Ensconced V: Trixie © 2013 by Karen Mathison Schmidt, artist
7 x 5 inches • acrylic on GessobordTM
gloss varnish for UV protection
Here’s the finished portrait of Trixie, our eight-year-old border collie mix. Her mother was a border collie, and the family we adopted her weren’t sure who her father was.
All we know is she’s our first-adopted, our eldest and our smartest. She knows about sixty tricks, and she’s a stickler for the rules, excels in obeying the rules, and likes to make sure the best she can that everyone else knows and follows the rules as well. And if they don’t, well, she’s out there carrying her clipboard with the pen attached to it by a little chain, taking names and giving out demerits.
She loves kittens, babies, going for walks, peanut butter, The Twilight Zone and Edith Piaf.
One time she was in the car with us when an Edith Piaf song started playing -- in French, of course -- and she left off looking out the window and sat, riveted, with ears at attention and head cocked, her eyes never leaving the radio dial until the song was over. We don’t have any Edith Piaf recordings in the house, so we’ve never tried to see whether she would have that same reaction again. I like to think she would.
Anyway, this is Trixie, and these are the work-in-progress pics:
The initial sketch in Mars black acrylic. I almost always start with a pencil sketch or a transfer of a sketch that I did on paper first, then I go over that sketch loosely with my acrylic. I had started washing in some phthalo blue when I remembered to stop and take this progress photo first!
Oooo, zombie eyes. Scary, kids!
Here I added glazes of Prussian blue, Hooker's green, burnt sienna. And filled in her eyes with burnt umber. The pillow at the top right is going to be green, and the blanket in the left foreground is going to be red, so I’ve used complements (sort of) of those for the underpainting in those areas.
Usually I start with the eyes and work out from there, but here I did a little on the eyes and then started adding the white and light tan around her muzzle, and adding details to her nose. I never really notice how really big our dogs’ noses are until I start drawing or painting them. Unlike cats’s noses which are small and delicate-looking. As long as I had the white on my brush, I went ahead and tested out how some highlights would look on the edge of her ear. I like it. Already the highlights on her nose, ear and eyes are bringing her to life!
Now I continue adding the soft highlights and shadows of her face and ears, making little decisions along the way where to keep the vivid blue underpainting showing through. I love her orangey-tan “eye dots” above her eyes.
“Now there’s our Trixie-Doodle!” Here’s a close-up detail of her face from the finished painting:
After adding more details to her ears I start sketching in the darker areas of her chest and shoulder areas, and the medium lights of her white “chest ruffle” and paw. I like to work from dark to light in those white areas.
Collar details, with that shiny gold-colored tag, and more work on her body, keeping it really loose there, with more of that blue showing through. Most of Trixie’s coat is smooth, but her white chest and some of the fur around her collar area is more fluffy and cow-licky, growing in a lot of different directions. Fun to paint.
Also, now I begin adding in the details of her comfy surroundings, starting with her nubbly soft faux-sheepskin-like light blue blanket. Just a suggestion of texture on the blanket is enough to show the softness.
Working on the green pillow behind her head, and her right leg where her paw is tucked under. Also, a few dashes of pale colors added in to her white fluffy chest. Rose madder mixed with white, and a little raw sienna mixed with white and even some light green in the shadowy area where the bottom of her chest almost meets the blanket. And some very subtle light pink (a touch of rose madder mixed with white) on her white paw to give a little more depth. White is never just white!
Here, you’ll see that I added just a little bluish green (phthalo blue plus Hooker’s green plus white) in a few of the shadows of the green pillow. Just about three or four places. And in the shadowy area away from the light coming in from the left, I have let a little of the orangey/burnt sienna underpainting to show through.
After adding the detail of the pillow at the back left, I decide that it’s a little busy and is clamoring just a little too hard for attention ...
... and after I got the red blanket finished, I liked the teal and green together in the background. So I added just a little botanical detail (below) to bring in the spring green from the big pillow. Also here you can see a few more subtle turqoises and yellows added in to the soft white-blue blanket to give it a little more oomph in color dimension.
Since I was imagining the teal pillow, I had to imagine how the light coming in from the left would highlight the top of the pillow. I’ve decided it’s a velveteen pillow with embroidered botanical design. Wish I had it in real life, it would go really good with that spring green pillow!
And finally, I made Trixie’s tag just a touch bigger, and gave the highlight on her red collar just a touch of vermilion to make it even more highlighty (yes, I just made that word up). And while I had that brush loaded with vermilion, I added a touch of it to the shadow at the bottom of the green pillow, and in the little dark shadow of the light blue blanket (far right edge of the painting about one-third of the way up from the bottom) ... just for fun!