It’s been almost a year ago that I started painting again. In July, my son Dan and his wife Jenny and grandson Henry took me with them to our triennial family reunion in Estes Park, Colorado’s YMCA of the Rockies. Lots of family and lots of fun!!
While we were there, my cousin once removed, Nick showed me a picture of his dog Lucy and asked if I thought I could paint her. Well, of course, I said “sure, I’ll try.” I’d never painted a dog before, and the picture he showed me was pretty bad:
And I wasn’t real inspired by the elements in the photo. Lucy is lovely but the background wasn’t. After the reunion was over and we had returned home, I started working up some sketches. I texted Nick and asked if this was the background that he wanted Lucy painted in? Did he have other Pictures? What are her favorite toys? What’s she like, her personality. He sent me pictures of toys and profiles . . . and then finally he sent me this: OK, I can work with this. Nick said that this is one of their favorite activities and the place Lucy most likes to be. So, this is what I’d been looking for. I wanted to do landscape format, not portrait. So, I would have to work with the composition, expanding the image of the river and rocks. Nick wanted the background but wanted Lucy enlarged to take center stage. So, we’re off!! But I was soooooo intimidated. I’d, never done rocks, or a river, or a dog! HA! So, I worked up a sketch and put it down on 140 lb. Arches cold pressed paper. And there it sat. Then Dan and Jenny really needed help at the homestead. An old farm house they had purchased at auction. They had started on the floors and were in a pickle. WOW, were they a mess. I worked on them for two weeks, getting up the urine soaked pad and rusted out rotten tack strips, nails and staples.
THEN, the grandsons came. I’d missed them so much and the week of learning to swim in Grandma’s pool and late-night runs for ice cream at The Ice House, had begun! We had so much fun. But during this week my self doubts about why I had not urged myself to find time to paint during the years all my kids were home, were alleviated completely. I remembered what it was like with just the two! And I had 5 and worked part time and homeschooled!! How DID I do that?
After the boys went home to Chicago, I started thinking about Lucy’s painting again. But then I had to prepare for the exhibit at PIPP Hospital. Are you seeing a pattern here? I was seriously procrastinating putting paint to this watercolor paper. During this time, my friend Robynn had also sent me four sheets of paint dots. Mostly Daniel Smith, some Winsor & Newton so I had started experimenting with these colors. Anything but starting the painting of Lucy.
I started watching videos and experimenting with colors and techniques. I had found a color combination of burnt umber and winsor violet that I thought might work well for the background rock bank with the Terry Harrison “credit card” method of putting in rocks. And the “undersea green” that Robynn had sent me, mixed with french ultramarine was making up a lovely river water color. I loved the way it granulated and when you add a little water on the paper the yellow separates out a bit, leaving a glow in the water. So, when I took the boys back to Chicago, I stopped at Dick Blick and picked up a tube of Daniel Smith Undersea Green and also a tube of what I believe will become my favorite black (which a very rarely use) Lunar Black. It granulates heavily and dilutes to a very very light gray.
The time came when I could procrastinate no longer and I had to dive in to this long waiting sketch – So here we go . . . ummmmm . . . maybe if I work outside that would really help to motivate me. Yes, that would help. So now that I’ve told this very long story of how Lucy came to be . . .
And now for the final reveal :
I’m really happy with the way it turned out; the water, the rocks, the wet fur, Lucy. It all turned out better than I ever would have expected. My confidence grew considerably as I didn’t have to take out entire sections of the painting and redo them as I have with previous paintings. I went a little overboard on the wax relief in the water. But, all in all, pleased. And Nick is thrilled! His comments: ” THAT is unbelievable! Absolutely beautiful. Better than I ever thought possible; but not much, because I know your talent. Thank you so much! You have nailed it. I showed this to a co-worker who loves Lucy and she couldn’t believe it either. You truly captured her personality perfectly. There are not many artists that can do what you are doing. It is a gift. Keep it up”
With all the self-doubt and hesitation that comes with starting a portrait of “someone” you’ve never met, and overcoming new challenges, I can’t begin to tell you how much those words of encouragement mean to me as an artist.