Friday, 31 July 2015

Golden Light 3

oil painting of German Shepherd dog, dog painting, pet painting by Karen

This beautiful German Shepherd was painted from a reference photograph, but the setting I have put him in is loosely based on a vantage point adopted by my dog on the top of Brentor on Dartmoor.  
Here is one photo I took of the view from the top, looking south towards Plymouth and the sea:

Last blog post for this week. Thank you very much for looking at my paintings. Have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Golden Light 2

oil painting of cowboy lassoing a calf, pet portrait by Karen
Just playing with a limited palette and enjoying lavish use of Cad Yellow Deep,  one of my favourite colours but which I don't often get the chance to use. Thank you to Debbie Greyson Lincoln from Paint My Photo for the reference photo.
This is my 400th blog post and therefore my 400th daily painting.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Golden Light No 1

Oil painting of a cat in golden light. Pet portrait, cat painting
I painted 99% of this using just two transparent colours: Raw Sienna and Raw Umber, plus a good deal of wiping back to board. The background, for example, was achieved by dabbing the paint on with tissues and fingers, waiting half an hour for it to tack up very slightly and then dabbing it back off again.
I used an oil primed linen board, as I couldn't do this on canvas or acrylic gesso. The paint would stain the surface too much, and you couldn't wipe back to white, or near white. I applied the paint in 3 or 4 layers waiting for each to dry and as I used W&N alkyd oils, applied very thinly, this did not take long. 
At the very end I used Titanium White for her whiskers and the same, with a touch of Cad Lemon, for a few highlights.

Friday, 24 July 2015

The Stretch

oil painting of a cat in the sun, pet portrait by karen
We will all have to imagine the warmth of the sun this cat is enjoying here in Devon: it has been raining hard for several hours!
Some of the effect of warmth in this painting is down to the orange under-painting which peeks through in places, especially the cat's fur. 
When this technique works well, it is very effective. When it fails it fails big time: I tried a yellow underpainting the other day and the poor creature looked like he was experiencing end stage liver failure. Yikes.
This week, on my other blog, a description with pix of how to create your own limited palette colour chart (NB my other blog is about learning as an artist and has no animals).
Have a great weekend everyone and thank you for looking at my paintings.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Sweet licks

oil painting of dog eating an ice-cream
This daily painting of a sweet dog eating his own ice-cream is a re-post from last year. I have always liked this little painting: he looks rather like my own dog would, if we didn't keep his fur under control and I like the way his tongue and the ice-cream merge. 
Painted with large brushes (apart from the eyes) and a limited palette, but it is hard not to have two shades of red, however disciplined I am trying to be: there is such a difference between cool and warm reds and I find both are required to paint a nice tongue. 

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Wish You Were Here

Wish you were here, a seaside postcard painting with a dog
A little tease on the theme of the traditional seaside postcard.

The beach huts are from a photo by Christine Coffey, the seaside is imaginary although based on the red cliffs of Sidmouth, Devon where I used to go on holiday with the children when they were small.
Today's painting is dedicated to all those who, like me, get fed-up of the press telling us what to pack "for our holidays" when we are not going away on holiday. 
This is in many ways the best sort of holiday, in fact: imaginary. No packing involved, no travel delays or traumas, no sand in everything and the sun always shines!

Friday, 17 July 2015

Golden rooster

oil painting of a golden cockerel by Karen Robinson, a pet portrait
A splash of colour for a grey and mizzly Devon morning. Much as I love painting dogs, it is sometimes nice to break out the bright colours.
Hope you all have a lovely weekend and thank you for looking at my paintings.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015


Gotcha! Trompe l'oeil oil painting of a golden retriever catching a ball
This painting is an attempt at a little troupe l’oeil, a phrase that literally means ‘trick of the eye’. It is a type of work, in art, that is designed to deceive your eye into believing a painted detail is a real, 3D object. In this case, the tennis ball.
Troupe l’oeil is especially effective on a grand scale. For example this street mural painted on River Street in Medicine Bow, Saskatchewan by German street artist Edgar Mueller in 2007:
Trompe l'oeil also works on a smaller scale. Here is my favourite, violin and bow hanging on a door, by Jan van der Vaart c 1723. The painting hangs in Chatsworth House, Derbyshire
For my much simpler daily painting, the conceit was simply this: what if one of my painted dogs got fed up sitting there perfectly still in portrait mode and came out of the picture? If a painting is going well, I feel as though the dog is coming to life under the brush. As soon as the painting is finished and sitting on the side to dry it is perfectly obvious the dog is not alive, it is just a painting. 
Or is it? 
A bit like when you were little and thought perhaps your toys came to life and moved around when you were asleep. 
But perhaps that was just me! 

