How I paint a puppy on canvas: Fear is part of the process

Learning to deal with a certain amount of fear is something natural when it comes to art.  But I only discovered this much later, after many struggles and after questioning my worth as an artist.

"Fear is always triggered by creativity because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome and fear hates uncertain outcome.  This is nothing to be ashamed of.  It is, however, something to be dealt with."  ~Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

This first progress report is about that stage where the outcome is uncertain and where doubts and fear typically set in.

In the last two years, I have learned to accept this stage knowing that progress is a more certain outcome than perfection.  It is easier to push through the difficult phases when art is viewed more as a spiral of progressively learned techniques, sometimes through trial and error. Actually, often through trial and error, in my case.  

Each work of art then allows the artist to gain some new knowledge through experimentation when perfection is not the aim of the piece.

If I am honest with you though,  I have to get to the point where I can let the art go and be satisfied. That point of satisfaction is different for everyone.

So those are lessons I have learned since I started my journey as a full-time artist a few years ago.

progress photo - glazing in background

Before beginning to work on the puppy, now named Tony, I continue to apply glazes of different colours to mute the background.  The colour added to the glaze in this photo is green gold by Golden.

more work on background for painted puppy

Another glaze of Napthol Red Light is applied over the green gold.  It was a tad too bright so I used baby wipes to remove a some of the red.

I could have stopped here but I am still in the experimental mode so I decide to try an abstract monoprint over the glazing.

experimenting with abstract monoprinting over acrylic glazing on background

This is a technique I found in Acrylic Solutions by Chris Cozen and Julie Prichard.  It consists of using painted deli wrap to provide a haphazard, random print of a contrasting colour over the glazes. 

For this I used Liquitex Brilliant Yellow Green.  I applied two layers.  The first layer was blended into the background with the acrylic glazing but with the second application much more paint was deposited, again randomly, to create a somewhat abstract background.

I am not sure whether I will keep this background or not; however, there are enough colours in the background that could be brought into the fur to make this an interesting painting.  For now, I leave it as is.  

In Two Pampered Cats, I also used glazing to "calm" the background, and bring the cats to the forefront once again.  In these two portraits, I also doubted whether the effect I was trying to create would work.

adding colour to the puppy

Finally, Tony himself is getting some attention.  

I go over the lines left by the Stabilo pencil with Golden's Cerulean blue.  Then I begin adding colours by Golden such as Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold, Sienna, and Titanium White to his fur.  

I am far from finished but I have reached that scary stage where I am never sure if I will be able to get the desired results.  Learning to keep going in spite of the uncertainty and the fear is another lesson I have learned along the way.

Remember that with this dog, I want to add more colour into the fur.  But first, I am setting the values, and then I can play around with the more abstract type of effect I want to achieve in the fur.

At this point,  I try very hard to keep that inner critic silent, and remember that I am learning as I continue to work on this puppy.

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