Say hello to PB&K the latest addition to the Dog Toys series, although it might be more appropriate to start a new sub-category called “Cheeky Still Life”.
The Kong was done with a painting knife to give it the subtle texture of a well worn, go-to Fido favorite. As any dog lover would attest, especially the big chewers, a peanut butter stuffed Kong is a great source of entertainment… and protein. Even the most hearty chewers have trouble putting a dent in one of these rubber wonders, but they do lose their sheen and get a roughed up look over time. By contrast, the (creamy) peanut butter and the remainder of the composition is all impasto-free brushwork.
Ultimately, the intent of the composition is to make every dog parent look, nod, and laugh at the reality of what we’re all willing to do for our lovable canine companions.
Oil on canvas paper, 8″x10″
Palette knife and an array of brushes (rounds and flats)
Peanut Butter – Yellow Ochre, Naples Yellow
Kong – Ivory Black + Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna + Ultramarine Blue
It’s happy hour time again! Before moving forward, it’s time to reveal the name of the cocktail from the Happy Hour – Roosevelt post from a few weeks ago… the Sazerac! It’s a great drink and the next time you’re in New Orleans I highly recommend a visit to The Roosevelt for the original recipe.
This latest addition to the series should be much easier for you to figure out, although it wasn’t necessarily easier to paint. Happy Hour – Shaken is an iconic cocktail indeed and something that James Bond fans will recognize instantly, although 007 preferred a stirred version.
This cocktail is a top choice in my household – even the dogs like it! Well, they probably would love it, but they just get to have the ice cubes after the drink has been strained. Yes, it’s hilarious – they hear the shaker, come running to the bar, and proceed to sit (without a command mind you) until I’m done, at which point they each get a piece of ice. They are, without a doubt, very lovable booze hounds.
Back to the painting…
I’m very happy with the outcome and feel like the repeated efforts on this Happy Hour series is starting to show demonstrable improvements in the artwork. This was a challenge on 2 fronts. First, the ongoing challenge of glassware in a still life has been tricky to refine, but I finally figured out the right value scheme to make it work – the solution for me was simply being more aggressive with the darker values. Secondly, I lacked experience painting truly reflective metal in still life compositions. Again, a more concerted approach with the darker values made a difference, but more importantly was simply waving the wand of artistic patience and working through the various reflected elements.
A few additional observations and details about the composition:
Reference Photo: As you can tell the shaker is not exactly the same as what’s in the photo. I used a reference photo blending technique, using the real shaker as my primary source, but simplifying the object by looking at other photos and paintings on-line that were, quite frankly, better cocktail shakers.
Brush and Knife: The vast majority of the piece is done with a Flat #4 and Round #2 brush, but the olives are all knife work. They are the focal point of the composition, and as such I wanted them to have some more texture and a reflective quality of their own.
Size: This is more than twice the size of previous Happy Hour series pieces, 8″x10″ vs 5″x7″ boards. Usually when I go bigger, the work is harder technically, but this time it seemed easier. Like I said, progress.
I haven’t figured out what the next cocktail in the series will be, but I’m leaning towards something with a shaker. Cheers!
Sometimes you just know a composition is going to work, virtually able to paint itself. Yellow Ball with Tailswas exactly that kind of composition. Wolfgang and Zip loved this toy because the 2 tails made it tug-a-licious! As the designated thrower, I liked it because the ball made it easy to throw without getting dog slime all over my fingers. Ultimately, this toy stayed inside and lasted about 20 play sessions before parts started to get ripped off and chewed up.
I’ve recently made some adjustments to my still life setup, changing the platform so it’s higher and is at sitting eye level. This gives a new angle that’s easier for me to translate to the canvas.
This piece moved quickly and was done in a couple of sessions this week. As I stated earlier, this composition looked great from the start and I knew it was going to be a fun project when I saw all that bright yellow shredding dangling against that blue background. Definitely going to spend more time on compositional arrangement with future dog toy paintings.
The canvas board was ideal for this type of toy because it has a lot of toothy texture, which easily lends itself to the toy’s material. The only thing I don’t like about a canvas board for this type of piece is the fine detail of the threads. The canvas texture makes it very hard to paint a thin line, so I often had to do some back and forth with the darker background color to get the thread lines just right, basically painting back into the yellow thread line to reduce the width.
There’s a lot of yellow in this piece, and I did some experimentation:
Deep Yellow + Titanium White as the base for the mid-range yellows. Added Ultramarine Blue and Cadmium Red Light in small doses for the shadows on the ball.
Cadmium Lemon + Titanium White for the lighter areas.
Indian Yellow, which I don’t typically use often, here and there to vary the lighting along some of the longer sections of the tails.
The blue cloth was Ultramarine Blue and TW with variations of green made from Cad Yellow Deep and Cad Red Light.
Originally, I had included the tag on the toy, but once the piece was 90% done the tag looked too distracting and didn’t add a lot of value, so I took it out.
For those interested in the toy itself, it came from BarkBox, a monthly dog toy subscription service. Our dogs destroy toys, much to my artistic delight, so BarkBox has had to adjust what they send us to try and find toys that are good for tugging but also very durable. Supervised play is the best solution for our fur balls because once they’re done tugging, it turns into keep away, which devolves into a game of “I’m going to eat this so you can’t have it”. Somewhere between keep away and vindictive chewing is when I like to step in and save the toy. If I was going to rate this toy, it would go something like this (1-10 scale):
Tugability 8 – withstood some strong tug sessions between my large dogs (Zip 50 lbs, Wolfy 85 lbs )
Durability 6 – hard for a canvas toy to rate higher than a 7, so this is pretty good
Versatility 8 – this could have easily been used inside or outside, both for fetch or tug.
With a few deep breaths, and some tasty wine for liquid courage, I dove into the cellophane stage of this composition. I carved out a little more than an hour tonight to get the ball rolling. I was pleasantly surprised with the progress, but I will admit that my inner artist was struggling with laying gray tones on top of the pretty red vase in the name of cellophane.
It was rough going initially b/c there weren’t enough value contrasts between the white table cloth and the wide range of cellophane grays and cast shadows. Then I remembered the advice from David Cheifetz during his workshop a couple weeks ago – “Value is king! A painting with the right values but wrong colors will still look pretty good.” I’m not about to put that on a tshirt or a bumper sticker, but its great guidance. I stepped away from what seemed like the right dark and light grays and made both ends of the spectrum more extreme, darker grays and lighter grays. It seems to have worked so far.
The real power of the cellophane image won’t really come together until the grays are laid in properly and then the bright, white highlights are added on top. That’s what gives the cellophane it’s shape and texture. I’m still not entirely convinced this will look like the real thing when I’m done, but stepping back from this first stab at it, I was able to see the shape of the cellophane starting to come together. The key is going to be establishing that clingy sensation with the highlights. Fingers crossed…
[The grays of the cellophane are primarily 2 setups: Ultramarine blue + burnt umber + white OR white + ivory black. I’ll probably add a 3rd option for the cooler side of the cellophane (right side, away from the light source) of UB+raw umber+white. ]
Did some work on the bull ring today, but only a couple of hours and not enough progress worth posting. So, changing gears for a sec and going with a recent sketch of still life. Did this about a week ago and toyed around with some colored pencils. This was before my most recent sketching class that covered the value scale. Probably would have helped with the depth of the bowl. This took about an hour over 2 sessions. Next up is a sketch of one of the dogs and her ball obsession.