Today I am wrapping up this colorful portrait of Oreo, my coworker’s adorable bichon poodle (Poochon?) I began this piece with a standard grid and built into a loose, colorful underpainting. From there, I made small adjustments until the colors were just right to match my colleague’s home decor, jumping off the canvas in high contrast sage, rust red, sunny yellow, and umber-stained cerulean. As I have done in previous work, I developed a color palette using Adobe’s Kuler tool with input from my client, then worked within those tones as I layered using the “heavy over lean” technique.
I’m getting quite confident with my use of color. Finally I have moved beyond the fragile pastel safety zone and allowed more contrast-forward, vibrant tones to drive the painting. I tried harder with this piece to use color and contrast to achieve depth of space, an illusion I traditionally have been less adept at setting up. I definitely still have work to do on that front, but feel ready to tackle exercises where depth is a major part of the composition. I’m thinking of portraits in interiors, outdoor scenes with definite foreground, middle ground, background, etc.
I almost forgot – a major “ah-hah” for me recently has been contrasting bold color with transitional, gray or ambiguously colorless areas. I never honestly thought of these areas on their own, but they serve an incredibly important purpose in allowing parts of the composition to really grab attention by way of contrast. I began searching for “transitional” tones in the world around me, in paintings at the museum, and found that these vague hues are far more common than I would have thought. They are even in my skin! I’m excited to embrace the beige and experiment more with contrasting muted and vivid tones.
The most challenging (and consequently most satisfying) part of this piece was, as always, getting the eyes just right. We share an emotional bond with our pets, and we read emotion through the eyes. This being the case, the peepers are definitely the “money shot” with these pet portraits, and they tend to get the closest attention.