Happy holidays, bloggers! The piece above is titled "Sasha Claus" and is the image for our holiday cards this year. My beloved mix, Sasha, is the dog featured in the portrait. I have been drawing my cat and golden retriever so much that I felt it was time for Sasha to be a part of a portrait.
The portrait is drawn in pastels on white smooth vellum paper and is 8x10" in size. I printed digital scans of the piece on my home printer and placed them into frame cards. AC Moore carries a set of frame cards and envelopes, where the image can slide right into a fine paper frame on the front of the card. The frame cards can also be placed into a permanent frame and the card works as an excellent mat with the printed image inside.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Saturday, November 17, 2007
The picture above is my latest charcoal drawing. The subject is a shetland sheepdog puppy named Boris. I took several pics of this pup while I was visiting my in-laws in Pennsylvania. The reference pic had blades of grass in the background, which I found a bit boring to draw. So, I added a background of comfy blankets to the drawing to enhance his snuggly position. The drawing is 11x14" in size and is rendered in charcoal sticks on smooth, vellum paper.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Here is yet another golden retriever pastel drawing. Lately, I've been inspired to draw goldens. Of course, they have always had a special place in my heart. This piece was therapy for me. Most of my close friends and family know that the dog depicted here, Sunny, has been ill for a while. In the past few days, he began seizuring again.
Instead of biting my nails and pacing the house like a nervous wreck, I sought solace in my studio. I watched Sunny through the French doors as I drew this piece. I had snapped the reference photo while he was healthier, a few weeks ago. He was napping in the sunlight and looking as if he wanted to snuggle up with me in his cozy spot. Sunny loves snuggling : )
The piece itself is 11 x 14" landscape on smooth white vellum. He is drawn in soft pastel sticks. Hope that you enjoy this cuddly boy!
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
The dog above is named Shadow, but also affectionately called "Houdini". This mysterious nickname was earned from his ability to slink through or jump over many gates, fences, and barriers. He'll leave you scratching your head, wondering how he managed to escape a fence that is both padlocked and high in height. It's part of the mystery of the magical "Houdini".
In all seriousness, Shadow was drawn in pastels on smooth white vellum. He is 11 x 14" landscape. The reference picture was taken during my trip to NH. Shadow belongs to my parents and was mischievously lounging on the couch. I snapped a picture of him quickly before he tried to escape from my camera lens. He would turn his head in irritation as I focused in on his face. Poor guy. He was just trying to nap and there's an annoying object following his head.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
It's been about a month since I've worked on a piece of art. Sometimes, we find ourselves needing to recharge our batteries. When I was in NH, I took several pictures of golden retrievers. The picture above was drawn from one of the reference photos taken in NH. The subject is my senior golden retriever, Sunny. Poor Sunny had quite a flare up of hot spots and needed to have his belly shaved. We covered him in blankets, because the fellow was a bit nude without his usual crops of golden waves.
The drawing is done in pastels on smooth white vellum paper. It is 11 x 14" landscape in size.
I'm just happy to be back in the swing of things and inspired to draw!
Thursday, October 04, 2007
The portrait above is especially meaningful to me. About a month ago, my godfather, Dave DeTore, passed away. To me, he was "Uncle Dave". His family were not connected to me by biological blood, but he was still a part of my family. Uncle Dave was there for every milestone in my life. Our families hunted for Christmas trees together, celebrated holidays and birthdays, attended each other's graduations, and eventually he was there to see me marry my husband.
Uncle Dave was the life of the party. I was a shy child and he helped me relax and laugh at big family parties. He always had a witty story to lighten the mood. If you were around him, you were having a good time.
He loved Maine, golf, and Jeopardy. We took Mocha on walks with his "cadre stick", a walking stick. He showed us how to enjoy life and was affectionately called "Coach". He was a coach to middle schoolers in the classroom and on the sports field. Uncle Dave has touched so many people that there isn't enough space to write all of my favorite stories.
It seems surreal that he is gone. I often admire the strength of my clients that approach me to draw a family member or pet that has recently passed away. Portraits can be extremely healing, but also serve as a visual reminder of their loved one. When a loss is fresh, it is painful, a blur, and sometimes unbelievable.
When I heard that Uncle Dave had passed, it seemed like I was a part of a tragic movie. I couldn't imagine him not being at my future milestones. I wanted to soothe the hurt that I was feeling and found a way to heal through my art.
I had been in the middle of a "funk" with my artwork and was taking a break from drawing. I didn't know how I was going to be able to draw accurately while I was so gloomy. This wasn't about accuracy, though. It was about drawing for me, to get the feelings out on paper. It was time to heal.
The result is the portrait above. I had found a reference photo that captured the essence of "The Coach". Uncle Dave is wearing his coach hat and windbreaker. Most of all, he is experiencing a proud moment. The reference photo was taken at his daughter's college graduation from Ithaca College.
The portrait was given to his family at the memorial services. Drawing Uncle Dave healed me so much that I wanted to share the healing energy with his family. There is healing energy in portraits that are created with love.
I love Uncle Dave with all of my heart, as well as Aunt Debbie and Nicole. You have been a second family to me and I am so greatful to have you in my life.
Monday, October 01, 2007
Wow! It's been ages since I have blogged. For the past month, I have been traveling between NH and Syracuse. It's been an amazing experience and I took lots of pictures that I will post soon.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Well, I finally received my results from the NY State Wildlife Art Competition. My swan drawing was accepted! Yeay!!!!!
