Friday, November 19, 2021

Thanksgiving Artwork

Frank the Turkey by Larissa Lindsay (2021)

One of my colleagues from Paws with Cause painted this portrait of Frank the Turkey. I'm not sure how Frank wound up at an animal shelter. Unlike traditional domesticated pets, turkeys only live 3-5 years. The domestic white-feathered turkey is usually the star of the show when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, while the more colorful wild turkey is smaller and has darker more flavorful meat. The largest domestic turkey on record weighed an amazing 86 pounds!

On our way home from Palm Springs in March 2020 we saw a couple of wild turkeys roaming around the parking lot of one of the hotels where we stayed in California. In most states it's illegal to keep wild animals in captivity as pets.

The Turkeys at the Chateau de Rottembourg,
(1877), Claude Monet

I was surprised to find this painting of domesticated white turkeys by Impressionist Claude Monet. Although I had been to the Musee d'Orsay in Paris in May 2011, I don't recall seeing this painting there. It was one of four panels commissioned by Ernest Hoschedé, a department store magnate in Paris. Soon after, he lost his Impressionist collection to bankruptcy.

The Magpie (1868-9), Monet

Monet's Magpie is my favorite of his paintings. I blogged about it in my January 2021 post entitled Snow Scenes in Painting and Photography. The small subject of this painting is perched atop a fence amidst this dramatically beautiful snow scene.

November First (1950), Andrew Wyeth

In my search for other artwork of the Thanksgiving season, I happened upon this watercolor painting by Andrew Wyeth. It's representative of the time when most if not all of the leaves are gone and the weather is turning crisp and cold. You can almost feel the wind.

The Potato Eaters (1885), Van Gogh

Although Van Gogh's The Potato Eaters is not a Thanksgiving painting per-se, I include it here as a fine example of people giving thanks for what they have. I appreciate his treatment of light and minimal color palette. Although dark and predominantly green and black, you can still feel the warm glow on the peasants' faces provided from a single light source.

Freedom from Want (1942),
Norman Rockwell

I want to end this post with the classic American Thanksgiving feast portrayed by Norman Rockwell in one of his Four Freedoms paintings. Entitled Freedom From Want, it represents an idealized and bountiful feast being shared by friends and family. I show it in contrast to Van Gogh's meager peasant meal (above). Notice how the people around the table are yacking it up and enjoying each other's company, not noticing the entrance of main entrée. And Grandpa isn't offering to help Grandma carry the heavy turkey to the table. Rockwell does an amazing job of capturing the white-on-white of the china, glassware, and tablecloth.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Animal Portraits with Seniors

I am now officially a Lead Art Docent at Assisted Living Centers here in South King and Pierce Counties. Painting portraits of shelter animals is a fun and engaging activity for Seniors. As with many of my art activities time is always a factor. While our Paws with Cause Sit-Stay-'N'-Play parties typically last 90 minutes, the Seniors seem to need more time to finish their masterpieces. We had four tables, including two at which staff members were present, and my volunteer and I were floating around replenishing supplies and changing water. Next time I plan to assign one helper at each table.

One of my helpers was a Staff person who recently hired on at the Assisted Living Center. She had painted before and managed to complete her portrait of Oso the Dog.

Another interesting animal was a cow wearing a party hat. The gentleman who chose the bovine subject seemed to enjoy painting the hat and horns. This is when I would suggest painting in the background and maybe leaving the body for last.

Several of our artists jumped right in and got down to the business of painting the most prominent color of the animal's fur, while others preferred to start with the facial features. I encouraged one person to mix a color for the body of her German Shepard.

One of our artists spent most of her time outlining the features of her white cat and chose to limit her palette. She simply used black paint to suggest texture on the cat's coat. She carried on and used black for the front paws in shadow. The cat's tail saw the beginnings of Pointillism that had time permitted would have been an awesome technique to finish with.


My volunteer's Mother chose to paint her white dog brown. Personally, I find it most challenging to paint white or black animals. Either way, there needs to be subtle shading using light or dark grays to achieve the desired effect.

Here are two kitten examples where one artist painted the animal all in brown as if to avoid painting the eyes, while the other artist was inspired to start her portrait with the eyes. Next time I need to encourage usage of the large mixing area in the center of the palette!


