Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Puppy Love

Every time I draw or paint a dog portrait, I fall a little bit in love with my subject. Dogs intrigue me as they are the true embodiment of mindfulness. They are always fully present in whatever it is they engage in and they bring a wholeheartedness to everything they do.

Unlike people, canines don't hold grudges and even dogs that may have had an abusive past are able to bring their hopefulness into the present moment and attach to a new owner. Their love is unconditional and their loyalty is unparalleled. Carrying no self-consciousness, they live from their gut without the restraint of self-doubt and judgement.

My deep love and admiration for dogs is hardwired into my genetics dating back generations in my family. As an infant, my mother was saved by the family German Shepherd, Lux, while sunning outside on a winter's day. My grandmother had left my 5 month-old mother in a carriage out in front of the house, just at the edge of a portico (this was not unusual behavior back in the day). A large chunk of snow melted off the roof of the overhang and landed on top of the carriage and my mother. The dog barked persistently until my grandmother came out and rescued my mom. And so began our family legacy of dog worshipping.

As a shout out to the many people I love, who also love cats, I respect and honor their affection and devotion to felines. I have never been able to crack the cat's code and while I admire their beauty, I don't understand their behavior... but I am open to learning. In terms of painting cats, I am confused by their eyes which have a complex diamond-shaped iris. Dogs eyes are much simpler, comprised of an iris and pupil round and similar to ours Yet, I know I will be attempting to overcome this unknown and capture the essence of the cat in a drawing some time soon. 

Ideally, the reference photo I work from has the eyes well-lighted and sharply focused. Like any portrait, all the features need to bear a likeness to the subject. But for me to capture the essence of my canine models, I start with the eyes as they will ultimately determine the success of the painting. When photographing your dog, try holding a treat or favorite toy near the camera/phone. This will bring their gaze toward you. If shooting outdoors, you will find early morning or late afternoon provide the best light for creating shadows and highlights.

Over time I have observed that the default mode for most dogs is happy and content. Perhaps this is derived from their ability to live simply in the moment, without the advanced thought processes that keep us humans lost in our patterns of thought. Through mindfulness, I can bring myself closer to that state and experience the sweet contentment that I see on my own sweet Molly's face.

An Unexpected Pause

Even in times of Covid, we find ways to keep ourselves busy. There are still problems to be solved, errands to run, social media to be viewe...