Accepted artwork is due next week, so I am scrambling to frame my drawing and get it ready for shipment. I picked out a mat and frame last night and am pleased with the results. The frame shop had a 50 percent off sale, so I got a great deal on the frame itself.
Hopefully, I will be able to ship the artwork this afternoon and then my work is in the hands of the people. The NY State Fair-goers vote on the artwork to receive prizes. There are cash rewards for the first, second, and third place entries.
If you are planning on attending the NY State Fair, I encourage you to vote for your favorite piece. The Wildlife Art exhibit will be on display in the Horticulture Building in a glass exhibit area. The show features wildlife paintings, drawings, and sculpture.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Wow! It's been a whole week since my last post. Shame on me! In my own defense, I have had a ridiculously busy week.
First of all, I finished a collage commission. I cannot post the picture, because it is a gift. So... The client and recipient will remain anonymous for now. Actually, I probably won't post the collage, unless the client suggests a posting. It's a very personal piece.
I'm also working on a portrait of a dog. This commission is also a gift, so once again, the client and recipient will remain anonymous. With the client's approval, the finish will be posted, though.
I also will be beginning on another commission soon. I need to call the recipient to set up a photo shoot, which is an option for those of you looking for a portrait, but don't feel that you have the right reference photo. I will be taking my own reference photos for this piece, which is exciting.
I still have not heard from the Wildlife Art competition, but that is to be expected. The judging of entries is occurring now. Results will be mailed on August 4. So, I should know how my pieces were judged in the next few weeks! I am keeping my fingers crossed for a positive outcome.
Well, I cannot supply any cool art pictures for you, because all of my current projects are top-secret. However, I have provided visual stimulation above with an adorable photo of my golden retriever, Sunny. Golden retrievers somehow find the cutest napping positions. Sigh.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
So.... Tom and I decided to go camping this weekend to test out all of the new camping gear that we bought. We took a half day on Friday and drove through the countryside to Hunt's Pond Campground in New Berlin, NY. The directions were pretty complicated and we took a few wrong turns into the countryside. I have to say that I really enjoyed the drive to and from the campground, despite getting lost at times.
The drive to New Berlin was very similar to the area where I grew up, except there were occasional Caution! Horse and Buggy signs for the Menonites in the community. We passed one farm that had about 5 or 6 Amish-style buggies parked near the barn. I loved peaking at the farms as we passed by. Sometimes, a border collie would run toward our car. We even saw a Great Pyranees dog guarding a chicken coop.
We finally got to the campground just before it turned dark. Luckily, I have a very smart husband who bought easy-to-assemble camping gear. It didn't take us long to set up our tent and gear. We even cooked up some delicious hot dogs from the local food co-op. They were a bit pricey, but they tasted like gourmet meat from a special smokehouse. Mmmmm....
Which reminds me, one of my favorite things about camping is the food. We bought lots of special treats. We woke every morning and cooked up local farm eggs and fresh bacon. We snacked on trail mix with peanut M & M's and ate protein bars. For dinner, we ate the yummy hot dogs and canned veggies. For dessert, there were S'mores and toasted marshmallows. Tom has perfected the s'mores building process. He managed to get the chocolate to melt just right.
During the day, we relaxed in a hammock and read some books that we brought along. We probably would have gone swimming, but we were not familiar with the area and the pond that we were camping next to is not safe for swimming. The bathrooms were also quite far and there were no showers. So, we took care of business in the woods. I had forgotten how to pee in the woods. I was completely paranoid that one of the high-schoolers at the next site would travel through the woods and catch me with my jeans down. Scary!
The first night, we couldn't figure out how to get the camp fire to catch. We spent the evening in the dark with a couple of jar candles. We got to the site rather late, so we went to sleep early. I sat in the dark while Tom left to get drinking water. The dogs were so spooked that Sasha lifted her paw to hold my hand. She was shaking. So was I. Hee, hee.
That reminds me. This experience was fun for the dogs. Sasha has a prey drive and spent a good amount of time stalking a chipmunk whose sole mission was to taunt her. She would be sleeping and it would run in front of her like a cartoon character. She would tangle herself in the trees attempting to chase the little critter and he would chatter to her from the tree.
By the second night, Tom had read his camping book and figured out how to feed a camp fire. We had an awesome fire to build s'mores. As the sun went down, we read books, ate snacks, and played some Friends trivia until it was dark. At sundown, we let the fire go out and climbed into our tent. I forgot to bring a pillow, so I propped my soft suitcase up under my sleeping bag. It helped with my comfort level a lot. In the middle of the night, I woke to Sunny vomiting several times in the tent. He had eaten bark scarps off of the ground and it caused him to vomit. He's ok and we cleaned up the mess.
The next morning, we made our farm breakfast and packed up. By 11 am, we had all of our gear loaded in the car. We chatted with the warden before we left and told him that we had a great time. Then, we headed back to Syracuse. I enjoyed the trip back so much. We passed the same farms and the sun was out full force in the sky. The people who lived in the rural towns were out and about doing farm chores and going for walks on the dirt roads. Most people waved when we passed in our car.
Living in the countryside is awesome. The pace is so much slower and people seem so much happier. There are no grouchy jerks in SUVs honking their horns at the farm animals in the road. This trip totally recharged my batteries. When I came back to my house, I felt lighter and more refreshed. Tom and I plan on camping more often. This was an awesome experience!
