a few hints of whiskers), I feel that this study reaches beyond itself and becomes a painting. Click on the images for a larger view to open.
 The colors in the photos posted here are very close in hue to the actual work but the brightness is not. The painting is far more vivid and the oranges remind me of Van Gogh's self portraits showing his flaming red/orange beard. Like most oil paintings, there is some glare on the paint surface which is visible in the photo but not a distraction in the actual work. The panel had been gesso-primed earlier and exhibited groves in the paint that are still visible in this painting. Although strong, these groves add a textural quality to the portrait.
Personally, I like this painting of Vern.