I've filled in the river background across the upper part of the portrait, and now working on the upper-right Remmy head. I need to do the head first, then can fill in the background trees around it.
Although Remmy is a black-and rust Doberman, I am doing this head with dark grey being the darkest tone for the black areas. The reason: there are 5 depictions of Remmy in this portrait. Although each one is important, the center Remmy is “the punch-line” of the piece, as I call it. Meaning it’s what really gives the artwork it’s impact. Without that “punch” a piece of art would be boring. With 5 depictions of a black Doberman, the portrait would have 5 black blobs spaced around the artwork. But to give the center Remmy (what Walt calls his “Mona Lisa” photo) more impact, that will be the only Remmy where his black areas will be a true black. The other 4 depictions (two heads and two full-body), I’m making his black areas lighter than black. So they don’t carry the same visual weight as the center Remmy, a black Doberman coming joyfully at you through splashing white water.
To our eyes, this head looks like a “black” Doberman. That’s because the light and dark tones of the head are correct in relation to eachother. But the darkest areas (which our mind tells us is “black”) are actually dark grey….no darker. I am very careful in this head not to go any darker than a dark charcoal grey.
While working on Remmy’s head, I have two pics on my monitor, side by side. The one on the right is Walt’s original photo. Next to it on the left is my Photoshop layout with Remmy's head fading into the river scene. The head stands out differently on the background of the original photo than it does against the river and trees. Also the head in my Photoshop layout was cut out crudely and doesn’t show the little fringe of hair on the edge of Remmy’s ears, for instance. By looking at both at the same time while I’m working, I can get the edge of Remmy’s face and head accurate, including the detail hairs. But allowing for the fact that there may be darker colors in the scene behind that particular edge. I make some of the edges a little darker or brighter than it might be otherwise, to stand out against the scenic background.