Monday, July 23, 2007
Posted above are the two pieces that I entered in the 2007 NY State Wildlife Art Competition. The competition is held annually and accepted entries are displayed in the Horticulture Building at the NY State Fair. A jury reviews my printed samples of artwork. In two weeks, I should find out if my work was accepted.
Last year, one of my sepia wildlife sketches was accepted into the competition. After seeing my work on display, I learned a couple of lessons... My piece was 8 x 10", so it was barely visible next to the 11x14" and 16 x 20" color paintings surrounding it. This year, I entered larger color drawings. Color will tend to pop more on the wall than a sepia drawing. I am keeping my fingers crossed that the jury approves.
Friday, July 20, 2007
This morning, I casually was surfing the internet. I figured that I would check out the NY State Wildlife Art Competition website, since I knew that the entries should be due soon. Since I have been on vacation, I had completely forgotten about the looming deadline.
Low and behold, I discovered that the deadline is....gulp... today. Oh my goodness! I scrambled to fill out the entry forms and fill out mailing envelopes. I glanced over at my printer and... gasp! The printer ink light is blinking! It appears to be out of ink and I do not have any refills. Crap.
I decide to attempt to print anyway. The contest requires a printed entry form and large digital images of your entered work for judging. I don't know how this happened, but the printer managed to print two, 8x10" digital prints on matt paper. The images were clear and not streaked. Yet, the printer preferences still state that the ink is low. Normally, the printer would turn my images blue or another strange color in this state. Thank goodness that things worked out.
I ended up sealing my entry and rushing to the UPS in my back yard. I cannot even begin to tell you what a lifesaver it is to have a UPS store within walking distance of your yard. Of course, we were out of stamps in our home, so the UPS trip was a necessity. When I got to the store, the clerk commented on my handwriting. She thought it was a font. Ha! I get that a lot. I had a very thorough second grade teacher who expected perfection in handwriting. Always the overachiever, I delivered with penmanship that looks like type.
I had ended up using a return envelope that was pre-paid for another contest. I had never used the pre-paid envelope. When I paid for my current mailing, I realized that the price of postage has increased. Unfortunately, my package was sealed, so it was too late to fix the postage on the return envelope. I am keeping my fingers crossed and am praying that the return envelope will make it back safely. I will have to email the contest director just to make sure. I am praying that the package will return with two big acceptances!
I've been working slowly but surely on the "Cat In A Box" portrait. Right now, I'm refining the details in the background. More detail has been added to the wood floor and the cardboard shipping box. So far... I am pleased.
I've been working on a collage commission, which I cannot post (it is a gift) and am still trying to organize my house and catch up with business. Next week, I plan on posting even more progress on the "Cat In A Box".
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Yes! I have finally posted actual artwork. The piece above is called "Cat In A Box", because... well... it's the wittiest title that I can come up with at the moment. The kitty is named Kiwi and belongs to my in-laws. She is a silver tabby and the reference photo was taken when she decided that a mailing box looked like a comfortable location for scoping out the kitchen.
The drawing is rendered in pastels and right now is in the beginning stages. I am laying down the "undercoat" of color. Things won't begin to look realistic until I can add more dark and light values. At least, I am keeping my fingers crossed that things will look realistic. You never can tell what will happen with a drawing until you jump in.
It's been a few weeks since I have worked on pastels. This piece is a fun piece for me to get my feet wet with. I'll post my progress as the piece comes along...
Sasha in PA. She is such a beacon of light : )
Lately, I think my golden retriever has one facial expression... tired. The poor guy is older and hasn't been doing so well health-wise, so I can't blame him at all.
I didn't want to neglect my blog, so I thought I would inform everyone that there will be updates on projects soon! Since the pet expo, I have been busy with upcoming projects and attempting to get my house into a semi-clean state. Between travel and vacation, my house looks like a filthy swamp. Rest assured, it is starting to look better.
I'm also working on a collage project. I haven't collaged in years but have always found it therapeutic. When I was in the SU Illustration program, most of my work was actually in collage. What happened? Why did I give up on collage? I'm not sure. I think I felt like I neglected my painting skills in school and wanted to fine-tune my drawing and painting abilities. I had a nagging obsession to draw photo-realistically. I channeled my obsession into my livelihood and can finally say that I am happy in my job. Yeay!
To get back on topic, a relative has asked me to help with a collage project and I jumped at the chance. I had begun scrap-booking over the past few weeks and was filling a photo album with collages of friends and animals who have meant a lot to me. This project is perfect for my obsessive collage hobby. I am seriously considering adding collage as a permanent portrait option. I work digitally and by hand. So... The reason why you haven't heard form me in a few days is because I have been gathering collaging materials. Most are buried in my attic.
I also am going to begin a portrait of a silver tabby. It's on my studio desk, I just need to start drawing. Once I finish the drawing, I will post an "On The Easel" picture to give a preview of the work to come. Gosh, it's been ages since I've posted new work. I really need to start working on new drawings.
There's more to come and I promise that I will post pictures! In the meantime, I have posted pics of my dogs in Pennsylvania. I was in Pennsylvania, visiting my in-laws last week.
Monday, July 16, 2007
What a weekend! Saturday, I ran a promotional booth at the NatureTyme Dog Days of Summer Pet Expo. I couldn't have asked for more perfect weather. After a week of intense heat and humidity, it was refreshing to sit under a tent with mild temperatures and a cool breeze. We even managed to escape a rain shower!
