Friday, February 3, 2012

How to paint a sleeping cat
... well, how I do it, anyway!

Here’s the finished painting ... nobody does sleep like a cat. Especially Ray. He’s a professional. Click here to check out some of his napping techniques.

prints available

Someone to Watch Over Me • ©2012 Karen Mathison Schmidt
6 x 6 inches • oil on archival, museum-quality Gessobord
private collection • Vancouver, BC, Canada

And here are my work in progress photos:

Here’s the beginning, the initial sketch in acrylic, with acrylic glazes of quinacrodone rose, cadmium yellow light, and phthalo blue. I started out with quite a bit of detail on those Laurel Burch kitties gracing the pillow. I wanted them to be accurately whimsical, recognizable as her art.

And now I warm everything up with glazes of yellow and rose, 
with some blue on Ray’s body in the shadowy places.

Next, after letting the acrylic underpainting dry for about 30 minutes,
I start adding the oil colors, first on those watchful kitties ...

... working on them from dark to light ...

Here I’ve added the blue to the background of the pillow ...

... and here you can see I’ve loosened up the detail on the kitties just a bit. Also added just a hint of repeating highlights to suggest the rattan on the back of the chair which is just peeking over the top of the pillow. You only need a hint of repeating texture like this, because the viewers’ brains are really good at filling in detail and going “oh, that’s rattan.”

Now I start adding detail to Ray.

Don’t forget those cute “eye whiskers.” 
Remember: only a suggestion goes a long way
 on details like whiskers and fluffiness.

Here I’ve added the wall color, keeping brushstrokes loose so those luscious underpainting colors can peek through in places. Also adding details to the patterned fabric on the chair cushion ... okay, all together now: “only a suggestion will do!”

Continuing work on Ray. Look, decide, load brush, stroke. Look again, decide, load brush, stroke. Taking a page from Carol Marine’s book and applying only one or two strokes before wiping the brush and reloading with another color.

And now a page from my own book, with some final swashes of transparent color (paint with a generous amount of stand oil) in just a FEW strategic places: some rose on Ray’s head and left ear, and some orange to intensify the glow in the coral-y spots on the chair cushion, just a little yellow-y glow in the vicinity of Ray’s right elbow. Oh, and just a couple of thin strokes of almost-white-pale-yellow to better define the outside edge of Ray’s left ear. 

And then the all-important decision to STOP before things get overdone. 

Add signature ... and ... done!


Anonymous said...

Gosh I love to see your progress and hear your descriptions. It seems so much to absorb, but someday maybe I'll get it.

Virginia Floyd said...

Another beautiful painting, Karen! Thanks for sharing your process. You made a litttke loth bulb go off in my head. I think I'd like to try doing an underpainting in arcrylics.

Somerset wedding gal said...

This is so pretty and funny, I love the way my eyes were first drawn to the cute brighter cats on the sofa(?) the cat is laying down on, before realising that the subject of the picture was actually lying beneath them! The subtlety of the way he blends into the sofa with a mass of fur reminds me of how I've almost sat on my own cat often if she's camouflaged amongst the pillows! Could those bright cats also represent your sweet cat's dreams floating above his head or is that reading too much into it??

Karen M Schmidt said...

Hi, Sherry, thanks for checking in ... just keep on painting, painting, painting!

Virginia, you made my morning ... I love it when artists are encouraged by my blog!

Somerset wedding gal, I love your description of seeing the painting for the first time. I've almost sat on our cats a few times, myself!. As for whether those brightly colored cats represent Ray's dreams ... well, I ALMOST named the painting "Dreaming in Color III," but changed at the last minute, so you're not too far off ... I love your creative thinking!