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Animal Portraits

Queen from the Humane
Society of Tacoma and
Pierce County

Learning to paint a portrait of an animal is much easier than you'd think. All it takes is practice. The eyes are the most important feature to get right, along with capturing the facial expression. No matter what the subject, most artists will begin their painting with a sketch.

For our Paws with Cause portraits of shelter animals, we start with a photo of the potential adoptee. Sometimes the photo will include the whole body. I personally prefer more of a close-up view. We sketch the animal onto a blank (8X10) canvas using permanent marker. 

My Traced Sketch of Queen

Once you're satisfied with the sketch, we often suggest going over the lines using puff paint to preserve a tactile feel to help seniors stay within the lines, especially if eyesight is an issue. Whether at our Sit-Stay-and-Paint parties or leisurely painting at home each canvas already comes pre-sketched.

My Sketch of Bo

Bo from Forgotten
Dogs Rescue

Some painters may find it easier to start with the background. Others may jump right in and work on the facial features. It really doesn't matter where you start. Using acrylic paint allows you to build up layers as you go. Don't worry about making a mistake; the paint dries quickly and can be easily touched up later.

Many experienced artists use their sketch to define the proportions and placement within the rectangle. Some painters may depend more upon the lines as guides. Remember that the face is the most important part. In my painting, I will keep Bo's teal harness but edit out the orange leash.

Another approach is to consider painting within the areas defined by the lines that have been drawn. If you work in a small area at a time, then the areas encapsulated by the lines become areas of colored shapes. Don't forget that the printed photo is always there to reference for those details that may now be covered up with color.

Once the initial layers have been established it's time to begin to add textural details such as fur, shading, and highlights to give your portrait dimension (such detail may spill over into the background). I tend to spend most of my time on the subject and less time on the background. With watercolors, I like to wash over larger areas with diluted colors with the intention of going back later with more saturated colors.

Perhaps you started your painting with a solid color in the background (be sure to mix enough of the base hue). If so, then this would be the time to make it more interesting and fun. That's totally up to you! I chose to finish with a beachy background for my portrait of Bo. Our family dogs love frolicking on the beach. Though most beaches don't allow dogs to be off-leash, My daughter takes her dog to a waterfront off-leash dog park in Edmonds, Washington.

Here's a watercolor painting I did of three dogs at the Palm Springs Dog Park. On the left is a printout of the photo I took. And on the right is the finished painting.

Here is what it looked like partway through the process. You can see my light brown colored pencil lines in the sketch. After washes and layers of watercolor paint, my lines could no longer be seen.

Athenaeum (1795),
from the Smithsonian
National Gallery
An Allegory of
While on a trip to the UK in 2017, we visited the Scottish National Gallery. Hanging there was this unfinished painting by an unknown artist. Everything but the central figure was painted first, including the background. Such studies are for an artist's own use and not intended to be displayed. One such artist is American portrait artist, Gilbert Stuart, who used an unfinished portrait of George Washington (“Athenaeum”) as the model for all future portraits of our first President. He used it as the basis for his engraving on the one dollar bill.

Sketching an image on a pumpkin is a little more challenging. It is important to clean the outside of your pumpkin before sketching. I've never used carbon paper for this. Some people print out a pattern and poke tiny holes along the outlines. Permanent marker works best, and don't be afraid that you will see the lines after carving because the pumpkin will sweat during carving. I use soapy water or Windex to remove more stubborn marks.

For pumpkin carving, you will need to decide upon the positive-negative space. Decide what is to be cut away (showing the light) and what is left behind (the dark skin). If you want a middle ground (gray tone) then you will need to peel the skin to the desired depth for just the right glow. This also works well for skulls. When peeled the face shows up in daylight and becomes creepier at night.

For my Husky pumpkins, I did a really challenging one with a Washington 'W' in the background. I love how the bright spot of the candle made the husky's face look white! Admittedly, there is also a toothpick to attach the floating eye.

This year I found a much easier design online that uses simple cutouts. I intend to use blue translucent pony beads for the eyes. Notice how much more 3D the dog looks with the head turned at a slight angle. The important thing to remember when taking away the flesh is to be mindful of the structure of what's left behind. We need to balance the positive and negative space in our design. I can already see that the left side of the snout is going to be a problem!

