What’s On My Easel? Sasha, Second Update, and Final?
At this point in posting updates my camera kind of fails the task because this time around it’s all fine detail. Whether it’s my Smartphone or my DSLR, or even years ago on film, those details are difficult to catch with a camera especially in Sasha’s white areas. I have left them intentionally a little dark—they are actually pretty pure white—because when I lightened them to an accurate color I lost all the details I’d put in the fur. I typically use my scanner for these portraits but it finally failed me with this portrait and I’m looking for a replacement for it now. To compensate I’ve taken a number of detail photos.
Sasha’s fur is looking like real fur now with highlights and the little tufts that form with its natural curl. Though she looks white and tan, both colors have many other hues that give them depth, reds and blues, yellows and greens, all worked in to create the shapes and shadows of her little haircut.
Below you can see more of the lay of the fur on her torso as it both curls on its own and follows the curve of her body.
Here are those little paws, and her white chest. Sasha’s mom said she liked it better without the pink bow too, so we just see Sasha’s fur.
So we’ll see what Sasha’s person thinks—she has the final say of whether the portrait looks and feels like Sasha!
Below are the other updates to Sasha’s portrait and the very first post.
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We’ve made a few changes to Sasha’s portrait in the past week. For one thing her person asked if we could remove the pink bow at the top—it was too eye-catching and took attention away from Sasha. Once I’d done that, I decided to remove the pink collar as well to see how that would look. For now, I think I like it better. Sasha is such a little thing those decorations look so big. The portrait was also taking on kind of a pink-and-blue baby cast, and Sasha is little, but she’s not a puppy by any means!
Furthering the portrait along, I went through her fur and blended the color areas together and went back over her fur with a couple of think layers of other colors, color complements, to give her fur color the depth it naturally has. I added just swashes of pale blue in the tan areas and a deeper green in the shadowed areas, then worked the native color, tan and brown back over it. I also added tones of pale blue, green, yellow and violet to her white areas.
Most importantly, I worked on her face, as you can see in the detail image below. Dogs’ eyes are typically dark but they are not black, though in photographs they can appear so if deep-set enough. Sasha’s eyes are not deep-set but when eye color contrasts with the dog’s fur, as they do with Sasha’s white and pale tan fur, it can be very hard to determine the color. I worked a little bit of brown into the black so that you can see a bit of color variation as well as her pupils. That alone really brings her to life.
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We met Sasha back in February when she and her person stopped by to get a few photographs and get a start on her portrait. Through some frustrating email issues we’ve been discussing size and color and now we’re finally ready to put Sasha on paper. I’m so glad to get a start after I’ve been picturing her fur in pastel for all this time! Most often I don’t get to post updates on portraits as I work because the portrait is a surprise or the person simply prefers to keep their privacy as I work, but Sasha’s human is looking forward to sharing updates.
Above is the very first draft in pastel on the sanded paper I use for portraits. It’s at this point, just after the first layer of pastel in limited colors and little blending, that I stop and let the portrait sit for a few hours or a day, then come back and see if everything looks proportional, shadows and highlights are in the right places, relative colors are good, and the overall composition works in the size the portrait will be. Most importantly, I always check to see if I can feel the subject in the painting. If I don’t, I can’t go on without getting to that point. In this case, I definitely feel Sasha is here.
The surface really is like a fine sandpaper and if you imagine pastels to be somewhat like chalk you can imagine how the surface holds the dry pastel so that you can both blend and layer it. This paper is Wallis Sanded Pastel Paper in a tone called Belgian mist, which is always a good mid-range to start from, adding highlights and shadows equally. Really, I do visualize the pastel before I start, applying it to the paper, blending it with my fingers, then working into it with color after color, blending and shaping the pastel surface to achieve that dimensional appearance of light and shadow. This first draft includes very few colors, four tan tones in her fur, four blueish tones in the background including a violet and a turquoise, and pinks for her tongue and her little bows. Sometimes I like them very much at this rough stage and more than once my customer and I have decided to stop at this point. Below is the uncropped version so I have room to spread out the pastel.
And below is the main reference photo. I have others as closeups for her face. While the main photo is professionally done I can always use detail images of faces, especially dark eyes and noses, but even light areas like paws. We discussed her bows, which are colored for Christmas, and decided we’d use a color that would work any time of the year. I wanted to use a blue background to complement her tan fur, and since pink was another popular color for this little girl, pink it was.
Sasha has congestive heart failure and though she’s doing well her human wants to have this done now while she’s still looking healthy. She had won the certificate at last summer’s Animal Care and Assistance event to help raise money for veterinary costs at Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Clinic.
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