Dog Art Blog by Talitha

Ik schrijf met enige regelmaat over mijn portretten, mijn leven, mijn twijfels en mijn dromen.

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#5 When do you quit your day job?

The Lovely Lab - Art by Talitha
The Lovely Lab - Art by Talitha

I often get great compliments on my dog portraits; ' they are so realistic', 'I've never seen anything like this', 'I thought it was a picture!'.

 

Compliments like these always make me lost for words...somehow I can seem to comprehend that my own two hands actually practice the art of drawing. Especially since I never considered myself to be a socalled creative person.

 

When I tell people I struggle to find the time to draw because of my day job (I work fulltime as an office manager at an internet agency), they always react kind of surprised. Surprised that I still work a day job and can't manage to support myself with my art.

 

The problem is that there is always an uncertain factor when your income depends on commissions; one month you may receive 10 commissions, but who's to say what the next month will bring. I do know it will bring a stack of bills that need payment. Whether I managed to receive commissions or not...

 

Some days I think it would be easier to take the leap of faith if I would have a partner I lived with. Double income. Less financial risk. But then again I probably wouldn't be able to draw 8 hours a day, since I wouldn't be able to focus on my drawing when the bed isn't made, the dishes aren't washed and the room isn't vacuumed. And that does seem to come with the package. Oh, the struggle!

 

I currently live by myself. Well, that's not quite true. I live together with my Great Dane Noa, my muse. So no, not by myself, but with the best roommate a person could wish for! That also means I don't just have myself to take care of. She depends on me. She depends on me for walks, food, her medicine and lots of love. And of course she gets all of that. But that also means that working less hours with my boss, or quitting my day job all together, could have concequences for her. No, not the love and walks part, but she does have quite a gourmet taste and her meds are not the cheapest either.

 

Another part of the struggle is that bringing down the hours as an Office Manager would mean, besides spending more hours at the drawing board, spending more time with my girl. A typical win-win wouldn't you think? But on the other hand it would mean I HAVE to get enough commissions to fill the 'gap' in order to maintain our living standards. And that's a certainty I don't have. Damn, why are some things so complicated sometimes... Or do you think I just see bumps in the road?

 

At this point I think I will postpone the difficult decision to quit my day job until further notice. But the the fact that thoughts like these circle my brain tell me that I am almost ready to become an actual entrepeneur ;-) 

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#4 How to take the perfect picture of your dog

All my dog portaits are drawn from pictures. Good quality pictures that is. Since I pay a lot of attention to detail in my drawings, these details need to be visible in the picture.

 

From time to time I get a bad quality picture send by someone, with the request to draw that picture. Unfortunately I am unable to draw from poor quality pictures...

 

We all know how hard it can be to take a pic of our pups;

  • They never want to look at the camera or the phone, it’s as if they think it will steal their souls!
  • Flashes look horrible...
  • Natural lighting can be so dark that you can’t tell where your dog ends and the sofa begins!

It’s so hard to capture their unimaginable adorableness  and beauty with a camera or phone, but here are some tips on how it can be done (without having to hire a professional photographer or buying a complicated expensive camera):

1 - use natural light

If possible always use natural light when taking a picture of your dog. Avoid flash, as flash burst can not only cause red-eyes, but also frighten your pup. Instead try to go outside or, if that's not an option, use a room that's well lit by a large window.

2 - Keep the eyes sharp

As the eyes are known as 'the windows to the soul', having sharp eyes in the picture is super important. Make sure to focus on your dogs eyes and keep the tack sharp. Maybe even consider holding his or her favorite toy right above the lens of your camera or phone, to make sure your dog will focus on that. That way you can buy yourself some time to click for the perfect pic!

3 - Get up close and personal

It is very important that you dog feels comfortable and at ease, so instead of forcing him or her to come to you go to them. Most important is to get down to their level; We all know how a dog looks when viewed from above, this is the way we always see them. Show us the way they see world! Sit on the floor or lie on your belly and remember to shoot from HIS or HER eye level or maybe even below.

4 - Give value to their character

I think it's safe to say that your dog will be totally him- or herself when you are the one behind the camera. Therefor chances are that they will show their true character. In my opinion a successful picture is one that reflects your dog a they truly are. We are all familiar with the 'sqeeky toy' pics, where your dog looks super alert with his or her eyes wide open. If you want to photograph your dog with 'softer eyes' and a more relaxed appearance, stay away from objects to lure their attention.  

5 - Stay away from the zoom button

In order to end up with a high quality picture of your dog, make sure to leave the 'zoom' function on your camera or phone alone. If you do zoom in when taking a picture, that usually results in loss of quality where the enlarged image looks blurry and unprofessional.

6 - Be patient

Dog photography requires a lot of patience. A LOT! No matter how excited your pup is, if you are patient enough, he or she will end up relaxing and you will have the opportunity to get a decent shot. When you lay down on the floor for example, they might think you are initiating a new sort of game and be 'in your face'. But once they notice that you are not instigating a game, they eventually leave you be and give you the chance to take some great pictures.

7 - Experiment

Try different approaches, angles and compositions. Don't expect to have the perfect picture taken in the first try. It might take you several sessions before you get that perfect picture. Shoot a lot; you will have time to worry about the results later.

8 - Have fun!

