Sunday, August 28, 2011

Kitten Trio - Suki, Kato, and Jetta

I'm cutting back just a bit on my hours in the studio as I am getting ready for another year of teaching art in several schools within about a 100-mile radius of my home town. Once that schedule starts in earnest, there will be less evening hours for the studio too because I need to be alert and driving miles to schools first thing in the mornings.

However, a couple days ago I did get another oil painting off to a start. The kittens featured in this work are Suki (white) and Kato and Jetta. All three are with the no-kill shelter PetPawSee in Great Falls, Montana (as are most of the other cats/kittens I've been painting and posting here.

This painting is on stretched canvas and measures 18 inches by 24 inches. What I'm thinking about for "background" is to portray a blanket or quilt design. But for now, I've blocked in the negative space with a lavender hue.

As with all my work, this is free-hand with brush and paint. Also, in this work two different references were used although the viewpoint was essentially the same. At this stage, this work is very simple. I'll post it again as it evolves.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cats: Barn Kittens

This work is in-progress, so it was photographed under just the light used for painting. I find it interesting how the digital camera sees some colors precisely and yet  not record others. This painting is one of those that was hard to photo and get an accurate color read. The "barn kittens" are based on two kittens - Bolt and Helen - who are with foster homes via a local animal no-kill shelter and are looking for permanent homes. The tractor seat shown behind the kittens is one of a various few I have as props in the studio. This painting is oil on canvas and measures 24 x 24 inches (60.96 x 60.96 cm.)

Cat Portrait of Mae Ling completed

I completed Mae Ling's portrait a couple days ago and cut a double mat for it. Now it's ready for a frame. At this point I have close to 20 cat portraits on canvas and in various stages of completion. That's about the right amount to be working simultaneously in a revolving manner. I start each session in the studio by starting a fresh painting as a way of "warming up" and then I pick one of the in-progress paintings to work on and may or may not bring it to completion but bring it closer to that stage. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cats: Portrait of Whiskers completed

Yesterday I posted that the portraits of Whiskers and of Mae Ling were completed. So today, I went into the studio and set each painting on the easel. And decided that I needed to adjust the painting of Whiskers. Specifically, I decided that it needed to show more of his left front leg behind the tulips. I also did some adjustments to his eyes to more closely approximate the bi-color mottle typically seen in older cats. I'll check with Whiskers' "Mom" to see if I've accurately portrayed the eye color or if they need to be more/less green.
Click on the images below to see larger views.

This painting had a layer of beeswax over which a mixture of colors were applied and formed an interesting base of interesting colors and textures for the eventual painting of Whiskers. I like the way this process worked out and it can be seen in the following detail photos of the painting:

Such a handsome cat!

Orange Cat, Linus

Well this was another good day in the studio. I finished Mae Ling's portrait and the painting of Whiskers, who was one of the first ones begun. I'll post both completed works sometime over the next day or two.

Also today, another cat painting was begun. This one is of Linus, a large orange tabby. His name suggested he might be King of the Back Yard and so I included in the background some clematis flowers and a small lion-head fountain. I'm contemplating place a small bird (maybe a wren) perched on the basin part of the fountain. So far, I like the complementary red/green and orange/blue arrangement and can envision this with the colors stepped up in brightness as the painting progresses. Plenty of adjustments yet to be made in this work. Like the painting of the cat named Miss Smith, this one has a naivete (stylistically speaking) that gives it a Colonial era.

After I photographed this work I hung it on the studio wall while I completed the Mae Ling and Whiskers paintings. Then I took some time to simply sit and look at this painting. The result was to make a small change: cross the cat's right leg/paw over the extended left leg. I didn't photograph again after making that change, but it was a good move that improved the attitude/posture of the cat. It will show up the next time I photo the progress of this painting.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Esmeralda and Mae Ling

Two more cat paintings today! The first one, painted in oils on canvas paper, is Mae Ling, a mostly white intensely green-eyed beauty. As with the black cat named Asia (see previous day's blog post), Mae Ling's name suggested the other elements in the painting -- in this case, mystery and travel by moonlit sea. A Chinese coin hangs from the red ribbon about Mae Ling's neck

Although this oil painting may have a bit to go yet before I'll feel it is finished, I also feel that it is very close and the eyes are, in fact, finished. It's possible that I may look this painting fresh in the studio tomorrow and decide that all it needs is my signature. The canvas paper yielded an interesting texture when I layered and wiped the paint, then layered again. This painting measures about 12 x 8 inches (I will post the actual size tomorrow - if I remember to measure it!)

