I get asked to do a lot of pet portraits. I like rendering animals–it’s a chance to capture (or at least attempt to capture) an animal’s essence, to sometimes memorialize, and other times just do a rad drawing for someone. Most often it’s an exercise in realism–i.e. my attempt to make my rendering look as close to the real thing as possible. There’s some add-libbing here and there, but for the most part I stick to the script and that makes people happy. That last part is indescribably rewarding.
This guy though…this guy was different. This is a commission piece that I did for someone that saw one of my Scottish Highland pieces at a gallery and decided he wanted his own one-of-a-kind. Sweet. When we met to discuss the tone and composition we came up with a pretty lengthy punch list: the sneer, the jaunty head tilt, the grass in the mouth, the two exposed eyes, etc. I’ve amassed a pretty good catalog of reference pictures of these beautiful beasts, none of which included the angles and/or emotions we were looking for though. This is when things get exciting for me as an artist–my chance to add some creativity to a rendering that still falls well within the realism spectrum. So I turned off the teleprompter and went for some extemporaneous visual expression.
This drawing pushed my abilities and forced me to explore, calling upon on a life’s worth of observation and doodling, er, I mean studying. The final product bares vague resemblance to a few of the photos I’ve taken in my travels but for the most part, it’s just creative realism. I struggled adding emotion to an animal that is (as far as I can tell) pretty much always stoic and nigh on expressionless. But the sneer turned out to be my favorite part.
Jobs like this (I use that term “job” loosely) are what make me a better artist. Rather than being a slave to picture in front of me, I get to add my own flare but still work my ass off to create a piece that’s got depth, character and strength. And that’s why this drawing rules…