Dances With Squirrels (study)
6″x8″, Oil on canvass paper
This simple study piece is done, although I invested more time in the composition than originally planned. I rarely do a study as a painting (if you’re not familiar with the term “study” in this context, here’s a short summary on Wikipedia here), opting for a drawing instead (which I had already done previously, as noted in the Meteors and Squirrels post last week), but my goal was to practice the brushwork needed to capture a dog in motion from a short distance. I also wasn’t sure how well this composition would translate to the canvass. I learned a lot in this exercise.
First, I was surprised that the dog (Wolfgang) portion of the painting wasn’t very difficult, probably due in part to the various practice sketches done previously. The trick was to apply the darker parts of his coat last, which might technically be incorrect, but it was easier to manipulate the black shapes on his coat if it was the last step.
There are a number of compositional changes that will need to be made for the “real” piece:
- The fence was both boring, distracting, and worst of all had many of the same values and hues of the trees and the dog, which made it hard to work into the layout effectively. I think the fence will be removed going forward.
- The trees were tricky from a color perspective. In real life, they’re a weird gray black, basically a color graveyard, so making them interesting took time. The other problem, which I haven’t yet solved, is ensuring their coloring isn’t too similar to the Wolfgang’s black and golden brown coat.
- The coloring of the grasses are fine, but the shadows will need more attention in a formal composition. They’re a real highlight of the work because they give a more comprehensive feel of the height and breadth of the tree tops, which are out of the frame.
- Last but not least, that pesky squirrel. I was so focused on how to paint the dog that I hadn’t given any thought to the squirrel. Have you tried to paint a squirrel? The good news is that my lack of practice painting rodents might have worked to the benefit of the composition because the squirrel is very hard to see against the light blue sky background, so the viewer has to follow the gaze of the dog to find the squirrel. And there’s our compositional intrigue!
I’m going to wait a few weeks before firing up an actual painting based on this study, but I think it’ll be an eye catching, tall, narrow canvass layout that should be fun to create.
Thanks for visiting!