Merry Christmas Jeb

I couldn't spill the beans before Christmas since this was a surprise gift, but here is my newest painting, a portrait of Jeb. I was commissioned by Jeb's mom Pam, as a surprise for his dad Jim.

The biggest challenge with this portrait was taking reference photos. Not only did we have to sneak around Jim, but Jeb is a very active, big, 2-year old lab. We did the first photo shoot indoors since the weather on our rendezvous day was cold and rainy. My faithful assistant (Rick) got Jeb to stay relatively still, capturing his attention with a huge chewy bone... sort of like a child photographer does by holding a toy where they want the subject to be looking. Jeb moves around so much and so fast, that I had many out of focus shots. I did get some good poses out of that session though, shooting without a flash, but I was unhappy with the amount of detail in my shots. So I rendezvous'd once more with Jeb and Pam about a week later, and I took a bunch of outdoor shots - the pose didn't matter so much, since I had already decided on this quarter-profile pose - so I just concentrated on close ups of the side of his head, while his mom kept him calm. Finally I had a collection of reference photos I could combine and work from. Success!

I love to emphasize the eyes in my animal portraits. Jeb's eyes are very dark, melting into a big black ball. I opened my digital photos of him in Photoshop, and manipulated close-ups of his eyes, just so I could get a better look at where the pupil and iris really were. Since my day job has been as a commercial artist for 30 years I have many thousands of hours with Photoshop, so it's a natural and handy tool for me as a fine artist. Once I got to painting Jeb's one eye which is visible in this pose, I painted it as a medium brown eye, which I could see in the enhanced digital file. Then I kept glazing over with very transparent black mixed with payne's gray (a very blue-toned grey) until I got his eye close to reality. The final spots of white from reflected light made it come to life.

As with my previous portrait of a white-furred dog ("Tom"), I used a lot of color and glazing in painting Jeb's fur. I started by coating his body-shape with a solid base of a light golden color (raw sienna mixed with white gesso). This created a neutral ground, upon which I could add lighter and darker strokes, building up texture. Jeb's fur was much whiter, shorter and finer than Tom's, and I exaggerated the highlights and shadows to give a three-dimensional appearance.

Pam reports that Jim is thrilled with his portrait of Jeb, and that's all I needed to satisfy me!