Tag Archives: painting

Peeking behind the Cow – a painting in alkyds

Commissions. To be honest, I rarely take commissions. In fact I’ve only ever accepted five I think (can’t rightly remember now, awful memory; combination of lazy brain cells and all that fine sippin’ whisky…) And all have been animal portraits; hmmm, there may be a pattern there…

For me , commissions inevitably bring mixed feelings.  On the one hand there’s an intense buzz – the intellectual and artistic challenge of successfully translating a client’s wishes into tangible and desirable reality. On the other there’s something darker, something a whisper away from mind-numbing, confidence-sapping terror! Boy, do I find it stressful.

While I can’t share these feelings with you I can give you a peek of some of the stages behind a commission from 2008.

The Cow in my gallery was for a client who wanted a large piece with presence.  They were very clear on the style and subject, and supplied a photograph from which I made the painting. We agreed on 40″  by 30″.  This made it the largest painting I’d ever tackled by a long chalk- no pressure.

My preference was firmly for alkyds – so many of the advantages of oil with increased drying and stability. I started with a carefully drawn outline in marker pen:

Cow outline drawing
Cow – outline drawing

To enrich the dark blue background and pretty much orange cow I thinly under-painted in reverse – orange under blue, blue under orange:

Cow under painting
Cow under painting

Once dry I roughly blocked in the approximate colours.  I wasn’t too worried about nailing the final tones at this stage:

Cow alkyd painting blocking in
Cow – blocking in

Then it was just a case of gradually working all over the painting to bring everything to a similar density. At this stage I went through those mid-point blues. I just knew it would never work…

Cow painting alkyd building up
Cow – building up

…but I persisted. The tones were built up using successive thin glazes to model the head enlivened with thicker, lighter passages to bring the painting to completion:

Cow painting in alkyds
Cow in alkyds on canvas 40″ by 30″

To my relief my clients were very pleased – bye bye terror, hello buzz and huge sigh of relief 🙂