The pet expo was held from 10 am to 3 pm. I kept my booth very simple. I set up framed samples of black and white, sepia, and color portraits. One of my portraits was laying flat on the table. The frames were quite heavy and were toppling over in the wind. I didn't want to risk breaking the frame by standing it up. I also provided plenty of business cards and brochures.
I received a lot of friendly visitors and provided a sign-up sheet for my mailing list. Most of my visitors were of the canine variety. I was in dog heaven, seeing as many different breeds as an AKC dog show. Of course, there were several golden retrievers visiting my booth (and reducing me to a gushing mush).
This reminds me, if any of my blog readers would like to sign up for my mailing list, please feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. It doesn't need to be elaborate. You can just say that you want to sign up for the mailing list. I do not share your information with third parties. The purpose of the mailing list is to provide email notification of upcoming shows, news, and discounts. I haven't run many sales in the past, but this year I will be running seasonal promotions. There will be a discount for people who order their Christmas commissions early.
Speaking of discounts, any person who attended the Pet Expo will receive a 20 percent discount on a commissioned portrait. This is my way of saying thank you for visiting my booth. Nature Tyme employees will also receive a discount. The Nature Tyme employees were kind and very helpful throughout the event. I encourage anyone in the Syracuse area to visit the store. The staff helped me set up my booth and checked to make sure everything was running smoothly. They are very professional and carry top holistic products.
I've posted a picture of my booth above. It was a simple set-up, but it allowed me to interact freely with visitors. To everyone who attended, thank you for supporting local holistic pet businesses. I hope to work with you soon! To the NatureTyme employees, I am extremely grateful for this opportunity.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Wow. It's been a while. I don't have a decent excuse as to why I haven't blogged in weeks. I was hit with nasty spell of illness. I'm still recovering.
Enough of my horrible excuses, though. Back to business. This Saturday, Nature Tyme in Syracuse is holding their annual Dog Days of Summer Pet Expo. The expo runs from 10 am to 3 pm at the Nature Tyme store in Syracuse. It will be outdoors with a tent. Bring your pets and say hello. I will have a table with some brochures, business cards, and samples of my work. All attendees that commission a piece will receive a 20 percent discount. Nature Tyme employees will also receive a discount.
Also, I mentioned above that I will be bringing printed promotional materials. I finally splurged and had professional business cards and brochures printed. I am quite happy with the end result. For the past few years, I have printed my own promotional materials and always felt that they were missing a professional polish. I still designed the cards and brochures, but now I don't have to be conservative with colors, ink, or the amount printed. Yeay!
I promise to blog more frequently over the next few weeks. I plan on throwing myself back into my artwork full force. Hopefully, I will have some adorable animals to draw from the pet expo!
Monday, June 25, 2007
I don't know if any of you in the blogsphere watch The View, but it is one of the few shows that I enjoy. I often watch the show from my studio while I am drawing. Lately, I've found the episodes a bit boring. Today's episode, however, sparked my interest.
The show featured three guest segments; the entrepreneur who invented Spanx, a group of women who formed an investment club, and the president of Hearst Publications. The president of Hearst Publications reminded me of my former life in the corporate world. She brought up some interesting suggestions about climbing the corporate ladder. Actually, it was the intense pressure of climbing the corporate ladder that inspired me to start my portrait business.
It's not that I choked under pressure. Actually, I thrive when I am busy and faced with an upcoming deadline. I just was not happy with what I was working on and the environment in which I was working. I think that the hosts tried to question the guest about the cutthroat nature of women in business. Some are ruthless in their climb for success. It indicates passion. For me, I was making steady pay, but I was bored out of my skull.
The woman who invented Spanx also had an interesting story to share. She found success in solving the problem of visible panty lines. I say, it's important to follow your heart and intuition. It makes hard work worthwhile, even during the times of struggle. Although, they didn't really tap into that subject much. The guest blamed some of her struggle on the fact that she was pitching a women's hosery idea to an audience of men. After one executive believed in her, she was off to the land of the wealthy.
It's a positive message and encouraging to women who would like to start their own business. However, I think that success depends on the nature of your field. In the field of illustration, for instance, success depends on a subjective opinion of your skill set. Plus, you are competing in a huge pool of talent with fewer openings. There can be a lot of downtime, rejection, and disappointment. It certainly isn't as lucrative as a salaried position in the beginning. Of course, there are exceptions.
The other issue that bothers me is that the emphasis of this episode was money. I agree that people should not be scared of money. Owning a business has provided me with a crash course in basic accounting and marketing. I almost gave up in the beginning, because I found the paperwork and licensing daunting. My passion for drawing helped me work through the fear.
Working in a satisfying field is what is important to me. The fact that I am not a millionaire does not indicate laziness. I have a passion inside of me to succeed. To me, success is about satisfying pet owners and families. In some cases, portraits help people heal from a loss. Yes, it is important to stay afloat and ask for a fair wage. However, the show failed to touch on the beauty of following your passion. In some cases, following your dream feeds the business owner more than monetary compensation.
Friday, June 22, 2007
If you were wandering in the wild and happened to catch sight of a lion, you would probably feel some fear. A lion's stare is intense. He is probably cranky, guarding his territory, and planning his next meal. Hopefully, you are not the main course.
