Someone once said “every dog has a story“, and for this project the story is one of coming together. One of the big reasons my “Animal Behaviour” series exists is some four years ago, I was fortune enough to become companion to my dog, Honey. She, not only became a great friend and devoted head licker, but she also became the inspiration that brought life to the idea of drawing animals could have some meaning and fun!
Recently I also had a set of strange connections occur that brought me to this project. Dogs are always on my mind, and a Facebook friend of mine (Elke Vogelsang) blew me away when we connected with her photography. Especially the images that have thrown her into the spotlight, the images of her three adorable dogs; Noodles, Ioli and Scout. You know the ones, you must have seen them. Anyway, I look attentively for a new snap of Elke and one or all of her dogs, and get amused with the character, expression and passion in the aspects of the work, and fun!
Coinciding with this was a discovery of a very moving film on Vimeo; calledDenali. A story of total and complete connection and compassion of a dog and his companion. It moved me a great deal and felt on all the aspects of how I connect with my dog, Honey, and what the future brings. This coupled with all the images of bad things seen around the world, against these “best friends” of ours, made me start to think.
Early in 2015 I began a series drawings as part of a project called Celebrity Sunday. The idea was to try my hand at caricatures of notable people. It was all going well, and some months into the project I made a statement that in June I would make an attempt to do a posed caricature, to extend my range of the style and look of the project. This also came after I started to get a lot of attention from the series; especially from the acclaimed site Abduzeedo. So, sticking to my statement I was planning on a caricature of a scene, instead of the typical bust shot I had been doing. To cut a long story short and draw all the connections together, the affects of Denali occurred when Elke told me that an ‘Animal Behaviour‘ Tee shirt she had purchased had arrived and she forwarded me an image of Scout wearing the item. It all clicked, as I loved Elke‘s dogs so much, I thought it would be great to ask Elke to pose as a caricature study with her dogs. To extend this I explained that on completion I would give the rights over to Elke, so that she could raise money via print sales, to give to a canine charity, of her choice. So, the project was born.
Noodles, female, Galgo Español mix, 9 in dog years, clever, eager, funny, unintentionally comic sometimes, saved from a kill shelter in the South of Spain.
Scout, female, Galgo Español mix, 6 years old, beautiful, charming, sometimes wary, no dog person, so incredibly patient when posing for my ideas, found with her seven siblings next to her dead mother somewhere in a field in Spain.
Ioli, male, mongrel, 4 years old, one-eyed but not handicapped, usually cocksure of himself but noise sensitive, loves all humans, born in Germany, his mother arrived from Spain in very bad condition and gave birth to 18 puppies of which 8 survived.
To say this was one of the best pleasures and honours I have had, in recent years, would be an understatement. Doing caricatures of people has been a great way to expand on my skills as a digital artist, but exploring the colours and faces of these three dogs has help made me see nature in a new way.
It’s very hard to explain sometimes, what drives a creative to continue working on a project, into the early hours, at first light, and at any given free moment. I think it has a lot to do with the passion that is transfered when the love of the subject matter is brought to life in a piece. The connection I have found in my own dog was a great motivation to want to make the best of this piece. To make the eyes alive, to make the expressions loveable and to really want to make you feel part of the piece. That is what makes a successful piece.
The discussion with Elke resulted in the aquisition of two reference images, to which the final composition would take details. Even though the phoros were ideal, due to the use of a wide angle lens, the lighting was too dark in the core area. The aim was to make the final image look like a studio shoot.
Regardless of the lighting situation, it was still possible to get the pencil artwork together, so that the overall look and feel was a group composition. The pencil artwork was shown to elke and was accepted without refinement.
Even though recently I made a purchase to buy a set of oil brushes to work in Photoshop with, I have developed a technique that suits my method of painting, and rely on one brush only for this painting style. The funny part is that it is not a brush that emulates a real brush, instead it is intended for fur. My thoughts were, as I can do multiple strokes it is much the same as a real brush, which is made up of hairs. To help the process along, I set the opacity and flow lower than 100%. This is to aid in the blending of colour at their cross-over points. It should be pointed out that these images, and this one in particular, are in the region of 19,000px wide.
As part of the process of every caricature I do, I prepare a screen capture from every possible interesting part of the image, as it’s being painted. I then collate these into an animated gif, hoping to help show the process by which I do my images.
Most of the time, I begin with the eyes and then complete the faces. As there were four face, you will see that these were all completed first before I attempt any of the other parts (although I do block in parts). The reason being is that the faces, and especially the eyes, are a focus on a viewers captivation of an image. So if these are weak then the rest of the image will fail.
When I do caricatures of celebrities it’s about personal interpretation. This time I was concerned, as I talk to Elke, not to be too severe with the caricaturisation. Saying that it took three attempts to perfect the look. Luckily, Elke OK’ed the rough sketch so was happy to proceed. A great deal of the colouring from Elke‘s clothes were sampled and constructed from other images. Mainly as the lighting was cast in shadows on the reference images. I think the outcome worked well.
Noodles was a great character to sketch as well as paint. You can see in the reference images that she has this look in her face, that was ultra important to get right. I feel that I have managed to capture her well, and the rendering of all the colour variations was the crown to the whole process of the dog’s look and feel.
Ioli being the one-eyed dog, had a little special care in the pencil rendering. I wanted him to be loveable and charismatic, but also represent his true face, as it was shown in the images. To give him more character I made it so he had an open mouth, and there was some complexity in getting his fur correct as far as colouring goes. He was the last dog to be finished.
Scout was easy to do, as she only had half of her upper section to do, but nevertheless, she has a great expression and it was important to capture that. Out of all the eyes on all the dogs, she had the nicest to paint.