My favorite part of each of the cat portrait paintings I've done so far are the eyes and this is especially true of the Mae Ling portrait:

The second painting today is oil on stretched canvas and measures 18 x 24 inches (45.72 x 60.96 cm.) This work is in-progress and seems to be stylistically very different from the Mae Ling work. It's an intentional shift, as I was inspired by the wildly mottled coloration of the cat named Esmeralda. I'm especially drawn to the color divide down the cat's nose; it brought to my mind Henri Matisse's painting, "The Green Stripe," which was of his wife. This painting has quite a bit to go yet. I plan to push the paint and colors around a bit and generally experiment to see where it leads.

At this stage in Esmeralda's portrait, my initial brush drawing is visible throughout the cat and is especially noticed in the extended front legs where I've adjusted the initial drawing a couple times over. To a lesser extent it is also visible in the cat's head.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Cat named Asia

Another feline portrait today at the studio. I think this makes over a dozen cat paintings on canvas and a total of over 40 counting all the rest painted on canvas paper or birch panels. This cat's name is Asia. An older cat, Asia has been looking for a permanent home for at least two years that I know of.

This oil painting started out small and on canvas paper but it wasn't looking or feeling right and so it eventually led to painting on a 18 x 24 inch stretched canvas. All I had was a head/shoulders reference for Asia. Anything else I've added or will add as the painting progresses. I like Asia's round head and intense mint-green eyes. Asia's name is what suggested the evolving background and rich warm colors to go with this nearly all black cat (just a patch of white on her throat.)

My thoughts at this stage is to incorporate some sort of geometric design into the red surface the cat and vase are resting on. Several of Gustav Klimt's works come to mind as inspiration. Maybe this is the painting I will decide to try affixing some gold leafing to some of the decorative elements.
The detail image below shows some of the facial structure that is visible to the viewer's eye but not picked up very well by the camera and the the lighting conditions when the photo was taken. This will be a difficult painting to photograph once it is completed.

Cat painting finished - Thomas BigEater with iris

I decided to "take a chance" with this painting. instead of leaving the irises blue or painting them white, I opted for a reddish hue for the flowers. This gave a nice contrast/complementary hue to play off the green leaves. I'm pleased with the results. The finished painting, which is on stretched canvas, measures 18 x 24 inches (45.72 x 60.96 cm.)

Next photos below are some details from this painting. First is this cat's face--but especially his eyes, which are a luminous minty green.

Next photo shows portion of cat's front leg and some markings.

Last two photos here show a couple of the irises and the layering of first blue, then lavender. And then the reddish tone over top of those other colors.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cat: Tangerine Dream

Well this is one of those fun surprises at the easel! I started out with a small oil sketch of a kitten called Tomas and ended up with the 18 x 24 inch painting shown above. The painting is not what I'd called "finished" yet but well on its way. I envision the finished work as depicting Tomas and the tangerines/oranges on a warm sunny day on the lawn, so there is a bit more to do to create the contrasts and brightness of color to convey sunshine. As usual, it's hard to get a totally accurate photo of a painting's actual colors and values without setting up special lighting. This photo is not as bright in color and value as the actual painting.

But before the painting above came about, there were two small oil studies painted. The first one (9 x 11 inch) is shown below. I have a collection of various still life props at the studio and decided that the white porcelain Chinese teapot with the blue carp painted on it went well with little Tomas' Siamese-like colors/markings. Here's the first oil sketch:

And here's a close up detail from this first sketch:

At some point I set the first study aside and started a second one, this time adding an orange or tangerine. It was this study that really made the leap to the larger work :

Neither one of the sketches are actually "finished" but when I put the oranges in the second one, a title popped into my brain: Tangerine Dream. And so I picked up the 18 x 24 inch canvas and painted the composition that was posted at the top of this blog entry.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Cat with checkered past