During my zoo visit last week, I found myself in a rather uncomfortable staring contest with a lioness. I was watching her through my camera viewfinder and trying to find the correct angle. How surreal. I am feet away from a lioness. In the wild, my safety would be questioned. Yet, I smiled and began snapping away with my camera. It's amazing how safe a piece of glass will make you feel.
I often wonder if the lions have become accustomed to the company of humans. What are they thinking while being stared at by throngs of people behind glass? I wonder if they have always lived behind glass and assume that this is normal life. Perhaps, they were bred in zoos and assume that their life consists of heated rocks, pools, and the occasional enrichment ball. Perhaps they think the people are supposed to be there. The staring contest is harmless gazing from boredom. I am not lunch, I am just a strange animal behind a camera.
This would not be possible in the wild.
The happy couple is enjoying the spa-like benefits of heated rocks.
I'm being stared down as if I am offensive paparazzi.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Here is the completed pastel portrait of a sleeping fox. I posted the work-in-progress photo yesterday. After working diligently this morning, I feel like the piece is completed.
This portrait is a bit different, in the fact that it is dark, shadowy, cuddly, yet somewhat creepy. I came across this little guy at the zoo, sleeping under a warm heat lamp. He looked so comfortable and content. When I brought the reference photo into Photoshop and played around with the contrast, I noticed that the photo took on a night-vision effect.
The idea for this portrait was born from the altered reference. I imagined a person camping in the deep woods. The sun is setting and the person decides to take an evening hike to view wildlife. Guided by only a flashlight, the person shines the light on a set of rocks. The light rests on a sleeping fox. This is the moment captured in the picture. Of course, a true fox would be just waking as the sun set. This picture would have to convey early evening, as foxes are nocturnal animals.
The portrait is 11x14" landscape. It is drawn in soft pastels on white, smooth vellum paper.
I want to give readers a heads-up on an upcoming pet show that I will be participating in. Nature-Tyme, a large, holistic business in Syracuse, is hosting their annual Dog Days of Summer Pet Health Fair on Saturday, July 14th from 10am-3pm. I am very appreciative of the invitation to participate in this show.
I will post more information as soon as Nature Tyme releases their upcoming newletter with more details. I do know that my portrait business is listed on the cover of the mailer, along with my website! Here's hoping that the show day has beautiful weather and is not too humid : )
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
It's time for another work-in-progress photo! I started this pastel painting yesterday. Right now, I am in the process of laying down layers of color that will help the finish "pop".
The reference photo for this picture was taken during my zoo excursion/adventure last week. I came upon the sleeping fox in one of the indoor exhibits. He was curled up in a ball under the heat lamp, which produced an interesting lighting effect and Adobe Photoshop enhanced the effect. I want the image to appear as if the viewer is discovering a sleeping fox on a camping trip with their flashlight. It's something different and I hope that the end result looks good.
Monday, June 18, 2007
I decided that I wasn't completely satisfied with the golden retriever portrait that I posted a few days ago. I felt like the proportions in the head were a bit off and that it needed more detail in the floor. I worked on the drawing this morning and finally feel as if it is completely finished. At least, for now....
In case you didn't catch the drawing specifics below... This piece is an 11x14" landscape. Sunny, the subject, is drawn in pastels on smooth, white vellum paper. I have re-named this piece "Post-Dinner Nap". The title isn't very snappy, but it's the most creative title that my tired mind could imagine in the morning. Perhaps, after lunch, my mind will come up with a more witty title. If you have any good ideas, leave me a comment!
Friday, June 15, 2007
I have been neglecting my blog for the past few days. Shame on me! I am taking a vacation right now and have been away from my computer more than usual. It's not a fancy vacation with tropical climate and a plane trip. Mostly, I've been reclining at home and catching up on some rest. Yesterday, however, I went to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo with my hubby.
I thought I would share some of my favorite pics from the trip. I travel to the zoo a few times a year to take reference pictures for my wildlife art. There are always a few animals that are obscured from view because of their lush habitats. For instance, I have never seen the wolves. They usually hide in the tall grass. Yesterday, I saw three members of the pack and it was incredible to witness. The alpha was cautiously eyeing the perimeter of the habitat. I took a few pictures but few came through clearly.
This trip also made me realize that it is time for a new camera. My camera is not very steady and blurs easily. I was disappointed with many pictures, but have shared a few of the fun, clear compositions below. Enjoy!!!
Friday, June 08, 2007
Here is my latest portrait. The work-in-progress/"ugly stage" was posted in yesterday's entry. This portrait features my golden retriever, Sunny. The reference photo was taken as Sunny napped on my kitchen floor, with his ear hanging into his water dish. Although this isn't the most interesting composition, I think it conveys the feeling of the moment. It also shows the typical senior golden napping position.
Here are the details of the piece... It is 11x14" landscape on smooth, white vellum paper. The piece is drawn with soft pastel sticks (traditional soft pastels).
I'm still not sure how I feel about this one. I guess I wanted more detail in the foreground. It's difficult to photograph Sunny with life in his eyes. He's very old and appears tired in almost every picture.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
I am working on a new golden retriever drawing. It is in the "ugly stage", which is a rather embarrassing stage where the piece is "not quite ready". The proportions are not exact, the colors are not perfect, and sometimes I wonder if my golden retriever could finish the piece more precisely. He probably could provide some interesting textures with his paw.
I will go back to the drawing board after this post. I just wanted to give you a peek at what I am working on.
