VESPER, A PORTRAIT COMMISSION.





"If he came across a dog with a lot of appearance and a huge ego, he did not care. He always stayed true to himself. So special! You could see the ego of the other dog fall away and the encounter became instantly equal."




He knew exactly what the other person needed and how best to respond. For example, he motivated an insecure dog to find confidence. How often do you come across something like that...



oil painting of a dog
PORTRAIT OF VESPER, OIL ON CANVAS, 60 x 80 CM



At the end of 2021 I met Vesper. A big sweet dog with a very special developed character. He was not yet very old and unfortunately the only one from his litter who had become seriously ill. The owners wanted to have a portrait made of him to have something for when he would be gone.


His shoulder was already in a weak condition when I met him. Therefore, he could not sit up for very long for the photo shoot. We took our time and waited patiently for some nice pictures to be taken of him.




"Vespers' story and the meeting with Denise and Vesper themselves made a special impression. For me a rich, sensitive and crucial foundation to work with."




The charcoal sketch below is the first step on the canvas (60 x 80 cm). The grid gives me the grip I need to effectively hit the translation of the typical proportions. The lines are firmly drawn, giving direction. This way I get a feeling for the interrelationships between the different areas in the landscape, Vespers' face.




Sketch of a dog on canvas in charcoal
SKETCH PHASE IN CHARCAOL



The dark areas are the first to go. Separating light from shadow. Where are the 'heights' and 'depths'. What do I want to focus on and lead the eye to. The darker islands work as anchors. A foothold for determining the colour values. Or how dark, light, cool or warm the colour should be mixed.




first pass in oil paint, highlighting the darker areas
FIRST PASS IN OIL, APPLYING DARK TONES



Gradually the grey values appear. Intermediate colour values that will soon be able to arouse the most spatial magic in the viewer. Getting those right takes the most craftsmanship and time. Especially if there is colour in the coat. The viewer mainly sweeps over the light areas, where there is a lot of contrast.




"But the areas in the shadow, the less visible areas... if they do not succeed, the whole visual construction collapses and the viewer sees less '3D'. The viewer will feel less Vesper and the work will be weaker. So pay attention and stay critical!"




work in progress of a painting in oil, first pass in mid-values
FIRST ROUND IN MID TONE VALUES



What do you do if you can't see it any more? Because eyes become weak for colours as you look at them. Then you take a break, or literally look from a distance. You see differently from a distance and the work must also be powerful. Sometimes I turn the work upside down. Or I judge a photo of it. Funnily enough, that also reveals many mistakes.




close up of a dog, work in progress of an oil painting
START OF APPLYING COLOUR



"I leave the eye for what it is. I often postpone it. If I start with that, I keep looking at it and the rest gets less love and attention. So I postpone it, this time too."




NECK OF A DOG IN OIL PAINT, WORK IN PROGRESS
CLOSE UP OF THE NECK, HARD TO GET THE COLOURS RIGHT!



His neck is quite a tricky area. The colours are complex, warm, cold. There are reflections from elsewhere. The shapes are dynamic. Wavy folds on top of each other. I decide not to go into too much detail here. Vesper's neck does not play the leading role in the portrait.




ROUGH OIL PAINTING OF A DOG, WORK IN PROGRESS
OVERALL VOLUME IS STARTING TO TAKE SHAPE



More important are the brown tones that follow each other beautifully from the bottom right to the left, on top of his snout. Your eye will soon have to make a choice. Either to the left, towards the snout, towards the beautiful shiny part of his nose, or to the right, walking on towards his faithful eye, which lies quietly in the eye socket, revealing a little bit of the whites of his eyes.


Together we agreed to adjust his gaze slightly. In the photo, Versper was looking a little further to the right. But it is much more intimate to give the impression that he is looking right past the camera, towards one of his buddies.




CLOSE UP OF A DOG'S EYE IN OIL
CLOSE UP OF THE EYE



"When I am busy with the eye, it is as if I am turning on the light in a dim room. It magically brings a portrait so powerfully to life."



Even before that, I demand of myself to feel its presence, when looking at the work. Otherwise, I postpone the eye even further and work patiently towards a better moment. But when the time comes and the eye slowly comes into being, it is as if the sun breaks through into the soul of the portrait. A wonderfully emotional moment, which I always go through alone. But it is nice to be able to share it here. Hope you understand what I mean...


Anyway... On to his other eye.


CLOSE UP OF A DOGS EYE IN OIL
NOTICE THE LENS IN HIS EYE, I LOVE THAT DETAIL



What is so beautiful about his right eye, is that you just look through his lens. What a cutie! It is not screaming for attention but I personally think it is a beautiful detail in the picture. Looking past the eye, just catching the colour of the iris, and seeing the background being absorbed by the refraction of the lens. I enjoy something so subtle when I choose to include such a detail in the portrait.







Just to his snout. Without the glow on his right cheek, the light wasn't quite on. It adds just that little bit more curve to his profile, the other way around to his right cheek. It catches light there, from the left. Light coming from a makeshift sheet to bounce daylight back into the living room where Vesper sat, or rather lay.

I have also incorporated it into the work and strengthened it somewhat, because it provides the eye with a nice 'pathway' to look back up, towards what matters most; his warm, understanding gaze.




"The portrait is about Vesper. That's why I choose a calm background with large but gentle brushstrokes, creating little to no distractions. "




The canvas is nicely framed by a shadow edge, which is supported by the frame which is a simple but high-quality piece of craftsmanship from the framer. The natural wood (walnut) color matches nicely with Vesper's fur in my opinion.

This completes the portrait.


I somehow always become attached to such a work and I think I will never get used to the idea of not having them around anymore. But nothing beats making something tangible that has such special emotional value to someone else.


When it was unveiled at our home, the owners were moved by the feeling the work evoked. It brought Vesper back a little.




"Even the smell also reappeared he mentioned. A sensitive but very big compliment."







“Pleasant cooperation with an overwhelming result; Vesper is with us again!"



 


Interested in a portrait or do you know someone who might be interested? Please share my work and read some more here or feel free to contact me directly by phone.


+31 (0) 6 21 85 91 32.


 

Continue reading more about how I work and the quality I strive for, by clicking on one of the other blogs below.















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