No matter what you try to get the perfect picture of your dog, make sure you and your dog have fun doing it!

You have a tip that I forgot to mention? Make sure to share it by adding it in the comments :-)

comparisation between a good quality reference photo and the dog portrait
comparisation between a good quality reference photo and the dog portrait
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#3 PanPastel, my all time favorite medium..

In my previous post I mentioned my switch from charcoal to PanPastel and I thought I'd write some more on this fantastic medium that is, for reasons unknown to me, relatively unknown in the artist world.

 

PanPastel is a member of the soft pastel family. On their website www.panpastel.com it states; 'PanPastel Colors are professional artists’ quality soft pastel colors packed in a unique pan format (cake-like). The special qualities of PanPastel Colors mean that artists can blend and apply dry color like fluid paint for the first time.'

 

Since I only use black for my dog portraits, you might wonder why I'm such a PanPastel enthusiast. Well, let me try and explain to you why that is. As you might know soft pastel is known for its rich colors and versatility. Since I was looking for a medium that could give me a rich black color, the switch to soft pastel wasn't all that surprising. But why not switch to traditional soft pastel sticks or pencils you wonder?

 

I wanted to use a medium that I could do the full portraits with. I didn't want to do mixed media. Using only soft pastel sticks would have meant I'd had to combine them with soft pastel pencils for the finer details, since I couldn't see myself creating super fine lines with a stick. Using only soft pastel pencils would have meant I couldn't create the softness that soft pastel sticks can create. Then the store clerk pointed PanPastel out...

 

As the name already states, PanPastel comes in small pan's. It's appearance may remind you of things you'll normally find in a make-up bag, like blusher or eye-shadow. To apply PanPastel I was recommended to use the specially designed Sofft tools and applicators; sponge tools that come in various sizes and shapes. Achieving tight detail takes a lot of practice, but as my dog portraits show, it can be done!

 

Furthermore PanPastel creates far less dust than charcoal or traditional soft pastel sticks. An added bonus for me, since my whole living room was sometimes covered in grayish powdery dust after a drawing session with charcoal...

 

Most soft pastel artists still choose to use sticks and pencils over PanPastel, but I take great pride in the fact that I have 'mastered the art of PanPastel'!

 

 

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#2 Something's missing..

After several months of practicing drawing with charcoal, I noticed that there was something missing in my drawings. The charcoal just didn't do what I wanted it to do; I wanted black to really be intense black and the charcoal left me with a darkish grey. Besides that I wanted the dogs to look soft and shiny and charcoal gave them a somewhat coarse finish, Hmmm, what to do...

 

I decided to pay another visit to the art store and present the store clerk with my problem. They suggested I'd give PanPastel a try. A totally different medium, in no way comparable with charcoal, but since I was only just beginning to experience I decided to give it a try. Of course that meant buying way more stuff than I planned on (special drawing sponges, several erasers, special paper) and so I left the store with an empty wallet, but with a bag filled with new art supplies. Now I know why it's called 'paying a visit'!

 

Once I got home I immediately unpacked my new supplies and started on my first ever PanPastel drawing. I must say it was quite a challenge to do the full portrait in PanPastel, since the medium is most frequently used to fill out large sections only and not to do small detailed work. I had to be inventive, but managed to create my own tools to get the detailing done. The result was exactly what I hoped it would be; a smooth, soft looking Great Dane puppy!

 

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#1 How it all started..

Never in my wildest dreams could I have thought that one day I would be writing a blog, let alone a blog on dog art..

I understand that might need some explaining, so that is what this first post will be about; how my passion started.

 

I only started drawing two years ago. Two years and four months ago to be exact. On March 17th 2014 I attempted my first ever drawing in charcoal: a drawing of (who else..) my very own Noa.

 

The vet had just informed me that Noa's back problems would only worsen if we kept the active live we were leading, so no more day-long walks in the forest or on the beach, no more tracking trails, but an enormous amount of free time on my hands, since Noa would benefit most from resting..

 

Not wanting to become a couch potato, I thought of all the things I always wished I could do, but never dared trying. And then 'drawing Noa' popped into my head; mind you, I hadn't drawn anything since elementary school...about 25 years ago...and I wasn't a talent back then either..

 

A visit to the local art store it was! I must say, I felt nowhere near an artist in that store, since I had no idea what I was doing and what I needed to execute my oh so creative idea. But the store clerk was kind enough to help me out and help me decide on which medium to try out. After paying, of course, I walked out the store with a bag containing an A3 sized sketching pad from Clairfontaine, some Willow charcoal, a Talens kneaded eraser and a blending stump.

 

I sat down at my desk with one of my favorite pictures of my dog and started scratching the charcoal on the paper; harsh and without any feeling. The result...let's just say it resembled anything bút my dog... I couldn't feel less than an artist at that moment...

 

Not willing to give up, I thought I'd better get to know the materials first, so I started drawing lines. Just simple straight lines. First with the sharp end and the with the side end of the charcoal. Then curves, using the same technique. Then I tried using the blending stump and the kneaded eraser. And that all taught me that it takes a gentle touch, a super high dosage of patience and much consideration to get on paper what your eyes see.

 

After practicing on about 5 sheets of paper, I made another attempt at drawing Noa...and though it left a lot of room for improvement; this drawing still brings a smile to my face, since it  represents the birth of my drawing passion!

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