Saturday, 13 August 2011

Pets are less existential...

Around about the time when bell-bottom denim became popular for a second time, Diana's funeral was aired to over 2 billion people worldwide and Skynet was supposed to launch it's nuclear attack on Earth (according to Terminator), I was spotted in art-class by my then idol Tanya Pell. 
I was struggling with a portrait I was painting, the black hair of my school buddy just looked drab and flat on the canvas, where as in life her hair was bouncy and Vidal Sasoon like.

My generous, talented and excellent art teach Tanya gave me a tip about how to make black really pop. It was at that point, with this small gesture, Tanya set me on my artistic journey.

Much like when Gandelf handed over the ring to Frodo, and definitely fraught with equal peril, this clue set me on my way. I was shown how to create something that felt alive and spoke of what lay within. This tip, helped me understand how to capture personality, and portray a spirit. 

When Tanya divulged her technique to me, she forged a strong bond between student and teacher. It's not often an older artist will share a secret with a younger one, as generally the good techniques take years to discover (obviously before the Internet, it was 1997 at this point)Whether it be a specifically cut brush for the perfect leaves on a tree, or a practised hand motion for the perfect glint in the eye, artists will often keep their best techniques to themselves. So I felt very fortunate when Tanya showed me the perfect mix for a luminous black, which I will now share with you. 

As we now have the Internet and sharing techniques is what we are all about, I don't feel bad about passing this on: 
In oil paints the secret to a divine black is: Mix equal parts french ultra-marine blue and burnt sienna brown. So there you have it, something so simple set me on my path. 
I haven't deviated from this combination ever. If you're working in inks, a good black ink washes out to blues and browns naturally. 

Tanya did a second thing which cemented my artistic route, she bought in some pet portraits she painted, to make money on the side which financed her impeccable wardrobe.
I was entranced by how life-like and sweet they looked, so as a gift to a friend I painted her beloved Jack-Russell 'Sooky'. I thought it was a good job as my new technique for black made Sooky's little nose look wet and her eyes gleam with love. 
My friends family loved it and I received more praise for that piece than anything else I'd ever done. So this idea of capturing an essence and portraying it well, was my first artistic thrill.
(this is not the portrait I did but just an image to give you an idea, the original is lost in time)
Through the years, I've painted exhibited and sold people portraits, my most notable being a triptych of Adalita from the band Magic Dirt which was submitted for the Archibald prize. 
Here you can see by her hair, the black mix looks shiny, pretty and deep just like her. (The other two pieces sit next to this one but you'll have to pop over to my place to see it all). 
People portraits are hard work, as creatures we are deep and complex, that's why pets are funner to capture as they are a bit less existential. 

I recently did this B+W illustration for my friend Michelle - her little guy Calvin is squish able and I hopefully captured his loving face here. I do prefer colour for my brown/blue method but I suppose once you know the rules you know how to break them. 
LOTS of artists love the Pet Portrait, if you take a look at ETSY - about 16,000 pet portraits are up for sale. Artists love capturing Pets!

One of these Etsy artists 'Hot Digital Dog' uses photoshop to make these hilarious and cute Vintage portraits of pets: 
Or this adorable embroidery Boston: 
Pet portraits are addictive to an artist. Being able to capture the spark and spirit of a creature in your art is so satisfying, it's no wonder that there are artists like Johanna Uribes make a good living of it. 
Also Pet Photography is very popular, with some decent houses like Houndstooth Photography putting out some seriously beautiful work.

Pet taxidermy and Pet mummification is a bit full-on, but it demonstrates how we have always loved and wanted to preserve our pets adoration for us. 
(As a side note - do not google 'pet mummification', apparently 'mummification' is also an S&M term and wholly guacamole did I get an education!)
One of the most polarising Pet Portrait phenomenon's is the Pet Portrait Tattoo. 
There is often the 'eeeesh' moment when you look at one that isn't executed well: 
Yet there are some very talented artists out there that do a spectacular job. 
Two of which my bestie Mardi Nowak discovered (Mardi travels regularly to the states to get inked by the super talented Hanna and Silje). 
Kapten Hanna and Silje Hagland are two tattoo artists that take the cupcake for the most ADORABLE pet tattoos, their little characters really come to life. 

Hanna has a very carnival style often capturing the playful, jovial fun side of pets in costumes that if the pet could, would definitely choose for themselves. 
These are miniature tattoo portraits, so teensy and cute!
Whereas Silje sometimes uses more of a Victorian feel to her characters, humanising and displaying the inner poshness most pets portray in their confident 'I own you' manner.

So gorgeous. 

Like most of these artists I too LOVE drawing pets, so if you want a portrait of your fur baby send me through an image and I'll enjoy every minute of capturing their cuteness. 


1 comment:

  1. I am new to your blog and <3 it! I have been wanting a tattoo of my now long gone pets, Buddy and Kimchi, and have been thinking of doing a shared portrait a la Victorian styling, or two separate portraits on each forearm. I hadn't considered the uber small tattoos shown here, until now! Something new to consider!