Oh! I think my cat is jealous that I am not drawing her right now. I've caught her sitting on my studio chair and staring at my drawing desk. It appears that she is saying, "Where is my drawing?" My last three drawings have been of Molly and I think that this focus is going to her head. Before you know it, she will have an agent.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
It's been 24 hours since my frightening encounter with the wounded mouse. Since the blog, I sealed the door to the guest bedroom and allowed the mouse to die peacefully without interruption from my prey-driven dog and lazy cat. The cat meowed to be let into the room, but I think it was mainly to bat the mouse around like a toy.
This morning, I figured enough time had passed to allow the mouse a peaceful recovery or death. I opened the door, hoping that the mouse was alive and had disappeared into the walls. Unfortunately, it was on the dogbed and appeared to be dead. I was terrified to even look at the poor creature.
One might say, "Come on! It's just a mouse!" Well, my heart goes out to all animals, even snakes. I severely dislike snakes. If there was a dead snake, I would mourn the poor critter. Thank goodness, that this was a mouse and not a snake.
I squirmed for a few minutes and then swallowed my discomfort. I'm an adult and a strong woman. I can handle this. Quickly, I placed the mouse into a paper bag. Don't worry, I used a broom and dustpan. I didn't want to catch any weird bacterial diseases. You never know with wildlife.
Mr. Mouse received a dignified burial in the bushes of my yard. He is with nature. My guest room is now usable. I will thoroughly clean it and life will go on.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
I want to preface this entry by saying that I never believed in mousetraps. They've always seemed inhumane to me. It would be like someone luring me with a chocolate bar. Come on, Mia. Get the chocolate. Then... smack! I'm ensnared for following the delicious treat.
I didn't sleep well last night. At an ungodly hour, I was awakened by an intense scratching and fumbling noise in the guest bedroom. My dog sleeps in that room and I could hear a commotion and her collar jingling. I tried to ignore it, but then I thought she may be having a seizure.
So, I got up and checked to see if she was ok. She was walking in circles and then madly pawing at the curtain across the room. It was as if she was out of her mind. She was insanely focused on something.
My first thought was that she had a brain tumor and was in a crazy stage. I heard about a dog that had a brain tumor and one day, it just started walking in circles. That seemed plausible in my tired mind, until I saw my dog walking toward me with a tuft of black fur in her mouth. I thought that maybe she had been attacking a toy.
I turned on the light (because it was an ungodly hour in the morning and still dark outside). When I turned on the light, there was a mouse laying on her dogbed. I screamed. It didn't move. I ran into my bedroom and figured my dog would eat the mouse.
I tried to return to sleep, but I couldn't. Tossing and turning, I thought of the dogs that kill rodents and leave them as presents on their owner's doorstep. And the cat. Oh my God! The cat. Once she gets a hold of this thing, she could carry it onto my bed.
I shreaked and ran downstairs. Where is the cat during this whole debacle? Aren't cats supposed to hunt mice? Shouldn't she have at least been in the room, lured by the delicious rodent smell?
The cat ran upstairs, went into the room, and walked away. How lazy can you get? Of course, I know this, because I nervously observed her behavior from a safe spot in the hallway.
I thought about moving the mouse, because I would have to return upstairs and sleep. I didn't want to worry about a mouse in my bed. So, I grabbed a broom, a dustpan, and a plastic bag. I was going to be brave. Tom is away and I normally scream and allow him to take care of any wildlife problems.
I have to move this mouse or it will smell like dead animal upstairs. I inch toward the rodent and it appears to be alive and staring at me. I scream and decide to wait.
A while later, I try again. The mouse is now on the dogbed, on its back, with its legs in the air. Clearly, the animal is dead. Clearly. I squirm and attempt to sweep it directly into the plastic bag. This is no joke. The mouse gets up and moves across the room!
It wasn't dead. It was frozen in fear, pretending to be dead, so that my dog would leave it alone. It's face was mangled, fur wet, and still alive.
I screamed and ran downstairs. The next few hours, I had the kind of nausea where you sweat and feel desperate for fresh air. I was sure that I would throw up. For what reason, I do not know.
My dog and cat ran up into the bedroom and I heard commotion off and on over the next few hours. I got brave and checked on the carnage. The mouse appeared to be dead and on the dogbed. The cat was staring at it in the bedroom. I lured kitty out of the room and shut the door.
Now, I am waiting for the mouse to peacefully die from its injuries (or live and go back to its home). I'm not sure when I will finally be convinced that it will not run across the room when I try to remove it. I really don't want to look at it again. Does anyone have any ideas on how to proceed?
This reminds me of an episode of Sex and the City where Carrie is sleeping and a mouse crawls in her bed. It nibbles on her ear. Her boyfriend says where there is one, there will be more. Oh great. I may have an infestation on my hands... and a very lazy cat.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Hmmm... Is huntress even a word? I should Google it. Ah, yes. A huntress is a female who engages in hunting. That is precisely what my tuxedo cat, Molly, is doing in the portrait above. The reference photo was taken as Molly stalked our birdfeeder from the edge of a dining room chair.
The portrait is 11 x 14" on white, smooth vellum paper. Molly is drawn in pastel sticks. The goal was a realistic portrait with a soft, Impressionistic edge. I don't want the picture to be completely photo-realistic. Otherwise, what's the point of even creating a drawing? It needs to look somewhat like a drawing.
I'm working on adding more of a background to my pictures. I think it's important for portraits to tell a story about their subjects. To capture a moment, much like a photograph. Yet, a drawing takes the moment further, with emotion in the strokes.
