After publishing this painting on Facebook last week, an old
high school buddy wrote a very funny comment:
Some cowboy wrote a song about these guys . . .”Get a Long Little
Of course, I laughed at it the first time I read it . .
.then it really got into my head . . . to the extent that I awoke from sleep
with it chiming in my noggin!!
The comment spoke to me about how the lay person looks at
and sees a painting . . . .all they see is an image of something or some place
fact, that is the LAST thing with which a good painter is concerned or even
Believe me, I was NOT
concerned with making “cute” little dogs!
Obviously, the idea came from a sight seen in Washington
Square in New York City last spring.
gathering of people, all walking their dachshunds, had joined together as the
dogs became ensnarled in their leashes.
I remember my reaction as I peeked in between the people to see the
scene and was struck by all the leashes coming from different directions!
It seemed to be organized chaos!
So, out came my camera to record what I was
I was only able to get away
with six or seven photos before they disbanded.
Finally, after months of looking at the photos and wondering
what I could do with them,
my reaction to the LINES (leashes and sidewalk seams) and DIRECTIONS (two of
the elements of design) . . .and thought that I should use that reaction as the
basis for the painting.
didn’t matter to me what was at the end of the leashes . . . .dog or human.)
The photos had all sorts of superfluous stuff in them that
had to be eliminated . . .peoples legs and shoes, baby strollers, purses
. . .well . . . “stuff” that didn’t
contribute to saying what I needed to say.
dogs, which stand in the center right, were the only dogs in the picture space
in the beginning. They are there with the leashes (line) coming in to
the picture space and conflicting with the lines (seams) in the sidewalk as my
beginning fascination. While the lines and direction conflicts were my
fascination source, the three dogs just didn’t provide a sound
composition. That is, they were clumped
in an off center location in the picture space, which left a big gaping empty
space on the left and below. So, I added the dog in the bottom right to
link up with the other two black dogs to form a single dark diagonal shape
(yes, the “shape” is the three blackish dogs). . . .which left another big
space in the upper left. There were a number of different options to put
into that space, including the lower carriage of a baby stroller . . . .but
that didn’t fit the “dog dominance.” I
have learned if something is completely alone
in a painting and does not relate with everything else in the picture
space, it will call attention to itself and cause the focus of attention to be
in the wrong place! Eventually, in some other photos, there were two
pups nuzzling each other who were projecting an interesting shadow . . . .bingo!
That shadow was imposed into that blank space (upper left edge) to help
finish off the dead space and overlapped with the diagonal dark shape (the
three black dogs) (You may notice that I
refer to them as “shapes” . . .because when it comes to seeing a composition,
virtually anything can be a
“shape.” It doesn’t really matter WHAT
a shape is, as long as it occupies space and is interesting to look at.
That shadow also helped tell more of the story about what was going on. At this point, I could see that I had a large
“compositional shape” occupying the picture space . . . . that of the three
black dogs and the added shadow in the upper left edge . . . .a big oblique
“clump” which holds the entire composition together.
with a left margin being also void, the little red guy was put in to BALANCE the
composition . . . .he had to be a tad bit more intense, color wise, in order to
offset the weight of the other bunch who were dominating the lower right of the
painting. Eventually, I had to face up to hitting another balance issue
by having a blank in the upper right corner, thus the added dog and legs &
shoes to add a bit of humanness into the mix, without that difference calling
too much attention. As it currently
stands, the ‘white’ of the shoes IS a small distraction and needs to be calmed
down so that the VALUE difference doesn’t attract attention. As the
painting progressed, I found the leashes to be off in value, too, and not
distracting enough to bring the wanted emphasis to the conflicting directions .
. . so they had to be lightened and the colored edges were added to relieve the
overall grayness of the rest of the painting and to soften the impact of the
one dog’s “dress.” That dress is an
attention getter, for sure, which presented enough of a challenge that other
intense colors had to be included into the picture space so that the pink would
not seem to be so alone.
I will also
admit to a heavy dose of procrastination and thinking after completing the
drawing on watercolor paper before I ever picked up a paintbrush. I had to
carefully consider the ORDER of operations so that it all didn’t appear
as a patchwork and would integrate together and appear as a UNIFIED whole. The entire ground had to be washed in first,
without intruding into the dog shapes, which were left as raw, untouched
paper. Shadows had to wait until last .
. . .why? If you look at the piece, the
shadow shapes and the lines all seem to act as connectors to all the separate
dog shapes. They had to overlap and
connect every part of the painting.
As I laid out
the paper to begin painting, I could see things I could not see when making the
drawing a week previous . . . .I had included a set of carriage wheels in the
upper left corner . . .they had to go!
I was ready
to begin the painting phase . . . . .how would I paint the dogs? What method? After laying in the ground around the dog
shapes, I realized that to give the dogs enough strength, I would work each one
wet into wet with plenty of soft shifts in value and tone inside each shape
(play of light reflection on their coats.)
these issues were settled, the painting could be declared finished.
I can see
now, there are a few edges that need softening and more work is needed to
integrate those shoes a bit better. You see? As far as us artists are concerned, our paintings are never “done,” we just abandon them!