Thursday, November 16, 2006

Creativity On Hold

For many animal artists, this time of year is typically a busy one. With the holiday season approaching, we're busy with commissions to draw and paint peoples' beloved horses and pets. While there is always satisfaction in completing these commissions, it takes a different mindset from speculative work. Most of the year, there is more of a balance between the two, but for the fall months, leading into winter (whenever it decides to arrive!), that speculative work takes a back seat.

Now, title of this post aside, I'm not exactly saying there is no creativity involved in producing a portrait. Some require more than others. Sometimes, due to the photos we are supplied with, our artistic ablilities are particularly put to the test. Earlier this year I completed a portrait of a beautiful tri-coloured Rough Collie named Jessie. I went to Jessie's home, met her, spent a bit of time with her, and took a hundred or so photos of her! I then downloaded the photos to my laptop and we were able to look at the photos right then and decide which would be most appropriate to use as the primary reference. That's the ideal scenario.

Sometimes, however, that process is impossible, as is the case when the animal is no longer alive. In such a case, I'm reliant on photos supplied by the client, and on everything they can tell me about the personality of their animal. A friend of mine said recently that we should always be taking photos of our loved ones, because once they're gone, you'll cherish those photos. I of course include animals in that, and it's often not until one decides to have something done like a portrait that one realises how few photos there really are.

The same client that commissioned me to do Jessie asked me shortly afterwards to do a portrait of the Rough Collie who had preceeded Jessie in their lives, a sable named Satin. While the photos he provided were quite good compared with some I've worked from, they were indoor shots with those tell-tale flash eyes. A portrait like this is always a challenge. On the one hand, I of course want to do the animal justice and bring out all of the personality and character that endeared them to their owners. On the other, I'm working without the advantages of having met the animal and the more ideal photos I would have had I sat there for an hour and taken some myself. These portraits always bring about a certain amount of stress, as I don't know until it is in the clients' hands if I managed to achieve what I hoped!

I delivered the portrait of Satin this past Monday. It was an early birthday gift, and somehow still managed to be a surprise! To my relief they loved it. It's one of those odd times in life where making someone cry is a good thing!

Now, on to the next portrait. This one is another tough one, and another birthday surprise (though it will be late, rather than early!).

I think I may have posted the portrait of Jessie earlier this year, but I'll do so again. Both are 17 x 14 oil pastel.

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