I apologize if this entry is a bit bland. I am battling a stomach bug and do not have much energy to write with humor : (
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Whether you are taking pictures of your child's birthday party or reference for a potential portrait, there are a few tricks that will enhance your photo sessions. By making a few adjustments, you can turn general photos into frame-worthy portraits. I've listed a few tips that have helped me attain clear reference pictures for my portraits. These tricks have been priceless in achieving accurate portraits of people and animals.
1. Turn OFF the flash!
When cameras became equipped with the flash function, people began turning the flash on as a necessity. We feared that our pictures would turn out blurry, dark, or fuzzy if we didn't. I was guilty of this myself. When I started using a digital camera, I became frustrated with the quality of pictures with the flash. Then, I realized that my outdoor pictures without the flash were looking rather artistic and clear. I turned off the flash indoors and voila! My indoor pictures looked completely different.
Here is an example of the same picture subject. The first picture was taken with the flash function. The next picture was taken without the flash.
In the first picture, the eyes are washed out by the flash. If I were attempting to use this photo as a drawing reference, I would need separate reference to render the eyes. The background is also very dark and plain.
The second picture is taken without any special settings. I turned the flash function off and zoomed in on my subject. I also lowered my position so that I was taking the picture at the same height of the dog. This allows me to capture the reflection in my subject's eyes and to obtain a steady, clear shot. Notice that the background is softer, with more light. There is a gentle quality to the photo.
2. Use Natural Light As Much As Possible
The pictures above were taken next to a window. Sunlight poured onto my dog's coat. With the flash picture, the highlights from the sun are not visible. By using natural light, pools of highlights appear, creating a more interesting photograph. I highly recommend taking pictures outside or next to a window. Natural sunlight will light your subjects perfectly. I understand that this is not always possible. Position your subject as close to a light source as possible, whether it is a lit birthday cake, a lamp in your living room, or outdoors.
3. Photograph Your Subject From Interesting Angles
Every subject can be photographed from a number of angles. I find that crawling onto the floor with my dogs and shooting the photo from their height greatly increases the quality of the photo. However, you can also position yourself below your subject to create a distortion of scale. Play around with different angles to find the most flattering view of your subject.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
It's time to put some excitement into this blog! It seems like lately, my posts have followed the same "vanilla" format.... Here is my latest artwork... Here is the story behind the artwork... Snore! Time to put some sprinkles on the vanilla.... and some hot fudge!
AKC Museum Of The Dog Registry
Did you know that there is a museum in the US, dedicated to dog art? The AKC Museum of the Dog holds juried exhibitions that showcase canine art and has an Artist Registry. Recently, I became an official member of the Museum of the Dog Artist Registry. Exhibitions are changed fairly regularly and the museum also has a permanent collection of classic canine paintings. The museum is located in St. Louis, Missouri in a historic estate. For more information, check out http://www.museumofthedog.org/.
Launching Into The World Of Illustration
I finally feel ready to start sending promotional packets to publishers. I've been working hard over the past year to build a strong portfolio of realistic animal drawings in color. A big part of the submission process is research. An illustrator needs to find their niche and pursue publishers that will support their subject matter and style. A big emphasis was placed on market research in my college studies. A lot of money and time can be wasted in sending samples to random publishers.
So, I began researching publishers through the Artist's & Graphic Designer's Market and through Google. The process is very complicated. I've found maybe a hand-full of publishers that are interested in realistic animal drawings. With computer technology, many illustrators are drawing on their computers in a whimsical style. Some publishers list a need for realistic animal drawings, but I am finding that the need is for colorful, digital work. Photo-realism is often substituted with photographs in books and magazines.
How do I work through this challenge? I will continue to research and discover magazines and books that feature animal subject matter and see if they buy realistic illustrations. I also am marketing my work to the poster and licensing markets. For this reason, I am trying to perfect a "style" and work on drawings in "series". My goal is to develop a soft, impressionistic style with a hint of realism (with a pinch of neurosis and attention to detail).
Monday, May 21, 2007
I'm on a bit of a cat-drawing frenzy lately. I've been inspired by my lovely tuxedo cat, Molly. She seems to love the camera and takes on the most ridiculous poses.
The portrait above is 8x10" landscape on white, smooth vellum paper. It is drawn in soft pastels with the whiskers rendered with white pastel pencil.
The goal of the portrait was to demonstrate the intense look of a cat in hunting mode. When the reference photo was taken, Molly was hunting a bird perched on my birdfeeder, through the window. Thank goodness for glass! No carnage resulted. Just a fun, pastel study. Enjoy!
Thursday, May 17, 2007
I recently ran into a friend at the grocery store, who looked at me and exclamed, "You're alive!". That statement alone was motivation to move forward and produce some more artwork. This blog has been neglected over the past few weeks. It's not that I haven't been drawing, I just have been swamped with responsibilities.
Regardless, I am returning today with new work. The piece above is my latest pastel drawing. The subject is my beautiful tuxedo cat, Miss Molly. I took the reference photo this past weekend as my cat was luxuriating on my dining room table in a pool of sunlight.
The drawing is rendered with pastels entirely, with no use of the pastel pencils. I'm trying to "paint" with pastel sticks as much as possible for a smoother look. The drawing is 11 x 14" landscape in size on smooth vellum paper.
Monday, May 07, 2007
Wow! It's been almost two weeks since I posted new artwork. I have been busy working on the piece featured above and am sending my work to various children's market publishers (I'm hoping to illustrate children's books).
