13 January 2012

He can't keep a beat... but who cares...

I received this painting request from Katie, who won the gift certificate I donated to a silent auction benefiting the City of Lakes Community Land Trust. Katie's request was simple, she wanted a painting of a "baby brown bear banging on pots and pans with a wooden spoon" for her nearly two year old son, Asher, who they call their "little bear".
So, I followed directions with one change. I gave the bear two spoons to make him look more intentionally musical rather than banging wildly. I decided to place the bear in a natural setting as if he just stumbled upon this cookware which could have been left behind by some clumsy campers or maybe fell off of some flashy traveling salesman's rickety cart.
Let's go with the latter and say that the travelling salesman also has a tiny dog that dances and does tricks to attract crowds when the duo stops in small villages as they wind their way through the countryside selling their wares. Stranger things have happened. Right?

Here's a story:

This young brown bear is hungry and it's mother is away. Wandering around, the bear stumbles onto a road where there is a parked wagon and man wearing an orange suit studded with metal bottle caps and tiny tin mirrors. He is playing a clarinet and has tambourines tied to his knees. On his shoulder is is a dancing Pomeranian dog wearing a tiny costume which is reminiscent of something a Bulgarian Gypsy might have worn 100 years ago.
An audience has gathered around this scene and they are enormously enthusiastic about the salesman's routine. There is a great deal of cheering and people are waving money in the air over their heads.
The young bear begins watching and is so curious that he forgets his hunger and runs in closer. The audience sees the bear and cheers thinking that he is part of the show. No one flinches as the baby bear slips in behind the salesman, picking up pots and pans and wooden spoons. When the bear starts banging out an awkward beat, the salesman stops, turns around, and almost poops his pants. (The dog actually does poop... right on the salesman's silky orange shoulder.)
As quickly as he can, the salesman takes his shaking dog and hops in his wagon to gets out of there ASAP, leaving some of his wares behind without regret. The audience, following suit, also panic (though they are uncertain why). The crowd quickly disperses in a mad rush to get back to their home villages.
The bear doesn't seem to care and just sits by himself, beating his pots and pans until late into the night. A sliver of the moon rises and he is still banging away in the dark. He can't quite keep a steady beat but who cares, he's having fun... and he's a bear... who's going to tell him?

Thank you, Katie and family! I hope you like the painting.

09 January 2012

Lil' Charlie! Even cuter in his sweater...

This painting was commissioned by Nick Garbis as a Christmas present for his wife Sarah. It is a painting of her much loved lil' buddy, Charlie, who was her present last year.
Charlie is one of those dogs that is ridiculously cute. So cute, I almost didn't want to paint this dog, afraid that some of the cuteness might get away in the time it takes to go from eyes to my hand.

I've painted plenty of dogs for this blog so this should have been a piece of cake and it was, until I decided to make things hard for myself. I had a week and a half to paint this and did so in a few hours well before delivery time. The painting I made was very simple and charming. I used very simple lines and the color was minimal but to the point. I showed this first painting to my very honest wife, Beth, and she liked it. Her only criticism was that there should be more of a sparkle in his eyes. I agreed and the night before delivery I dipped my brush in white to do so... and then decided to touch up a few other things...

I filled in a little more color here and there and defined the body a little more... and the next thing I knew I had gone too far. The charm was gone. The looseness that the painting originally had was destroyed. The inaccuracies that came from simple lines, now made solid, just felt like clumsy proportions which I was feverishly trying to fix.

On these small paintings, the layers of paint get thick and lumpy very fast making clear detail almost impossible. I used so much paint that the lower part of the painting's surface became the Pintos Mountains and my tiny brush was a disoriented pilgrim looking for salvation. Things went wrong... really wrong and I was supposed to deliver this in a few hours morning.

I contacted Nick early the next morning and asked if we could meet later in the day.Then took out a new board and started over. I figured if I did it once I could do it a second time. This painting, which you see above, came together fast. But I made some changes this time. I decided to have the dog wear his sweater (for maximum cuteness) and made the painting more "complete". Couldn't rely on this simple line stuff in a pinch. And very quickly, it turned out well. Probably more satisfying than the first.

I have a couple of new paintings that will be up soon. Today I'll complete a "baby brown bear playing pots and pans with wooden spoons". It is one of those paintings that I've been sitting on for a while. Bound to happen when I'm not given a deadline. So, moral of the story is, if you commission a painting, always give my a deadline for both of our sakes. If nothing else, just arbitrarily say "Groundhogs Day" or "Fourth of July" or whatever. It works better that way!