Last Friday afternoon I received an email with an acknowledged last-minute request to do a painting of giraffes. A dear friend from childhood wanted to give his wife, who collects giraffes, the painting for Valentine's Day.
"You bet," I replied. I rarely turn down requests which are within reason. It would have to be acrylic on canvas, the fastest-drying option.
I immediately did an image search for giraffes, and suggested painting two of the beautiful animals together, since it was the day to honor love. Mark asked for a mother and child.
"Great idea!" I enjoy painting the mother-child subject, whether human or beast.
First a pencil sketch on paper. This helps to familiarize myself with the details of a giraffe, and really study my subject matter.
Then I "sketch" the composition on the canvas with paint and block in areas of color for the background. The photo I worked from had an almost entirely black background. I wanted suggestions of foliage, and glints of light here and there.
I began adding Payne's Grey (an almost-black color) to the background and bring darks into the animals. The paint was very wet at this stage which caused glares in the digital photos.
Here I began focusing more on the details of the giraffes. It's important for me to get the canvas covered with color, so I am not painting subjects against stark white (the total absence of color). Color is effected by other colors; and especially black and white.
At this point I realized that I had the shape of the heads wrong, and had made them too squared.
So I rounded out the jawlines and added some blue to the background (which is the direct compliment to orange). Notice how the oranges in the giraffes seem so much brighter with the addition of blue. And the foliage now has a richness and a better illusion of depth.
Painting is just constantly adding more detail, adjusting edges, and layering color; in a back and forth dance between brush and canvas.
Mark was very pleased with the finished painting, and excited about surprising his wife. I can hardly wait to hear about her reaction. The "mother and child" came into being so quickly and were with us only briefly, but I miss them already...
They lived on the wall next to my Toucan for about 2 hours and made nice pals, I think!