Friday, 10 July 2015

Is it hot in here, or is it me?

Oil painting of a white german shepherd
Not sure I have ever seen a white German Shepherd. I find that white dogs are easily the most difficult to paint. This one, anybody?-
For my GSD, I mixed a grey to build into his coat from the other colours I had used for his ears, tongue and eyes, so basically a bit of pink, blue and brown. It was still difficult to get the whitest bits of his white fur to be - well - white enough, so I used a dab of cad lemon. The effect of brightness can be achieved by using a high chroma, not just by using white.
Last blog post for this week. I hope you have a great weekend and thank you for looking at my paintings.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Portrait of a German Shepherd

Portrait of a German Shepherd, oil painting, dog painting, pet portrait by Karen
I wanted to paint this dog with the minimum amount of fussing with detail if I could possibly manage it. Over on my other blog, I have been discovering  - copying the work of Masters - how little fuss there was with detail, how large, bristle-y brushes are the norm, how the use of rags and fingers also appears to be commonplace and that the battle in general is for overall EFFECT, not mastery of individual detail. This is easy to say (write), but very hard to do.
Here is the palette I used. Not sure if you can read my annotations - it will certainly be difficult on a mobile phone. From top left to bottom: pthalo blue, black, transparent oxide brown, transparent oxide red, cad yellow deep (not used, in the event), yellow ochre deep and a warm and cool red (for the tongue).
german shepherd painting - working progress
As I usually do, I started working from the eyes, then the face in general and moved outwards, although I did place some pink notes in the ears to give them a chance to tack up before going back in to add fur:
german shepherd painting - working progress

As an afterthought: the smeary, raw sienna sort of background on the board was not created deliberately: it was the aftermath of wiping off the last painting that went wrong. I could have re-gessoed, but thought this would be fine as a base to work on.

GSDs are not dogs I know very much about. I mentioned once before on this blog that the only serious time I have spent with the breed was at Mirheim Kennels in Ontario, near to Toronto, owned by my auntie Mary Vurma, who was once a well-known GSD breeder (25.8.23-12.5.10). On the occasion of that visit, I took six of her dogs out on a lead walk round the neighbourhood and felt like a super hero. I didn't get to meet any of the locals, though: I noticed they all crossed the road when they saw us coming.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Do My Ears Look Big in This?

oil painting of a German Shepherd puppy with very big ears, pet painting by Karen
What an irresistable face, don't you think? I believe this breed 'grows into their ears'. I think they look fabulous like this.
In terms of the painting, dogs with yellow ochre (orange) markings in black fur are always tricky to paint because, as I have bewailed on a number of occasions, the inadvertent mixing of these two colours creates cow-pat green. I am always looking for improved ways of painting them. 
For today's dog, I did it like this
work-in-progress German Shepherd painting, dog painting by Karen Robinson
Eyes first, then the orange markings then I worked round them. The dog also had a fair bit of blue in his coat - reflected colour from the sky - and I used Pthalo Blue because I like living dangerously (it is a lovely warm blue, I think, but has incredible pigmenting strength). I have overdone it a bit here as you can see. No matter, we will tone it down in a minute
work-in-progress German Shepherd painting, dog painting by Karen Robinson
I adopted the same approach with the ears: pink first and worked the dark fur round the pink. A bit of wiping went on with those ears: in-between taking this photo and finishing the piece I decided the pink was altogether too pink and started his ears again. But you get the general idea.

