Sunday, September 4, 2011

What I've learned the past three months...

So here are a few things I've learned over the past three months of painting animal portraits. The photos here are of my portrait, "All-American Beagle"--which relates to point 7 below on criticism...and the Boston Terrier has to do with the first point!

Boston terriers come in multiple colors besides black and white. They also come in brindle or seal (black but with a red cast when seen in bright light) and white. This is Rudi, looking doubtful about something (perhaps having her photo taken). I can’t tell if she’s brindle or seal here.

Bulldogs. I just REALLY REALLY LIKE BULLDOGS. Too bad about all their breathing problems and potential jowl infections, but wow, what cool personalities they have. And such expressive faces. And the fur on their heads is SOOO soft. Plus the whole skateboarding thing.

I need to find more venues for getting cats to paint, because I am spending way too much time thinking about dogs’ jowls and teeth. Or horses. I would REALLY love to book a commission for a horse right now!

When a cat bites you, IT CAN BE SERIOUS. After Princess, my neighbor cat,(now aka Evil McEvil) chomped down on my foot last month, I found out that cat bites are really prone to infection. As my doctor said, “It’s like they’re injecting EVERY SINGLE DISGUSTING THING that they’ve put in their mouths RIGHT INTO YOUR BLOODSTREAM.” So if Fluffy, like Princess, decides to fang you, you should get to the doctor quickly and prepare to take at least 10 days of ENORMOUS antibiotic pills to combat the infection! In my case, I’m not sure if Workman’s Comp would cover a cat bite or not! I do know that, when I limped into the doctor’s office and told them that a) I painted animal portraits and b) a cat had bitten me, they all LAUGHED uproariously!

It is difficult to paint while your foot is elevated over your heart. (My doctor prescribed that, in addition to the enormous pills.)

My cats, even though I have been focusing inordinately on DOGS lately, are still very interested in supervising my work, standing on my drawing tablet, blocking my view of the computer monitor and mixing the paint in my palette with their butts. So I guess my paintings are currently both cat/dog portraits in a mixed-media sort of way.

If you’re an artist, just putting your work out there is going to result in unasked-for criticism. And you need to strengthen yourself against it, consider the source, sift out the crap and keep going.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t listen to criticism. I’m just saying it shouldn’t stop you from your own creating. This just came up because I got the oddest email the other day from a breeder that I’d sent my information to. She very helpfully said (and I am paraphrasing here, but this was the basic gist) that, unless I added softness and charm to my portraits, I was never going to sell them. At least not to beagle breeders or enthusiasts. They like something different.

She was much more polite, but she basically said my whole style would need to be changed because it’s not what beagle people want.

So that stopped me for about half a day until I started wondering how she had gotten elected to be the official spokesperson/tastemaker for all beagle breeders/enthusiasts. I think she really intended to be helpful, but it just didn’t make sense. I’m sure that there are SOME beagle people out there who like a modern and colorful style. After all, I’ve found that people with OTHER breeds of dogs like my style. Why would it be so unattractive JUST to beagle owners? Is it something about harkening back to the good old antebellum days of the foxhunt and wanting something evocative of that?

So I did not tell her what my father told me to tell her (he is a totally AWESOME dad in the artistic support arena so you can probably guess what he said) but I thanked her for her opinion and her expertise as a breeder (she had told me a great thing about the breed standard, which had something to do with a soft pleading expression). And I told her that I would certainly share later beagle portraits with her when I booked them. I also let her know how busy I am painting for people who seem to prefer a lack of charm in their pet portraits (although I hope I was more subtle about it than that).

Then I started painting again…a REALLY ugly, hard-edged poodle, in case you’re wondering, Because I think the poodle people LIKE ugly.

There are a whole bunch of mixed-breed dogs that are now being marketed as “designer dogs.” (Golden doodles, Schnoodles, Maltipoms, Foxton Terriers, Labradoodles, etc.) Supposedly there are logical REASONS for cross-breeding these dogs (like they have hypoallergenic properties, instead of the more-likely reality that, oops, Anita was in heat and she got out of the yard and got jiggy with the neighborhood pit bull) . And THAT IS SHEER MARKETING GENIUS. Because what’s actually the case is that you’re getting a fancily-named mixed-breed dog with uncertain characteristics. And you’re paying TOP DOLLAR for it!

Face it, you could get something EXACTLY like that at the local shelter for MUCH LESS!

I could USE the marketing geniuses behind “designer dogs!” But they are probably all somewhere making big bucks working for Equal or some other industrial poison that’s being sold as a low-calorie sweetener.

IN CASE YOU CAN’T TELL…I like big mutts, and I cannot lie…

Happy Labor Day!

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