Another good evening session in the studio. I got the painting of Thomas Big Eater close to being finished and also started another painting -- this one is of a cat called Little Kitty. The "biography" of this cat has a twist not found in any of the other cats so far: Little Kitty has been homeless and in foster care for close to two years but her initial cause of homelessness was the misfortune of having had an owner who was sentenced to a jail term. Poor kitty! This is a very beautiful cat that has multiple colors but also some tabby stripes, such as the "necklace" rings on the neck and chest. This painting is only in the beginning stage, but off to a good start. The floor tile and background are invented directly on the canvas with no reference material. And, as always, free-hand drawn with paint and brush.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cat in Iris Jungle, third in-progress

Here's Thomas Big Eater as it progressed today. I did scrape down some of the previous day's work in the face area, which left a nice patina to work over top of. I like the effect that can often have on the final paint layers. (The cat named Wilson in a blog post a few days ago was also the result of scraping down paint - in that one the result was a very atmospheric effect.) The lighting was not 100 percent correct for the camera shot for colors but it's pretty close and certainly close enough to convey the direction this painting is taking. Click photos for larger view.

First, here's a close-up of the eyes. The larger size of this painting (versus some of the tiny ones I've done) let me focus on this cat's luminous lime-green eyes. It was the intensity of the eyes that made me decide to create an Iris "jungle" for this cat to be strolling through. I'll be painting in the whiskers in the next studio session.

And then, a look at the whole painting. I'm pleased with how this is going thus far. But still tossing around whether or not to make the iris flowers white or blue (realizing, of course, that either color will not be "pure" white or "pure" blue, but will have all kinds of subtle hues and values throughout.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cat an Urban Jungle

Started this big silvery grey tabby last night. His name is Thomas Big Eater. Painted in oils, the canvas measures 24 x 18 inches (60.79 x 45.72 cm) As with all my works, it's free-hand drawn directly on the canvas with brush and paint. Here I've posted a couple photos of it in-progress. This painting took off very quickly once I started getting a build-up of linear marks, which I always like in a painting anyway. So at that point it started moving along very quickly. The motivation for the composition was that this big cat is staring straight out at you as he walks across the lawn --- he seems to have an "I own the place" attitude about him. It made me think of jungles and so I invented a "backyard jungle" of iris for the painting. His eyes are a minty luminous green but at this stage (and also still in the second photo below) I only suggest the eyes. They will be painted fully once more of the rest of the painting has progressed more.

By the next photo (below) I'd started adding some greens where leaves may be and lightened the iris, starting to build up their forms. My intent is to have them be white iris or perhaps one white iris and the remainder in blue. Hmm. Or maybe reddish. I'll decide that in the next painting session.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Two more Cats

Monday was a productive day in the studio. I finished a small cat portrait and wrapped up a study for a larger work but really like the way the study came out.
The first image below is of Keesje, a cat who passed away earlier this summer at the age of 18 years old. I decided to place Keesje in a patch of poppies. The flowers add bright colors in contrast to the cat's black and white coat. The poppies, as with all flowers, symbolize spring/summer and are generally associated with life or renewal of life. I started this 8 by 11 inch (20.32 cm x 27.94 cm) painting on canvas paper with the intent that it would be a study to solve some compositional concerns before committing to a larger canvas. But what started out as a study very quickly became a painting. When I look at this painting again tomorrow, I may decide it is finished. Click on the image for larger view.

The next painting is also on canvas paper. The subject is KO, a senior cat who appears to have something of the Maine Coon breed. A very pretty pastel-like color and lovely eyes. This painting is small - just 4 by 5 inches (10.16 cm x 12.7 cm.) The view as it appears below is close to the actual size. Click image and the detail image for larger views.

