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Capturing an Animal Spirit in a Portrait!

Animals, especially pets, have a personality all their own, sometimes their personality is more revealing than a human's. Finding the character of an animal and presenting it in an artwork is a rewarding journey. You get to know your subject over time, but in a condensed way. As I begin to study my next subject, I get to know them by peeling away the superficialities. This can happen from the study of a photograph as well as in person. They say the eyes are the soul of the person, well the same holds true for our pets.

If you look at anything for awhile and contemplate what that thing actually is you commune with it. It becomes a spiritual practice. It is immensely appealing because it is part of our need for connection—and you learn about yourself in the process!

acrylic on panel, 6" x 6", 2019
Portrait of Hunter

Preparing for a Portrait

To get a feel for your subject, draw a loose study or 2 as a good warm up. This begins your process of understanding your 'partner in art.' They are, after all, allowing you to create, and become part of the muse in the work.

Berol pencil HB, 2B on sketch pad paper
Hunter study

Getting excited at what you see

You begin to see more and more as you take your time with your subject. I will talk to the drawing or painting as I go, as if we are in conversation. We are in conversation—with eyes and hands—and our spirits. It is important to let go of any critical mind here. There is no room for your critical voice during the development process. Really, not even in the later stages of the process. Keep any naysayers out of the studio. The only visitors should be the muse, the subject, and possible your witness (but only if they are helpful). If you have forgotten time and become immersed, you have found your groove. Go for it!

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