This is the last of my current commissions, and more Doodles. This time actually Labradoodles, maybe the ones people most often think about when considering this sort of dog, i.e. a cross between Labrador and Poodle. Trev and Brodie are brothers, but from different litters, and were to prove quite a challenge-curls and white fur!
The original photo sent by the client just didn’t do it for me:
A cute-enough photo but I wasn’t able to make out detail in the faces at all. Trying to capture the personality of the animals would be very difficult-it’s all in the eyes, generally-so I regretfully had to say ‘no’ to this commission. I then received a couple of further photos, head and shoulders only:
These were more like it although, as they were photos off the web, the quality and sharpness was a bit lacking when I blew up the photos for printing. I didn’t like the position of Trev’s left eye (when looking at his head), it was lost in the fur-the same was true of Brodie’s right eye. Oh well, I would have to do a little ‘artistic licence’ again, i.e. make it up!
I decided, given the poses, to overlay Trev just slightly over Brodie, with the latter being a little taller on the picture; this makes a nice diagonal, from lower left to upper right. I considered a coloured paper, also, but I don’t have anything larger than 9 x 12 inch, and the picture would have been right to the edge of the available paper. I decided instead to go with Strathmore Bristol again, but this time the smooth surface, in an 11 x 14 inch size. Hopefully, this would mean that the image wouldn’t crowd the paper too much, and would still allow me to mat it to 11 x 14 inch following completion (albeit, with a rather narrow mat). Alternatively, I could leave it unmatted, for the client to choose a 14 x 18 inch frame with a mat. I can’t currently ship anything larger than 11 x 14 inch in my secure shipping envelopes.
I decided on coloured pencil only, again. It do find it to be easier to handle, somehow, when the reference picture is poor. I also avoided the graphite paper with this picture, losing those dark lines would be much harder with the light-coloured fur! The pencils would, of course, include the Caran d’Ache Pablos and Faber-Castell Polychromos, but would also take advantage of quite a number of pencils from the new Lightfast set, which seems to have a number of pale colours that I don’t really have elsewhere. As these were nominally white dogs, I found the Lightfast pale colours of Champagne, Wheat, Oyster (an extremely pale pink), Arctic (a similarly pale blue), Flesh Pink and Salmon very useful, alongside Silver Grey, Steel Grey, Ash Grey, Granite Pink, Apricot, Cream and Light Beige from Pablo and Ivory, Cream, Light Flesh and the lighter greys from both the warm and cold ranges of the Polychromos. Buff Titanium and Violet Grey Luminance also came in useful. All the blending on this picture was done with Gamsol.
I can’t say I found it an easy piece-I was constantly fighting the lack of detail in the references, so maybe there was rather more ‘made up’ than I would normally like to do. I also found it very difficult to place highlights in the eyes at the completion of the drawing. I think that I got it right, but that direct stare from Brodie was very difficult to soften with highlights. A front-on reference is perhaps not the best one for producing a sympathetic portrait! Maybe I’ll have to be yet more ‘picky’ in the reference photos in the case of any more commissions.
‘Trev and Brodie’, 9 x 12 inch coloured pencil (Derwent Lightfast, Faber-Castell Polychromos, Caran d’Ache Pablos and Luminance) with OMS to blend and Signo Uniball white pigment ink pen for eye highlights, on Strathmore 300 series Bristol smooth.
I sent off a photo, and heard back from the client, via Liz. They are delighted with it, and think that I really captured the dogs’ personalities, and that I got the eyes spot on! Well, that was lovely feedback to get, definitely worth the worry during the drawing. They decided against adding any background colour, so now it was time to mat the picture and get it ready for posting. I’d already decided that I’d like to do a double matte in shades of cream for this, to compliment the colours of the dogs and also not to be too ‘in your face’, especially since the size of the piece would mean that the matte would have to be narrow (only 1.25 inch on each side). As I don’t actually have much of this colour in my store, I resorted to the ready-cut mattes in my local dollar store. I found a couple, 11 x 14 inch, with subtly different shades of cream, a slightly darker one to make the inner frame and a lighter one, with a pleasing texture finish, for the outer. Of course, the inner windows had to be re-cut for this piece, so I went ahead and did this, using my mat cutter. It can be a bit fiddly, when the ‘inner bit’ isn’t there-you have to support the cutter when going across the void or the bevel will be cut at a strange angle. But I’ve done this before and, with the help of a new sharp blade, managed to get a good cut on both mattes to produce this:
The narrow space meant that the gap between the inner and outer mattes was only 1/8 inch this time, instead of the 1/4 inch I used previously, but it suffices. 1 inch is really at the limit of what the mat cutter will do! I do like this subdued-coloured matte with this subject, and it should suit a lot of frame options, when it gets to its new home in the UK.
To finish, a little follow up on Daisy. The picture finally got to the client last weekend, and they placed it in a very nice oak frame, which suited the piece very well. It was to be a gift to the client’s parents, and was gifted a couple of days later. The client was kind enough to send me a message (via my indefatigable ‘cheerleader agent’, Liz) saying that they had loved the picture and had even cried with happiness when they received it. It was a lovely message to receive; it makes everything worthwhile (not that I want people to cry, though!).