Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Fern: NZ SPR CH and SPL GR CH Lanascol Question Answered

Facebook is so awesome and allows us to peek into people's lives in ways never before available.   We see fun pictures of friends and family.  We see wonderful pictures of peoples' travels.  And for me, I see lots and lots of pictures of peoples' dogs.  There is an Irish Setter in New Zealand that I've loved to follow and admire.   Her name is Fern.  Those in the dog show world know her as NZ SPR CH and SPL GR CH Lanascol Question Answered.
When her owner approached me to paint her it was such a thrill.   We met when she was traveling here to the US and were able to talk in person.  She returned to New Zealand and started sending me me reference photos of Fern for the painting.   Each photo was lovely - so many great shots.   Long story short, the project became a two image painting.  The main image would be a head shot of Fern and the second image would be a movement shot.

Fern is a classically beautiful setter.   One main change that was made from the reference photo to the painting was the reflection in her eyes.  The reflection in her left eye (the right side of the painting) was wonderful.  The reflection in her right eye in the photo was pretty subdued.  This was not that apparent when looking at the photo.  However, in the painting, it felt out of balance.  So, I put a much stronger reflection in the right eye.  Not as much reflection as in the left eye as the right eye is partially shadowed in the photo.   But the painting was stronger with more light in that right eye. 

It is so important to me that people do not have me "replicate" a photo.  Actually, that word makes me cringe when I hear it.   My goal as an artist is to create a painting using photos as reference material.  I equate it to a map.  When driving to a new location don't you need directions to get there?    Cameras can capture a wonderful image of the dog.  If it were not for photographs, it would be really difficult to paint a dog.  My dogs are trained to be models and they will only sit still for as long as they think is appropriate and then go galluping to the kitchen for treats!   In a painting, an artist can change whatever they want to from the reference photos.  We can make weaker areas strong or tone down strengths of a photo that are over powering.  We can fix a twitching nose that is pointed the wrong direction in a photo.   We can open eyes that are squinting.  We can straighten hair that is kinky.   In the painting I can put detail where there is none in a photo or I can eliminate details from a  photo that really are not needed.  As a professional artist, my job is to capture the essence of the dog and create something special.   I look to the photos as help to give me details to capture that animal for the person who commissioned me to do so.  (In no way do I intend for this post to downplay photos or photographers.   From taking photos of animals avidly for over 40 years, photography is an art in and of itself and to be admired and respected.)

When it came to creating the background of Fern's painting I was given artist liberty - no preferences.   A great deal of time was spent looking at the painting and deciding what to do with the background.  Fern's classic look set me in a "Rembrandt" mode - classical paintings.   The background was created in the environment of the old masters.   A subdued palette with lights and darks.   Hope you enjoy viewing it as much as I did painting it.   Huge thank you to Carolyn and Paul for having me paint their special girl!

Fern painting completed (the copyright mark is not on the painting)