Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Platypus Life Cycle Illustration

Platypus Life Cycle - Young Platypus swimming freely
Drawn with Corel Painter and Photoshop
This illustration is part of a series of four I will be doing for Macmillan Publishers for a book educating young children on Australian Animals. The life cycles of all the other Australian Animals have been depicted using photos, but the platypus lays it's eggs in deep burrows and are extremely sensitive, so getting photos in this instance is much more difficult. Platypus are also extremely hard to find in the wild. I have seen a couple at Taronga Zoo, but because they are nocturnal mammals, the tank was in darkness with only a touch of light and no flash photography was allowed. The only other time I have seen them is in a sanctuary in Tasmania, where they were swimming freely in a creek. We visited Jenolan Caves on Sunday, and there is a beautiful walk along a creek bed where platypus have been spotted, but they were all very shy and didn't appear whilst we were there (having four noisy boys in tow probably didn't help!).
They are the most fascinating animals and researching them for this particular job has been an intriguing exercise.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Commissioned Illustration - Bass

8x10 inches
Coloured pencils on drafting film
Something different this time which took me a little out of my comfort zone, being more used to doing creatures with fur than scales, but I always love to try something new. The client gave me the freedom to work in whichever medium I chose, and whilst I have really enjoyed painting lately, I find nothing beats the coloured pencil on drafting film for finer details. Apart from that, I haven't much to add, and hope everyone is having a wonderful week!!!! :)

Friday, September 17, 2010

A successful day

No images today, as the commission I am working on is of a little baby that has passed. These commissions are always very special to me, but I never post them on the web for obvious reasons. Last night was a busy night, with the opening of the Blacktown City Art Exhibition, where I was honoured to find that I had been awarded a Highly Commended for 'A Life Well Spent', and also to see that the Council had acquired this artwork. We then left and drove to another exhibition opening night, and I discovered that 'The Artist or the Subject' had sold. Last night was also the opening for the Illustrator's Australia exhbition, and I am delighted to see that 'Untold Story' has sold. It never rains but it pours, as the saying goes, is so true. I can go weeks and not sell a single artwork, nor get any commissions, and then all of a sudden there are lovely days like yesterday, where you rejoice that people like your art enough to part with their hard earned dollars, and that is a great feeling!!!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

You Make Me Smile

You Make Me Smile
8x10 inches
Watercolours and acrylics on Canson Mi Teintes Tex Card
I really should have been working on a commission today, but sometimes the urge to be creative overwhelms everything else and I really had a compulsion to have some fun and play with colour. I took a litter of 8 little baby mice off to the pet shop on Monday, and so before Mum and Dad get too busy with another litter, they kindly indulged me with a bit of modelling for a photo shoot last night. Somehow, my art always comes back to the theme of mice - I just love drawing and painting them and their endearing little faces. I hope this brings a smile to your faces :))

Saturday, September 11, 2010


8x10 inches
Acrylics on Canson Mi Teintes Tex Card
This was the commission I completed a few weeks ago, when experimenting with a few different mediums and finally settled on the acrylics. This portrait was another example of where I was given a wonderful reference photo to work with, which made my job so much more enjoyable. A delightful looking littel girl, and because the photo was taken outside, there are beautiful reflections in her eyes which really add to her portrait. So, many of the same principals I outlined in my last blog for taking good reference photos for pet portraits also apply when taking photos for people portraits.

Taking Good Reference Photos for Pet Portraits

8x10 inches
Acrylics on Canson Mi-Teintes Tex card

I wanted to show these two reference photos as a guide to show how to get the best reference photos for your commissioned portraits. Both of these photos were sent by the same client, and without a doubt, I knew straight away that the photo on the left would be perfect and yet the photo on the right is probably more typical of the kind of reference photos I am often sent.

The reasons the photo on the left is so much better include:

The dog is at eye level - I am often sent photos where the owner is standing over their pet, and looking down on them, but as you can see in this composition, with the dog sitting on the table, that it is so much more pleasing and somehow gives the animal ownership of the portrait, rather than looking submissive.

There is a natural light source coming from one side of the pet - Natural light is almost always better than flashlight, and in particular in this case, where you have a strong natural light source from the window contrasting with the darker shadows behind the dog. Your portrait will be so much more interesting if you can achieve these contrasts in your lighting. Portrait artists can usually make some improvements to a photo, such as removing flashlight from the eyes, but creating a masterpiece from an average photo is usually beyond most of us mere mortal artists.
It is especially important to have a contrast of lighting if your pet is either all white, or all black, as it then becomes even more important to seek out any highlights or shadows which will prevent the portrait from looking flat.

Try to avoid front on photos. Your portrait will be far more pleasing if your pet is positioned on an angle. Clients often spend hours trying to get their reluctant pets to look at the camera, thinking that this will make the best photo, but in a lot of cases this only creates foreshortening of their facial features, and creates a dull image. If you would prefer to have your pet looking at the camera, try to have them sitting side on, and encourage them to turn their head toward the camera. Don't be afraid to experiment with different angles. Often the animals will avoid looking at the camera because of the flashlight, but don't be disheartened - be imaginitive and you may find your portrait looks much better anyway!!!

If at all possible avoid using a flash!!! The two best options are to position your pet near a natural light source as in the photo above, or else take your pet outside for the photo. When taking the photo outside, it is also ideal to try to aim for some contrasts in lighting so perhaps sitting your pet near a shady tree. Flash light creates unnatural lighting and taking the photo indoors without good lighting will make it hard to capture accurately the colour of your pet's coat and eyes.

Whilst this may seem like a lot of effort to go to, it really is worth it if you would like the best possible portrait of your precious pet.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Casanova II

Casanova II
10x14 inches
Acrylics on Canson Mi-Teintes Tex Paper
What a marathon week. This painting took much longer than I had anticipated and what a joy to finally complete it!!! I really wasn't blessed with the patience to work on projects that take longer than a day or two. I remember the first time I painted this peacock a few years ago, that it took me 3 months to complete and I was so over it by the end. But I have a special passion for peacocks and wanted to challenge myself to paint a larger piece.
Apart from that we found our darling pet dog Chelsea (Chinese Crested Powder Puff) dragging her hind legs on Wednesday night and discovered she has slipped a disc in her spine which has left her partially paralysed. Hopefully with anti-inflammatories and by keeping the poor thing caged for the next month or two, her spine will heal and she will get back full mobility. She looks at me with such sad eyes through her cage - I think she feels she is being punished for something and my heart goes out to her. Animals are so much more resilient than people.
With all this and the mother of a dear friend dying suddenly, I know I am sadly behind on my blogging, but hope to catch up in the next few days. Happy Father's day to all the Dad's out there for tomorrow (although I think some of you in the US etc. celebrate Father's day at a different time of year) and will check out all your blogs soon :))