NOTE: Since posting this, the painting of KO has been finished/signed and so I've replaced the in-progress photos that were in this post with images of the painting by directly scanning -- and so colors are closer to the actual painting. The painting of Keesje will be updated too when that work is also finished/signed.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Cat named Emmy

Well this cat is named Emmy. Not Emily, but still a whole lot closer than Bonnie! Refer to my previous post to see what that's about.
Black cats interest me for plenty of reasons, including the visual reality that black cats are not really black. And that suits me just fine in the studio because I don't use black paint. The "blacks" that are in my paintings are mixtures of deep blues and earthy reds such as Sienna or Venetian Red. Sometimes a Cobalt Violet works well.
At any rate, here is a black cat named Emmy. This is a simple small work still in-progress but not much else will be done to it - perhaps I'll look at it in the studio tomorrow and decide that all it really needs is my signature. I free-hand sketched Emmy with a number 4 brush in oil paint on a 6 by 6 inch (15.24 x 15.24 cm) canvas paper. The camera did not pick up the pinkish background color very well, so I will post this work again when the paint is dry enough to put the painting on the scanner (which always shows colors the most accurate when compared to the actual work.)
NOTE: Since posting this, the painting has been finished/signed and so I've replaced the in-progress photos that were in this post with images of the painting by directly scanning -- and so colors are closer to the actual painting.

Detail photo reveals more of the blues, violets and reds that combine to give the overall visual effect of "black".
Click on the photos to for larger format.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

More Cats!

An archaeological project in Wyoming took me away from the studio for two weeks.Since returning, I've been busy making up for the down time. I've only been back home for four days, but those have proven very productive. Posted below are photos of some of the works in progress. The last two paintings shown (Miss Smith and Harley) were started before the Wyoming trip.  All the works are oil on stretched canvas. As with all my works, these are done totally free-hand directly with brush and paint. Be sure to click on the images to see each in a larger format.

This painting is of Wilson. He's an older fellow. I think this is the cat who is missing a front leg (and it looks like possibly some toes too?) but his profile is not posted now (it use to be.) He is what I'd call a long-faced cat -- his nose is noticeably longer than average. In this painting I plan to have him sitting on either a colorful quilt or floral sheet and I will "pose" the fabric on the studio table as a model to work from for the folds and pattern placement. I may or may not paint in anything behind Wilson (perhaps a pillow or two. I want to make this work Wilson's dream image of his "forever home." His markings and color are subtle and very beautiful. I still have more to ad to Wilson's fur pattern and, of course, his whiskers. The painting measures 16 x 18 inches (40.64 x 45.72 cm.)

The next painting is of Whiskers, a 21 year old with a large round head, small intense eyes and LOTS of white whiskers. I decided it would be nice to depict Whiskers in a tulip bed. Over the years I've used tulips symbolically in my art. As always, they allude to spring and the rebirth or continuation of life and, because they are a bulb plant, they also speak to the persistence of life.
The painting of Whiskers is 14 x 11 inches (35.56 x 21.94 cm.)

The next painting is of Miss Smith. This cat's name dictated my attitude and sensibilities while painting the work. The formality of the name comes out in the formality of the painting. The blue background wall will have ginko leaves arranged in a non-distracting design/color/pattern to suggest 1800s wallpaper or 1700s stencil. To me, this painting as it is has a "colonial" feel to it -- perhaps because it is still plain and simple but also because of the conventions of the body and face. Once I add whiskers and a few other details, perhaps that will change the feel of the work. I will place a feather on the red carpet in front of the cat. I think Miss Smith should "marry" Whiskers and then whichever one gets adopted first, the other will tag along. Miss Smith's painting is 24 x 24 inches (60.96 x 60.96 cm.)

Next is a cat named Harley. This is a young cat that has some of the qualities of an ocelot. I'll title this work "Urban Camouflage" as the potted snake plant resembles Harley's fur pattern. Still a bit to do on this painting too. This painting seems to appear a little darker on the computer screen than what it actually is. It measures 24 x 20 inches (60.96 x 50.8 cm.)

The next painting is an older cat named Bonnie. When I started painting Bonnie's portrait, I got the name Emily in my head and by the time I'd gotten the preliminary sketch done, the name Emily had pushed the cat's actual name completely out of my brain. Hence my thoughts wandered to the short story, "A Rose for Emily." And that led to the rose on the carpet and the wall paper (not yet done) which will depict a subtle rose stencil design. I find Bonnie an interesting cat because of her very round head (which makes her eyes seem smallish, minimalist markings and white body with dark tail. Like the painting of Harley, this work seems a little bit darker on the computer screen than it does in reality. Bonnie's portrait painting is 18 x 24 inches (45.72 x 60.96 cm.)