In the Waning Light of Day

DISC DOG | 12 x 16″ | Oil on Canvas Panel

DISC DOG is inspired by the life we live with our canine family members and those bonding moments that form lifetime memories, like frisbee on a beach in the waning daylight hours. 

A few months ago I did a piece called BIRD DOG, which was a silhouette similar to DISC DOG, but it pushed the contrasts more intensely. DISC DOG incorporates more hues while maintaining the impact of a silhouette and the unbridled enthusiasm for life that only a dog, especially those thankful rescue dogs, can convey. The underpainting was a light cadmium red and burnt sienna, which shows through in some areas, but more importantly served as a helpful guide for laying down the clouds with a setting sun somewhere “off camera”. I painted over a previous composition for this piece, something I rarely do, so I was pleasantly surprised to essentially have a pre-treated surface on which to work. Somewhere under DISC DOG lurks a really bad painting of monochromatic wine bottles. 

Oddly enough, the most challenging element of DISC DOG was the frisbee. As you can see from the sketch, I noted the idea of using a frisbee instead of a ball. While the ball would have been much easier, the body position of the dog is more akin to waiting to jump at a frisbee rather than chasing a ball in the air. The trick with the frisbee turned out to be the odd look it had as a silhouette. For the life of me I couldn’t get it to convey “FRISBEE”. I kept wiping out and repainting versions of what looked like UFOs. Ultimately I switched gears away from the dark shape and allowed the light from the setting sun to make it pop, but tried to do so without making it the focal point of the composition. The angle of the disc, the lines of the waves, the red collar, and various other elements try to move the viewer to the dog as the star of the piece.

Special thanks to Austin Pets Alive! for all the great rescue work they do for the animals of the city of Austin, the state of Texas, and various cities throughout the United States. In Austin alone, every year there are thousands of rescue dogs playing frisbee, like DISC DOG, thanks to the tireless work, innovation, love and compassion of APA! and their wonderful staff and army of volunteers.  

1 Hour Challenge – Run Sandpiper, Run

Moving these updates to the blog to motivate myself to do them more frequently. The goal is to hone my drawing skills by doing sketches in 1 hour.

This session is from a reference photo taken by my brother. Very challenging given the need to incorporate movement of the bird and the advancing waves. Oh, and drawing ocean foam is hard as hell. I think the key is to not draw it. 

Diving Whale Tail

Stuck with the whale theme for this next project. This is a diving whale based loosely on a reference photo I found on-line. Also bought some Payne’s Gray to work on a more balanced value gradation on this piece that is dominated by the tail.

I think this is pretty close to done, but I don’t like the matte finish, so I’m going to do a final glaze layer in hopes of giving the entire piece a wet look.

This is a diptych, each panel measures 9″ x 12″. I was pretty specific with the panel choice so as to get good proportions for the tail. In fact, I think the painting looks better than it really is b/c of the diptych layout. Curious what others think, too.

Technical Details:

  • 2 gesso panel boards, 9″x12″ each
  • Brushes – 2 flats (sizes 2 and 4), 1 round (size 4)
  • Tail palette – Payne’s Gray, Titanium White, and variations of Black and Ultramarine Blue
  • Ocean – Ultramarine Blue + variations of Pthalo Blue, Pthalo Green, and Titanium White.
  • Water dripping off tail – Titanium White + Naples Yellow + Paynes Gray + Ultramarine Blue

Quick practice sketch.
Quick practice sketch.

Rough in with diptych composition.
Rough in with diptych composition.

Ocean with initial tail shadow.
Ocean with initial tail shadow.

Tail almost done
Tail almost done

Water running off tail and updates to ocean near tail with ripples.
Water running off tail and updates to ocean near tail with ripples.

“Baleine!” c’est fini

This piece came together very quickly. Pretty happy with the end result. No brush work – all knife, so I pushed myself to develop more expertise with this tool. There were a few trying moments to get edges right, but it really opened my eyes to the nuances of manipulating the paint once it’s on the board.

The iPhone photos don’t capture the textural knife effects, but hopefully you get the idea of the progressive development in the time sequence below.

Light pencil sketch as outline.

Session 2 gets the initial values, sky, and some experimentation with the ocean colors.

Session 3 made big strides. Figured out the right balance of ocean colors – blues and greens. Whale tail has initial form, but needs work – too flat.

Session 4, lots of work to get the tail coloring and values right. Also figured out the water light reflection onto the bottom of the tail. Finally committed to having really tumultuous water, so added white caps and spray. Pure guesswork… no idea what I’m doing at this point. The painting knife and I were not on speaking terms for a brief span of time.

Finished! Added touch ups in various places, but most notably updated the values on the horizon part of the ocean – it was too dark and contiguous, so broke it up with some white caps and lighter blue mixes.