Category Archives: Portrait


Doglight, 8×10″

Had to say goodbye to my good old dog last week. He made it past 13 years with only three legs. Here’s a tribute to him doing his second favorite activity: sleeping in the sun. #1 was eating.

Miss you, Lefty <3

Bob the Dog

Bob, 8×8″ oil on panel

A pet portrait off to its new home. <3

This one’s just two colors plus white – ultramarine blue and transparent red oxide.

I feel like this guy is the first time I got the whole photographing-your-artwork thing right. Using natural light, bouncing boards, and RAW image editing.

The Eyes Have It

If, while arting, one chooses to portray a member of the Kingdom Animalia, chances are an eye or two will be necessary. Maybe even eight. No matter the number, a piece of art with eyes has arguably more potential for charm and emotion than other genres of art. I’m not ragging on landscapes or still lifes, but living things draw our attention and our hearts. It’s why the human figure is portrayed so often. It’s why we love our pet dogs and cats more than our houseplants (if we aren’t N, that is. He loves his Starfruit tree “Fwang” [yes, he named it] more than just about anything).

Whether of a person, a pet, or wildlife, art with eyeballs is tough. The eyes are the key. They are the conduit between the artist and the viewer; the soul of the art. If you get them right, nearly all other mistakes can be forgiven. And if you screw them up, then forget it. It won’t matter if everything else is perfect, the piece won’t work. That’s why some artists complete the eyes first thing, so if they screw up, they don’t have much to redo.

I don’t usually do the eyes first – in fact, I often leave them until the end. I love adding the soul to a piece by working on the eyes. Leaving them until the end keeps me motivated. Often I’ll think, “I’m nearly done, and this still looks like crap!” Then I fix the eyes and everything works. Some good examples of eyes that make the piece work, even though there are flaws in other areas:
Eyes that don’t really work, and bring the whole piece down:
At this stage, I seriously considered changing my skin tone to pallid deathly green and writing “BRAINS!” across the top in bright red. They’re all shiny from the flash, but even without that, I look like a zombie. After some good advice from WetCanvas and some plain old *looking*, I got them better. And yes, this is the dreaded self portrait in oils. It’s done enough, and I’m not opening those tubes again, ever (or until I forget that I hate them, which will probably be next week).
So, eyes matter. The few portraits I’ve done are of people and animals I knew well, or see every day. Their eyes were very familiar. After I got a few nibbles on portrait commissions, I wondered, would I be able to get their eyes right? I don’t even know these people! Hell, I can’t even get my own eyes right, and I see them every day. Maybe this time, I’ll do the eyes first.

Guinness and Gouache Portrait WIP

How could I keep a blog about dark beer and not include Guinness? When I was first introducing myself to beer in general, Guinness was the only dark beer I knew. My first pint was an entirely new experience. I won’t go into the Guinness details, since most people are likely to know them already, and if not, go here.

Guinness will always have a place in my heart, but after having tasted so many other dark beers, it doesn’t stand out. It’s smooth, and actually quite bland compared to some. It’s a drinkable beer – you can have it with dinner – as opposed to some that are an experience, or a dessert, by themselves. Rating:

M: 7
N: 7

Gouache Portrait WIP – the last installment, I promise

This is simply a visual step-by-step of my portrait of Grandpa. Other than the toning wash, all the steps show opaque application with very little blending. The background was done with layered washes, dabbing, and a sponge. The illo board I worked on curled up after the first wash, so the photos are a bit distorted. It is also why the first picture includes a beer bottle.

And the final result: link

Stoudt’s Fat Dog Imperial Oatmeal Stout and Gouache Portraits

Stoudt’s Fat Dog Imperial Oatmeal Stout is this week’s excellent beer selection. It is excellent because there is a fat dog on each label. Also because it is sweet and delicious. Its taste is reminiscent of the perfect oatmeal cookie. One sip and the flavor fills your whole mouth. Swallow and a slight tangy aftertaste fills you with nostalgia, making you long for another mouthful. I can see how it got its name; I could drink these all day and end up 1) drunk as a dog and 2) fat as the dog on the bottle.

M: 9.5
N: 8.5

Gouache Portraits

The weeks-long activity that I wrapped up last Friday encompasses all my experience with gouache portraits. Here is what I have produced:
I’m fairly happy with it, in that naive-new-to-a-medium (gouache) and -genre (portrait) way, and will probably hate it for its blatant shortcomings once I grow into a good painter. Even now, having learned from the process, there are a few things I would change.

I finally got the likeness right and transferred it to Crescent illo board. It was mounted on thin backing, and as soon as I laid down the toning wash, the board curled up. Also, the wash obscured a few of my pencil lines. Lesson 1: use thicker board. Press harder on transfer.

I mixed up the mid-range skin tones and painted those in. I wasn’t careful enough and later found a few spots that were missing paint. Luckily the toning wash showed through (instead of white board). Lesson 2: Mix up more paint than you need, and keep the leftover dried-up mess handy until the very end. Also, keep each mixed color in its own well.

Once I was done, I was planning on blending some of the color “tiles” by softening the edges. I have found a tiny amount of info on the Internets about the gouache “tiling” technique, and thought I’d try it. Instead of nicely blending two adjoining tiles together, all I did was lift up the paint and make a mess. Luckily I learned Lesson #2 early, and had some paint to cover my ass. I still have no idea how tiling works. Lesson 3: Practice techniques before using them for something important. It’s hard to cover mistakes in gouache.

I took photos of each step along the way. I’ll post those next time… after the holidays. Merry Holidaytime, everyone!