Back to the topic....
The golden retriever lounging above is my own golden, Sunny. One of his favorite napping spots happens to be on a floral futon in my studio/sunroom. The reference photo was taken while the sun showered him with light through the window. The finished artwork is drawn in pastels on smooth vellum paper and is 11 x 14".
I am working on a softer look in my pastel portraits. The end result may be a bit painterly in style. My new style is a work-in-progress... Hopefully, it will continue to grow in a positive direction.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
I never realized how much I missed my grandfather until I came across artifacts from his life. I called him Dziedz and he a special person in my life. When my mom went to work at school (before I went to school), he would take care of me with my grandmother. He taught me about birdwatching and came up with drawing exercises that made me think.
He would draw a line with a dip in it. I would turn his line into a complete drawing. Dziedz was patient and gentle. He had cancer for a good part of my life and lost his eyesight over time. When he was blind, he would still examine my drawings and somehow managed to point out parts that he liked. Maybe he could sense the emotions that went into the piece.
He died of cancer my senior year of college, shortly after my mom was diagnosed with cancer. When he died, my mom gave me his SU sweatshirt. He wore it in support of the college that I attended. It is a comfortable zip-up hoodie. When I first received it, there were still tissues in the pocket. Remnants from his life. I wish that I had saved them sometimes.
Yesterday, I came across his pastels. My grandmother had given me some of his old canvases and drawing supplies. I have the crayons and markers from our childhood drawing exercises and the sketchbooks with the drawings in them. I don't want to throw any object away, even the smelly markers that no longer work.
When I found the pastels, I had been working on a drawing of a swan. Something told me that they would be just right. The price sticker was still on the box. He had purchased them from a small store in Rutland, probably 20-30 years ago. They were cheap by today's standards. I didn't think that he had used them. Then I picked up a stick and it had been sanded into a point. Several of the pastel sticks had been sanded in this way. They felt like heaven on my fingertips. Smooth, buttery, and warm. The energy of my grandfather was imprinted on each stick like a fingerprint. I felt content and connected to him. It is a way that I can continue to draw with him.
Monday, April 16, 2007
My latest commissioned charcoal portrait features Che, an adorable mixed breed boy. Che is a sweet, older chap, who is quite tall. Reclining in the sun, he maintains a peaceful, thoughtful expression. He is drawn in black conte crayon on smooth vellum paper.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
The production above is a simple slideshow that showcases my work in charcoal, set to the music of Led Zeppelin. I figured that it was only fair to showcase my work in charcoal, since there's already two slideshows with my pastel work.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
A few days ago, I felt motivated to work on another wildlife drawing. I've been wanting to draw either a squirrel or chipmunk for a while. After digging through my photo reference files, I found a picture of an exotic chipmunk that lives in the "Mouse House" at a zoo. When I took the picture, he was darting up a tree in his little habitat. This little chap is a nocturnal animal, which is why the drawing is set at night.
The drawing was created with pastel pencils and is 8 x 10" in size. The blurriness of the picture is intentional, to show the motion of the animal.
Friday, March 30, 2007
A few weeks ago, I happened to glance in my guest bedroom in between chores. My mellow kitty, Molly, was napping in the most peculiar position. It was one of those moments when you feel the need to grab your camera and just start snapping pictures. While I was snapping away, I was giggling at the fact that my kitty didn't even bother to move with a camera in plain site. She remained outstretched on her back, with her paws in the air. Apparently, this is THE most comfortable position. for morning naps.
The portrait is drawn in pastel pencils from my favorite reference photo taken that morning. A few areas were touched up with general pastels to create a smooth appearance. The drawing is 11 x 14" on smooth, vellum paper.
The small photograph above the portrait is the reference photo.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
This week's Illustration Friday theme is "I Spy". Many people spy on wildlife, the weather, or their neighbors through the windows of their homes. In this picture, I am spying on some squirrels in my yard. It was a particularly sunny day and I love playing with darkness and light in the composition.
Friday, March 23, 2007
The dog drawn above is my own mixed breed, Lady Sasha. Sasha is not a snuggler per se, but she occasionally will place her head on you to show affection. The reference for this picture was taken while I was reclining in the sun and Sasha rested her head on my leg. She found a comfy niche and pouted. Her expression was priceless and it inspired the pastel pic above. Enjoy!
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
The video above demonstrates the steps involved in creating a pastel pencil portrait. I thought it would be interesting for artists and clients to see how I work. I'm still a novice at creating videos, but this is a start. I'm pretty proud of my portrait of Sunny and photographed the steps as I drew. It's always interesting in the beginning, when I am layering the colors. The piece looks flat and goes through the "ugly" stage. With a large piece, this stage can take time to work through. I have to remind myself that the piece will come together in the end. I guess that philosophy can work in life as well, when faced with a challenge.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Friday, March 09, 2007
The picture above is my adorable senior golden, Sunny. This special guy is the subject of the two portraits below, that won awards at the Art Show At The Dog Show. Sunny is drawn in pastel pencils and his portrait dimensions are 11 x 14".
Sunny is recovering from a series of cluster seizures that occurred randomly two weeks ago. While he hasn't seizured since, he is quite sedate. He mostly rests and sleeps. I took the reference photo for this portrait while he was napping in the sunlight. He always looks like he belongs in a calendar, in front of a crackling fireplace when he naps. He just has the classic golden retriever look.