If you like reading my blog I would be much obliged if you would hit the Google+ button at the top of the page (if you have one of those accounts) or follow me on Facebook. It is super difficult to build a profile on the internet. I was reading yesterday about a bloke in Canada who took desperate measures to promote his business: he tied 120 helium balloons to a garden chair and then floated into the heavens. Simultaneously, a plane he had hired took off streaming a banner with his company name on it
He said he became a bit alarmed (a) when he saw a 747 taking off beneath him and (b) when the balloons started popping. He (only) got a sprained ankle when he landed and was arrested and charged with "mischief". 
As an approach to marketing I don't really fancy it. 
Also, I don't think we have an offence here in the UK called "mischief". Here you would likely be arrested under the Terrorism Act!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Brown Study 4

monochrome oil painting of a tabby cat, cat painting, pet portrait by Karen
Another little "brown study": this time an almost monochrome painting of a very elegant tabby cat. It was a bit of an experiment. I had been thinking about differentiating the light side from the shadow side.
I decided to try two different browns. The right hand side of the painting (the cat's left) is painted largely using Raw Umber. The left hand side I have used Transparent Oxide Brown and Red. I think it works, but it is maybe overly subtle. Often to achieve the effect I am after - I have discovered - it is necessary to exaggerate somewhat. 

The best advice I have come across on tackling light and shade  is from Stapleton Kearns, a contemporary American landscape painter. I have this extract from his blog typed up in BIG print and stuck to the wall next to my easel:

The shadow is not a darker version of the colour in the light! It is its own separate colour. 
Here are some things I do to separate my lights from my shadows.

  • I paint the lights in a high value and the shadows in a low value, so you can tell them apart.
  • sometimes I paint the lights with one pigment and the shadows with a different pigment, so you can tell them apart.
  • sometimes I paint the lights grave and the shadows highly colored, so you can tell them apart,
  • or I will paint the lights highly colored and the shadows grave, so you can tell them apart
  • sometimes I will paint the lights warm and the shadows cool, so you can tell them apart
  • sometimes I will paint the lights cool and the shadows warm, so you can tell them apart.
  • sometimes I will paint my lights opaque and my shadows transparent, so you can tell them apart.
  • sometimes I paint the lights with hard edges and the shadows with soft edges, so you can tell them apart
  • sometimes I use cool reflected light in the lights and hot reflected light in the shadow, so you can tell them apart.

This particular extract can be found here, but if you use the search box top left of his blog and put in the words light and shade you get loads of really useful posts.
I am not sure I have been entirely successful in applying his advice on this painting, but it took a while to paint this pretty boy and I like him, so I won't re-do him. Sometimes my animals demand to be "wipers". Sometimes, like this one, they insist on existing.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

A little Cavalier

Oil painting of a cavalier king charles spaniel, a dog painting by Karen
Here is a painting of a dear little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. There were a number of things to think about when I painted this: mixing the fur colour, achieving length and depth to the fur whilst still completing the work in one session, modelling the form under his white fur and ensuring that the dark background did not accidentally mix into his red/orange fur and create mud.
I started with his eyes, as I usually do:
dog oil painting of a spaniel in progress

and found myself beginning to work outwards from the eyes - because the colour of the surrounding fur contributes to forming the distinctive eye shape. However, I quickly realised this was a daft idea with a size 0 sable brush and switched to his nose:
dog oil painting of a spaniel in progress
Despite the large number of dogs I have painted over the last 2 years - about 300 I think - I still find this fur colour difficult to mix. Here are some colour charts I have made for "orange" dogs - or teddy bears -
For this dog, I used Rembrandt Transparent Oxide Red, Cad Yellow Medium, W&N Yellow Ochre and Transparent Oxide Brown for the shadows. What I find tricky is judging whether the dog's fur has a yellow undertone or a red one. Usually it is yellow, but not always (like this one) and then it is important, in the lighter values, to avoid sliding into something that is too pink. 
On this WIP shot you can see me still struggling to find the balance between red or yellow dominant:
Finally, painting long-haired dogs is more difficult than smooth coated ones as a general rule, especially if you are trying to do it in one session. 
For commissions, I don't: I decide on 3 or 4 layers of fur and work from the skin up allowing each layer to dry. For daily paintings, I benefit from remembering that bristle brushes are as good at taking paint off as they are at putting paint on. Putting the flicks of orange fur over the top of his (wet) white fur was not achieved first time. Or second. Or third. Each time I wasn't gentle enough with the brush work or "flick-y" enough,  the red and white paint merged into a mess. So I took it off with a brush or a cotton bud and repainted.
For a long time, I thought painting "alla prima" meant that literally every brush stroke had to be right first time. This is nonsense, of course. The day it dawned on me I should stop trying to correct mistakes and simply remove them instead and do it again was a revelation.