Thursday, February 24, 2011

SMOOTH COLLIE - Keeping an Eye

I've been wanting to paint a Smooth Collie for some time now, and this was finally the moment. The Smooth has all the wonderful traits of the Rough Collie, just without the massive, glorious coat. But the simpler, cleaner line of the Smooth Coat is lovely in it's own way. In this painting, I tried to echo that cleaner look by keeping the background simple and bright. I wanted a feeling of space and freshnness.
The Smooth was used more as a Drover than a Herder, and like the Rough Collie, this guy is ready to take charge of any situation his family might be in. (I love the Herding Dogs - I think of them as "Free-thinkers").
Keeping an Eye is an 11 by 14 watercolor, and was done on Arches 140lb, Hot Press paper. It will make a great Smooth Collie print, and lovely cards, and the original is available.

Heather Anderson Sheltie Hollow

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


* Note. This is part 3 of a set, so you may want to scroll down 3 posts and work you way back up.

PATCHES OF SPRING Watercolor on Arches Hot Press 16 x 20

Here we are, done. Well, almost. I am pleased with the painting, I like the way the horses' patches echo the snow patches and flow together. I like the fairly low key colors, the sense of ease in the horses, and I like the composition, so I removed the masking tape that I put around the image area (sorry, forgot to tell you that, didn't I!) I like a clean border, so now I always use low tack tape to keep it that way.
Now is the time to set the painting up where I can see it during the evening and look for any areas that I want to fiddle with. Does something need highlighting, does something need knocking back, has anything got lost?
Once I am sure I am satisfied, I will take the painting out and photograph it in natural light and it will go on my website. Then I will catalogue it by noting the date, title and medium on the bottom of the border and put that information, along with a photo and notes about the painting in a book I keep for that purpose. Now the the painting is ready to go out in the world and hopefully find an appreciative home.

Patches of Spring - the process - 2

Here we are with the sky done. I like to put clouds in most paintings to give a sense of movement and interest. I also blocked in the forest in the background, leaving the trees along the ridge. In the hilly ridge, I tried to echo some of the shapes of the horses' backs and necks to keep the design strong and to keep the eye moving through the whole painting.
I decided to start with the buckskins for no other reason than that I wanted to. Here, they are about 90 % done, and I've moved on to block in the other horses and some of the grassy patches so the legs don't get lost. To this point, I'd spent 5 days drawing and 2 days painting. This image,by the way, is 16 x 20.
During the next week, I worked on each horse, went back to polish the buckskins, and finally worked on the background. Sometimes I block in all the grass and trees before I do the main subject, but in this case, I felt all those legs needed to be done before I started laying in much background colour.
For me, doing a painting is about going back, and back, and back until I feel satisfied with my work.

Patches of Spring - the process - 1

I've just finished my most ambitious painting so far, and I thought that, for those of you who may be interested in how I put a painting together, this would be a good one to use so I can share my process with you.
Sometimes my paintings are IMAGE driven, and by that I mean that I take a photo that I JUST HAVE to paint. That's when I noodle around, looking for ideas in which to set this image, or ways in which I can change and enrich the photo so the finished painting is an original, not just a copy of the photo.
Sometimes, as in this case, the painting is IDEA driven. I love those first days of spring when the snow is melting back and the earth and grass is just starting to peer though. I remember the horses loved it too. Forget their breakfast of hay, they wanted those first blades of grass! I've always thought that horses seem so content in their environment - they have a sense of harmony about them, and a number of years ago, I did a painting called "HARMONY" that depicted Paint horses against a background of patchy snow and hillside. Last year at this time, I had planned to do a second one on this theme, but life got in the way. It seemed appropriate to do it now, a year later when things are almost calm and peaceful again,
My first step is to gather my photos, and that means looking through my albums to find what is going to work with my idea. There were 3 photos of horses invovled in this painting, and each one was a different size. I had to resize them so they would be in proportion to each other.
I'd like to say here that it is point of honour with me that I never trace or project. I do use a grid, and that takes skill, knowledge of the subject, and a good ability to draw. There are no lines there to follow, I am the one who has to decide exactly where the lines are going to go within the little boxes. Mistakes are easy to make.
I decide how large I want the finished painting to be, then see how many squares each horse is in the photo, and how big each square will have to be so I can size up and draw the image in the desired space . In this painting, the buckskins, the black, and the chestnut paints each required their own hand drawn grid, and each one had to fit with the next one. The black paint was not co-operating, so I ended up doing him by hand, without the grid.
Once the horses (or other subject) are in place, I put in the background, and in this sort of painting, it is almost as important as the main subject. I do my positioning sketches and the initial drawing on large sheets of newsprint, and when the drawing is the way I want it, I trace it onto tracing paper, rub the back of it with graphite, and then transfer my drawing to the watercolor paper. (Note please, I am only tracing my own original drawing here!)
The paper I most like to use for watercolor work is Arches Hot Press. The 140 lb is very smooth and lovely to work on. The 300 lb is lovely too, but a little rougher and you have to insist a bit more with it, but I am enjoying using it again for these larger paintings.
I usually use a masking fluid to outline some areas so I can put on a free-flowing wash of sky, as you see in the photo above. When the sky is done, I remove the mask and get on with the painting.