Recently, Kris and I made a pet portrait piece for a colleague of mine, mainly for fun and for practice. Since neither of us do pet portraiture for a living, we thought it would be a nice challenge to make one and see how it would turn out. The dog, Finley (above) was just too cute and cool-looking to not try and render.
First off, the paper used was some seriously thick, good quality watercolor paper - Arches 300lb cold press, 100% cotton to be exact. Kris paid a ton for it at the DC Utrecht shop recently, and that was with a major discount, so I felt a little pressure when drawing Finley. Thankfully, I drew this a couple of weekends ago in a very peaceful setting. Kris' boss kindly gave us his family condo in Ocean City, Maryland for the weekend, and I found it the perfect setting to get in that "zone" to draw, and ended up getting the sketch (above) out in less than an hour as well as another one of a blue crab afterwards. In all honesty, this was the easy part.
The truly challenging part was the watercolor portion. First, I have to apologize for the poor photos - I have an older I-phone which I don't plan on getting rid of anytime soon, and sometimes forget that it's not so good with indoor lighting. Anyhow, you would think it would be easy to paint something that is essentially black and white. Instead, this was precisely the challenge - trying to get those gradations correct, especially when starting out (above).
It took Kris roughly four hours to complete the watercolor portion of the portrait, and when she was about 99% finished (above), she knew there was a little more to go but had to walk away from it a bit before figuring out how to complete the piece.
After a few minor touch-ups, the portrait was done (again, sorry for the poor shot). We were both pleased with the results and when it comes to more realism-based work, we make a good team, with my strength being more in the drawing department, and with Kris being a much more skilled watercolorist. Would we want to do something like this full time? Not really at all, though I know we could make some extra income on occasion. The problem can be with folks who don't know too much about what goes on behind the making of an original piece of art and don't quite have a grasp or knowledge of the process, materials, time and energy involved, and think a very average price, like $200.00 for an 8"x10" portrait like this is expensive, especially when it's done well. As any artist can tell you, it's 99.9% work - the image just doesn't flow from the hand magically and effortlessly onto the paper or canvas, though some artists can make it look that way, and some have a more intuitive approach. Either way, it's the experience through patience and repetition that makes the art. As renowned sketchbook artist and author Danny Gregory, who didn't get his start until he was in his thirties can tell you, it's just like driving a car. It can be scary at first, but the more you drive, the better you get, until it becomes second nature.