|"Maggie's Dream", 10" x 12-1/4", ink & watercolor on Saunders Waterford 140 lb. paper|
Maggie's "grandma" commissioned me to do a portrait of the 4-month old pup for Maggie's "mom" who simply adores her. After looking at all the photos grandma sent to me of the dog, I saw a pattern emerging. Maggie is one mischievous puppy! She thinks her mom's bed was made just for her to nap on, and she's sure that every chair in the house is really a dog bed. When she's caught being naughty, she hangs her head in shame and won't make eye contact, as if she's thinking "If I can't see them, they can't see me."
So, after seeing all the funny pictures of this adorable dog, I gave my client several options for Maggie's portrait: a full-length portrait with a simple background, a closer 3/4 view, a head and shoulders portrait, or this one, which is kinda crazy, a little bit funky, and lots of fun. You can see which one was the winner! Maggie's dream would finally come true - she'd have a chair of her very own!
I began with a pencil drawing, then I inked the lines. I kept the ink lines very light on Maggie, because I didn't want a lot of black on her fluffy blonde fur. My Platinum Carbon fountain pen's extra fine nib is great for this.
Since I wanted to paint a background wash over the entire piece, I masked out around the edges of the chair and the name banner. That would make it easier to move quickly when painting the wet wash. I could use a large brush without worrying about inadvertently slopping paint where it didn't belong.
I also masked around Maggie using a small round brush, lightly painting on the masking fluid in short irregular strokes to suggest her spiky, fluffy fur.
Then I painted the entire background and let it dry thoroughly.
To make the wallpaper pattern in the background, I used a 6x6-inch craft stencil (Crafter's Workshop brand).
I taped it in place in the center of the painting....
Then I took a stencil brush slightly dampened with water and rubbed it over the stencil openings. After agitating the paint a bit, I blotted with a tissue to lift the paint.
The result was a subtle effect that looks just like wallpaper. I moved the stencil to other sections of the paper to complete the pattern over the entire background.
I had originally thought I would use the turquoise color as the base color of a rug on the floor, but I changed my mind and decided on a different design for the flooring. I lifted most of the turquoise paint from the floor area using a damp sponge and brushes, then painted a sepia wash over the wooden floor area. After that dried, I painted the wood grain lines with a small round brush.
For the dog bone pattern on the rug, I masked out the bones, painted the background, removed the masking, then painted the bones, along with the red and striped borders.
The floral fabric on the chair took several steps:
- Mask out the leaf shapes.
- Paint a pink wash over the entire area. Let it dry.
- Mask out the pink rose shapes.
- Paint a dark burgundy wash over the entire area. Let it dry thoroughly.
- Remove all of the masking fluid.
- Paint the darker values on the roses.
- Paint the lighter values on the leaves.
- Paint the darker values on the leaves.
After painting the rest of the Mackenzie-Childs style chair, it was finally time to tackle Maggie herself. Some of the more subtle tones on her fur don't show up well in this scan - images always look better in person - but I think you can see how much layering I did to indicate the fluffy but clumpy texture of her fur. Titanium Buff was the primary color I used to paint the fur, modifying it by adding Yellow Ochre or Burnt Umber for the darker values.
The masking fluid worked perfectly to preserve the texture of the fur against the dark chair.
Maggie's eyes were very small in the painting, making it challenging to get them right. The tiniest stroke of paint could easily wipe out a highlight or change the expression on her face.
The finished painting is like no dog portrait I've ever seen before. I think I was able to inject a little humor into what could have been a traditional, stuffy portrait, and Maggie's mom was delighted with her birthday surprise.
There's just one problem, Grandma is so enamoured of Maggie's dream chair that she asked me if I could make her a real one just like it! :)