I decided to use one of the smaller pumpkins that we grew in our garden this year, since I intend to use this design for my online class. The entire back side of this gourd was rotten, so I decided to gut it from the back, leaving a large opening. Later, I performed a repair using the back of another small pumpkin, just like Dr. Frankenstein would have done (never done this before). As you can see, I had to resort to a toothpick to support the snout!

When I did the raven pumpkin with the large moon in the background, I had to support the head and beak with a toothpick because of shrinkage as the pumpkin began to dry out and rot. So don't carve those jack-o-lanterns too early!

On Halloween day at the Everett Farmers Market, I will be demonstrating pup-kin carving. Alas, they aren't shelter animals that Paws with Cause supports, although they show many of the techniques required to do an animal portrait on a pumpkin. There will be lots of scraping. Luckily, I purchased a set of linoleum block printing cutters from Amazon!

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Art Inside and Outside the Ballpark

Portrait within Seattle Times Pic
The Seattle Mariners

In honor of a great season of Seattle Mariners baseball I am posting about the artwork inside and outside of T-Mobile Park. As game #162 could be the last time we see third-baseman Kyle Seager play baseball as a Mariner, let's take another look at his portrait painted by artist Jeff "Weirdo" Jacobson for the 2018 Mariners Care Auction. I actually pasted the portrait inside 3rd base in a recent photo from the Seattle Times. Taking away 3rd base is hardly consolation for 10 years of Mariners baseball, though hopefully it means something to him and his family.

Edgar (2021), Lou Cella

Outside the park there is the newly installed statue of HOFer Edgar Martinez. It joins the one at the main entrance to T-Mobile Park dedicated to Ken Griffey Jr. Let's also not forget The Mitt, by Gerald Tsutakawa. These and others also appear in my recent post entitled, Edgar Statue, HOFers Murals, and Other Ballpark Art. I took this image from the Seattle Times and cropped it to use on my phone's lock screen. The tarp makes it look like the figure is emerging from a block of stone.

Other Large Art Installations

I also love all of the steel cutout figures of player silhouettes attached to the gates and fences around the outside of the stadium. One of our neighborhood playing fields has been decorated with figures representing multiple sports. My favorite has to be the fences and gates surrounding the city dog park in Palm Springs, CA. Dog faces and figures are actually incorporated into the structure created by sculptor Phill Evans.

Neon scribbles by Cerith Wyn Evans
I appreciate the large installations like the The Tempest that hangs in the main concourse at the Home Plate Gate. The centerpiece of the rotunda includes translucent baseball bats "molded of resin and mounted on brushed aluminum spiraling forms". See the Art-in-the-Park link at the top of this post. I am equally impressed when I find other modern installations like the neon light sculpture hanging in London's Tate Britain entrance.

Entrance to Vigeland Sculpture Park, Oslo

I'm not going to show the nude male figures sculpted in wrought iron on one of the gates in Oslo, Norway's Vigeland Sculpture Park. However, I certainly can show the intricate park entrance. Not a baseball park, but equally impressive iron work and tons of sculptures inside the park!

Brandenburg Gate w/ Quadriga, J.G. Schadow

Speaking of gates, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany is also impressive. We luckily got to visit it while on our cruise to seven countries (including Norway) along the Baltic Sea. Atop the structure you can see the sculpture by Johann Gottfried Schadow. Quadriga is a chariot drawn by four horses and driven by Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory. How 'bout that Mariners victory against the A's on 27 September! They actually beat Oakland 12 games in a row.

More Baseball Tributes

Cal Ripken in Wax

While visiting the Baseball HOF in Cooperstown, NY in July 2019 for the induction of Edgar Martinez, we saw lots of great baseball art. Here in the doorway of the Heroes of Baseball Wax Museum is a figure of Cal Ripken. We didn't actually go inside the museum and I am certain there was much more art to be seen outside of the HOF itself and in the surrounding town. Maybe someday there will be a similar tribute to Kyle Seager!

Babe Ruth & Ted Williams, Baseball HOF

My favorite sculpture inside the HOF is the side-by-side life-size basswood figures of Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. The artist, Armand LaMontagene, hit this one out of the park!

Babe & Ted
Closeup of Ted & Babe

Gehrig, Robinson, and Clemente

These three HOF celebrities -- Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, and Roberto Clemente -- were immortalized together inside the hall in 2008 with bronze statues by sculptor, Stanley Bleifeld.

Kyle Seager has been deservedly nominated  for the 2021 Roberto Clemente Award.