Monday, April 25, 2011

Not So Black Lab Commission

the sketch on wood panel

The CEO of Full Sail University here in Orlando was taken with my art when "Poised Peacock" appeared on the cover of Winter Park Magazine (that's my cover art you see on their home page) this year. His assistant contacted me about "Over The Moon" but it was already sold.

About a month ago the CEO's wife contacted me about doing a portrait of her husband's dog Mario as a birthday gift. I asked for some good photos but could not get any that really portrayed Mario's facial features. We arranged for me to meet Mario in person and my husband Doug Nelson took reference photos for me to work from. We worked hard to get Mario to sit still!

Doug's photo of Mario

Doug got several good shots and I decided to use this 3/4 view but to turn his eyes to be more facing and engaging the viewer. I loved the way his red collar looked against his dark fur and so I decided to make the background red as well and to frame the final piece in black reclaimed barn wood.

One thing my friend and fellow artist Kim Santini has taught me is how to portray black dogs in blue so that they have more character and more color. After all, her blog is "A Dog A Day" so if anyone knows about not so black labs, it's her. Kim was so generous, even sharing the suggestion of prussian blue and other colors on her palette with me. 

Mario in the under-painting stage

The client was thrilled with this under-painting photo which I sent for approval. Once I get a thumbs up at this phase I dive right into collage. I try to stick to the guides of color and shading I have established in my under-painting with the papers. Luckily I had a lot of blue/purple/gray hand painted papers on hand.

Mario completed 

I pumped up the red in the finished piece and gave it some texture by mark making with Derwent InkTense pencils. When I delivered the work to the client she said that it looked just like Mario and that her husband just loved that dog and she was sure he would love this portrait. 

I'm always happy to have a happy client and a happy ending. Mario the not so black lab was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed working in alternate colors to black and trying to highlight the blue/purple tones.


  1. What a great story of developing a portrait of man's best friend!

    Wonder how Mario likes it?

    Thanks Elizabeth for sharing this the melding the colors to soften the black is an interesting process!

  2. a former owner of a black lab, God rest his soul, and the current owner of a yellow lab named Luna, sometimes definitely captured the love in a lab's eyes!

  3. i just love this! i can get lost looking at your pieces and all the details and different papers you use. i'm in awe!!


thank you for taking the time to read and comment! :)