Portrait of Black Lab brings back memories of Zip.

Have I told you I have a soft spot for black dogs? You wouldn’t know it from the dogs I have had in the last thirty years which have all been white, or with Rosie, white, black and tan.

When I was a teenager, I desperately wanted a dog. Dad worked shifts at the town’s paper mill (Abitibi), and mom worked in the office. They had three kids to look after and a big garden in summer. Understandably, my parents did not want the responsibility of a dog.

Black Lab portrait by Louise Primeau, Ottawa pet portrait artist.
Zip, a Black Lab, painted on 140 lb paper.

Going against my parents’ wishes.

One summer day, I decided I had saved up enough money to rescue a dog at the Humane Society in the next city, North Bay, Ontario. So with a friend, we hopped on the Greyhound bus. As I remember it, the bus stopped not far from the Humane Society. In fact, looking at a map, it seems like the animal shelter has not moved in all these decades and is still on 17B (Main Street West). Looking back now, I am surprised the Humane Society allowed me, a 14 year old, to bring home a dog. But back then, dogs were not treated as members of the family as they are today.

Anyway, we smuggled the dog back on the bus for the return trip. Mom and Dad were definitely surprised and probably angry too about having this unwanted pup. None of us knew anything at all about training a dog so there were a few accidents in the house. It wasn't long before Dad decided to build Zip an insulated dog house. (Dad was always so handy- he could build and fix anything).

Zip lived with us a few months and then, as I recall, when we kids returned to school, poor Zip was alone. Maybe he was barking, maybe not. I don’t remember. But whatever the reason, my parents decided that Zip had to find another family.

Fortunately, our neighbours across the street had relatives who loved dogs and wanted Zip. He was given to them, along with his dog house. Occasionally, we would hear that Zip was doing well in his new family. He lived with them until he died, an old dog, many years later.

Zip was not a Black Lab.

The portrait of the Black Lab reminded me of Zip even though he was a mix of Cocker Spaniel (he had those ears) and some other small breed. For this portrait, I once again used a copyright free reference photo from unsplash.

Reference photos for artists and bloggers.

Reference photo from unsplash
Reference photo taken by Genadi Yakovlev at unsplash

You might have noticed that I often refer to unsplash as it is one of my favourite places to find reference photos for my art.

Many bloggers use photos from such websites when they need visuals to complete their posts. Other favourite websites that I use for photos include pexels, and pixabay.

I have not used these websites but they also have free photos at vecteezy, picryl, freestocks, morguefile, stocksnap, pikwizard, gratisography, picjumbo, styledstock, and kaboompics.

If you do use any photos from any of these sites, carefully read the licensing agreement before downloading the photo. Some such websites allow you to use the photo only with given attribution. In many cases, all you need to do is copy a link that is given to you from a pop up box before you download the photo. Easy peasy.

At unsplash, attribution is not required, but I like to give a shout-out to the photographer.

There are millions of royalty-free photos and videos out there. Of course, the best photos are often your own!

The supplies for this portrait.

Zip is painted on 9 x 12 Canson XL, 140 lb watercolour paper. The painting is entirely in acrylic.

Conservation kit for art work.
Conservation kit includes matte, backing and (not shown), clear envelope.

For the purposes of the blog post, he is photographed within a matte and backing board.

Lately, I have been working on paper and the portraits look finished with the white matte border that I feel, brings an energy to the painting itself. The backing ensures that the painting lies flat within a frame of the customer’s choosing. (I have not secured the portrait to the backing board as this is for demonstration purposes only). 

You don’t want the painting sitting against glass because the acrylic paint can adhere to glass so a matte is very functional. The thickness of the matte creates a protective barrier between the painting and the glass.

I have not been able to source conservation kits here in Canada. If you have ordered from a Canadian source, please let me know. My mattes are from an American company, Matboardplus.com.

Each conservation kit comes with the backing, the matte, and the cellophane sleeve. This is very convenient because I don’t have to shop for individual pieces and worry whether or not everything will fit together. Conservation kits such as the ones I am using are “acid-free, lignin-free and meet the industry’s highest standards for conservation matting.”

What is your approach for your art work?

Do you take your own photos for your art? Do you prefer to paint from memory or intuitively, without any reference photo? Contact me here or leave a reply below. I would love to hear from you.

Talent is a pursued interest. Anything that you're willing to practice, YOU CAN DO. - Bob Ross.

Have a great week!




8 Responses

    • I agree with you. I had fun sketching people while I was in Spain. It was easier because they were seated at a bar and weren’t moving all that much. When I look back at my sketches, I remember more vividly what was happening at that particular time. There was a soccer match on the big screen and guests were attracted to the room to watch the game. Having said that, when I am home, I paint from photos or intuitively. Thanks for leaving a comment Vivienne. Enjoy the weekend.

    • Thank you Birgit! Isn’t it strange the way some memories come to mind as we paint? So thoughtful of you to take the time to leave a message for me.

  • I do use a lot of photos – mostly my own. Though I love painting from life either figures or landscape and sometimes I just work intuitively. I think I need to do more of the last one, but doing the first two can give you the confidence and experience to work intuitively.

    • Graham, you have made me think about painting from life and the only time I do that is when I am travelling. When we have rainy weather, we might sit in a lounge or bar and I sketch the people I see around me. Otherwise, I paint from from photos the clients send or from photos I find on social media sites mentioned in the post. Many of my florals are intuitive and just for my own satisfaction. I always enjoy seeing your paintings, especially the scenes from around your neck of the woods.

  • Again, well done Louise. I haven’t tried acrylics on my watercolour paper, should give it a go. In fact I think I might try my sister’s dog with acrylic which I think we “spoke” about a few weeks ago.

    • I look forward to seeing your pet portrait Sally. I wish I would have painted all my experiments on paper. All my recent paintings are stored flat on a shelf and are not taking up as much space as the canvases that are on shelves and on the floor and on easels. At least I know better now!

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