Finished portrait of Louie for Dean Jalava. Louie is still alive and well at age 9.
After Dean got on my portrait waiting list, we talked about the photos I would need. Dean has thousands of pics of Louie and over the past year sent me about 100 of his favorites. But none perfectly captured Louie the way Dean knows and loves him. When people look at a loved one, they see with their heart, not just their eyes. I gave him tips for getting that perfect shot. He kept at it and periodically sent very nice pics of Louie that he’d taken. He wanted Louie looking at him…he wanted the ears up more….nothing was exactly right. In the end it was a totally unplanned photo that Dean took one golden morning while having coffee with his best friend Louie on their deck that was “the one”.
It still took a while to hash through all the photos and narrow it down. Dean kept coming back to that shot. He wrote, ”It’s a real photo that I was lucky enough to catch while having my morning coffee with Louie out on my deck. It’s one of those photos I wasn’t trying to get for a portrait … it just happened. Louie was being himself in that photo. I know years from now when I look at the portrait it will take me back to that morning on my deck having my coffee with Louie enjoying the morning sun.”
Dean then asked if I could write “Golden Morning Coffee with Louie” across the bottom of the portrait, and the date the photo was taken.
I did this portrait with Prismacolor pencils. I chose “Bisque” Canson paper to work on, because the red-golden color permeates the whole painting with the warmth of that golden morning light. Because Dean’s photo was taken with a phone, which distorts objects (anything closer to the lens looks much bigger than it really is, like Louie’s front paws and the front of the blanket) I had to adjust those parts of the image to look like real life. The lattice behind Louie looked like it was leaning away from Louie, getting smaller at the right, and narrower at the top. Using some other shots Dean took on the deck as reference, I straightened the lattice, giving it upright, parallel lines, just as it is in reality. Dean and I discussed leaving the background a plain color (the color of the paper) but he wanted to capture the actual scene just as it was, with the shadow of Louie’s upright ears falling on the lattice behind him. In order to keep the portrait from being too busy with all the squares of the lattice and all the squares of the plaid blanket, I made the lattice very faint, using mostly the color of the “Bisque” paper so it doesn’t take away from the impact of Louie and the beautiful lines and colors of the blanket. I faded the lattice out at the top and sides so it’s there but doesn’t dominate the scene.
Before I start working on the face in a portrait I ask the client to tell me about them, so I can hold the essence of them and try to capture that in the portrait. Dean described a sensitive, very affectionate dog. A gentle dog who has never been in a fight, who loves the sun, loves to lay out and listen to the radio. Dean comes home at lunchtime to spend it with Louie. When Louie developed spinal problems Dean built a ramp and took his mattress off the box spring so they both sleep on the floor. Dean said,