I think, more today, than in the olden times, animals are considered just part of the family. We tend to keep the common domesticated animals in and around the house and love, care, and feed them just as we would our children. There are cat people, dog people, fish people, horse people and bird people, and then there are the odd animal people, which in my opinion, would include snakes, lizards, rats, and any kind of bugs! But for the most part, people just love their pets. We dress them, and pet them, and reward them with treats; they sleep at the foot of the bed, and sit in our laps while we watch tv, go for long walks, and are truly part of our family.
As owners of pets, we sometimes forget that animals haven’t always been so spoiled and petted. Animals had jobs and some still do. They were kept and fed and cared for to do a specific job around the owner’s property, more commonly on farms. Whether horses, which provided transportation and pulled the plows or wagons, or cats that caught the mice and kept them out of the house, or dogs that rounded up the livestock, protected them from predators, and alarmed the owners when someone or something was close by. The fact is, animals have been domesticated work hands for thousands of years to help people with their daily jobs. But in this day and time, we have lessened our dependency on animals by having cars, alarm systems, and even mouse traps, to do the work for us; although, even today, there is still a need for the services of these special companions.
The tradition of keeping animals around a farm is as specific and necessary as it always has been. Farmers keep dogs to protect the livestock, herd the cattle, and control small rodents among other tasks around the property. However, a farm dog has another special job, to provide companionship for the farmer during the long hours of a work day. There is a special relationship between a farmer and his dog, one that is built on trust and love and respect for each other. The farmer is gentle in guiding the dog to learn the job he must do. The dog responds to quiet commands and is rewarded when he is successful. When the farmer rides the tractor, his dog is never far behind. As he mends the fences, his dog is by his side. He sits under a shade tree and his dog waits patiently for him to share his lunch. When he feeds the livestock, the dog will be sure to keep them on their way to the barn. After a long day, and when the day’s work is done, the farmer will return home and his dog will be right there the next morning bright and early; he is ever watchful for his master. He is a loyal farm hand and friend.
I am fortunate to observe this special relationship, between the farmer and his dog, on a daily basis, as I drive along the country roads on my way to work. The dog’s name is “Bear” and he lives on David Yates’ Farm in Matney, NC. He is a mixed breed and has a loving and kind personality. His coat is burnt orange and cream colored, toned down with a wash of black, with bits of white here and there, and his fluffy and thick fur is soft and silky. It is common to see Bear along the road in the mornings, as he follows along the side of my truck to catch a pat on the head, or receive a treat, as I go by. Bear is a gentle dog with a warm and friendly greeting to any who will give him the attention. Even as neighborly as he is, he is always on duty and is ready for work whenever called.
On occasion, I will pull out my camera and snap a picture of Bear. He will sit at attention and give just the right pose. I think he knows just how beautiful he is and loves to have his picture taken. And so, when looking for inspiration for a painting the other day, I decided it was time to put all of those great pictures of him to good use. So, I painted Bear!
Having, recently, discovered the wonderful surface of Aquabord, I sketched the picture on an 8×10 panel and proceeded to create wash after wash, to build up the many layers that would be Bear.
First, I toned the 8×10 panel with raw sienna.
Then, I wiped out the initial shape of his head with a tissue. This would pull out the lightest lights.
I began layering the mid tones, and proceeded to build in the darks.
I found the eyes the most important part and spent the time to bring them to life.
Afterwards, I strengthened the darks and completed the details. I mottled the background with various shades of grayed greens, along with the original tonal shade. I added the backlit highlighting that created a halo effect around his head. I, then, speckled some dark green and bluish brown, to tie the painting together. I finished with a satin varnish to protect the painting from moisture. I was really pleased with the results and felt I had captured a moment in this special dog’s life.
I really like the Aquabord surface. It is a textured clay surface on a hardboard base. It is absorbent, while still allowing for lifting when needed. The washed layers flow freely while wet and when dry the layers stay put and tend not to be removed when washed over. The surface dries quickly, allowing you to build multiple layers at a steady pace. The boards are available in common framing sizes and fit perfectly in any pre-made frame. This reduces the cost of custom framing making the paintings perfect for gift giving! I was able to finish the painting in one sitting which allows me to be spontaneous and express my creativity without waiting weeks for completion. I, also, love the way the American Journey paints seemed to jump off of the surface to bring Bear alive. The colors are rich and full bodied and worked beautifully on the Aquabord.
After completing the painting of Bear, I decided to frame the panel in an 11×14 Artcare Museum Quality Archival Protection System by Nielsen Bainbridge. The system comes complete with a beautiful black satin finished wooden frame, a professionally cut archival mat with an 8×10 window, a high quality UV Protective Glass that prevents fading, an archival mounting board, and an easy to install panel with hangers already mounted on the back. Nothing could be more cost effective or convenient. Definitely the most professional looking presentation I have seen. The frame really made the completed painting look great! The greatest thing about the Artcare framing system is that it is available in many different sizes and finishes. There is definitely something for any occasion or style!
So, from day to day, as we go along our normal lives, sometimes we are presented with an opportunity to paint something far from ordinary. We might be compelled to paint a countryside scene, a mountain view, animals or perhaps a special farm hand, that just happens to be part of the family. No matter what you decide to capture on a blank surface, make it special by putting everything that is you in the painting. What you love, where you live, who you know, what you see, all of this is what makes your painting unique. The best thing about being an artist is to be able to share what you see with others. As an individual, you do not see things the same as everyone else, so it is important to show them what you see through your art; allow them to experience the new places and things through your eyes. Be original, take chances, explore art on a daily basis, and discover something new. I hope you will join me in passing on the passion!
Have a Happy “Paint a Special Pet Friend” Day!
And Happy Painting!