I’m having a bit of a snow theme lately with my commission work! My client asked me to capture the excitement and movement in this winter sledding scene. It was a bit of a challenge for me as I’ve only ever painted dogs once before….but then that’s one of the reasons I do commission work– for the challenge of subjects outside my usual comfort zone!
As with any painting I can see areas that are less than perfect but there are also passages I’m quietly pleased with. I like the sense of movement from the different leg positions of the running dogs, the way the fur on the lead dog is being swept back by the wind and the lolling tongues that suggest they’ve been running hard. The lead husky looks a bit wolf like but that’s really how he looked in the reference photos!
Research always helps
I did a bit of research on husky sled harnesses so I could understand how the harness wrapped around their bodies as it was difficult to tell in the reference photo – this really made it easier to paint the fur as it moved around and over the harness.
I was saved the problem of painting facial likeness by the fantastic reflective visors! I like the way the man is leaning as they round the corner – it helps that feeling of movement. I added the flakes of falling snow for another touch of movement and a feeling of cold and fun as they sled through the swirling snow.
Practice makes perfect
So now I’m going to practice some dog portraits – I’m determined to get better! A workmate has clumber spaniels and St Bernards so I’ve offered her a portrait if she will give me an honest critique. I wonder how that will go?
I’ve just completed a commission for a client and really enjoyed painting a snowy scene for a change, despite it’s challenges. Living this far south ( 42 degrees ) you would think I might see a lot of snow in our Tasmanian winters but the truth is it’s pretty mild here. It snows in the mountains but rarely at our house near Hobart and so I don’t often paint a winter scene with snow.
This is the photo my client sent me to work from. It’s a good composition with strong leading lines created by the curving river and the leaning trees – although the river has got a bit of a downward slope that will need correcting. There’s dramatic contrast between the light snow , the dark river and the exposed rocks and bare branches with some mid tones in the background trees.
What’s lacking is colour. The photo has flattened out all the colours into an almost black and white rendition of the scene. This makes for a very stark and cold feeling. “What’s wrong with that”, I hear you say. “After all it is winter and snow is surely cold!” Surprisingly snow is not just white. Light hits the snow crystals and reflects back creating blues, violets,pinks as well as the expected whites. Then there will be dips and hollows creating strong shadows.
I decided I wanted to go for that sparkly winter feel. I created a cool blue sky as a back drop to the sparkling snow. I used reflected colours from the sky and snow to create more interest in the river and then changed the lighting direction to create a shadowed bank on the right so I could introduce violets, mauves and blues into the snowbank. The stronger directional lighting also allowed me to better define the river banks with the shadows of the tree trunks which also break up the expanse of snow. Lastly I injected a bit of warmth in the background trees with some ochres and yellows. This works really well because yellow and blue are complimentary colours so the trees play off against the sky and the river creating a bit of a zing.
Here you can see the painting and the photo side by side. It’s always a challenge when I change a photo for a more artistic interpretation to make sure that I keep the essence there for the client.
Reference photo for the commission
I’m happy with the changes – let’s see what my client thinks!
This is what my client had to say “Wow it’s beautiful! I absolutely love it. It’s going to be my mom’s mothers day gift : )”