Vacation Day Two: “Paint Your Pet”

Day Two of my vacation.  This isn’t really “nature” or “walking” related, but I want to add it in here anyway…

I slept in until about 8:30 this morning, then did my ablutions stuff and had a little breakfast.  My brother Marty went off to a car club board meeting, and around 10:30 or so, I headed out to a “Paint You Pet” class, a fundraiser for the Happy Tails Pet Sanctuary (where I used to volunteer) hosted by Creative Juices. Before going to the class, though, I stopped off to pick up something for lunch, and put some gas in the car.

Can you find me an "Sergeant Margie" in there?  (Photo by Aimee Rebmann)
Can you find me an “Sergeant Margie” in there? (Photo by Aimee Rebmann)

OMG, the class was soooo much fun!  I had brought a lunch along, but I didn’t need it.  They had fresh fruit, cheese, crackers, salami, Italian soda, lemon-water, and wine for everyone.  The wine went fast; hah!  There were about 20 people in the class, and most of them were painting pictures of their cats (or cats in the Happy Tails shelter).  OH, before I go on about the class: I have to say that this new SPCA shelter is one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever seen.  There are three large buildings, runs for the dogs, fenced in yards so you can take the shelter pet you want outside and play with them.  There are art pieces all over the grounds… even the ceiling tiles have little paw prints in them…  It’s a beautiful setting.

Back to the class:  We all started out with a greyscale “template” of the photos we had submitted of our pets, so we didn’t have to worry about size, proportion, or anything like that. The templates were on canvas, so we painted OVER the templates as we worked. Then we were each given a pallet of colors specifically matched to our color photo, so we had the colors we needed to create out paintings.  After everyone was situated we were told to first paint the outside edges of the canvas so we could get that done and out of the way and also learn the “feel” of the paints and brushes we were using.  Then we were told to turn the template UPSIDE DOWN.  This kept us from focusing on the image of the pet, and instead focus on each part of the painting as a separate entity made up of different color blocks (like jigsaw puzzles).  We were all skeptical of that at first, but it really served us well!

Starting with the image upside down
Starting with the image upside down

Then we painted in the large background area – any color we chose – with a large flat brush.  Next we painted the eyes, using a kind of “pointillism” technique with different colors to make them look like crystals.  Sergeant Margie’s eyes are varying shade of amber which made point-technique work really well, but some people’s dogs had dark black eyes or brown eyes, which made getting that “crystal” quality a lot more difficult.  The outline line of the eyes was also done in this point-technique to keep the pets from looking like “Cleopatra”.

After the eyes were done, we worked on the nose, tongue and lips… and the hint of putting some blue in with the pink, red and orange helped all of us get a more realistic color for those things.  Again, those who had black or brown noses on their pets had a harder time than those of us whose pets had lighter noses.  I used the point-technique again on these features to try to get the colors to blend more naturally. It looked weird close-up…but from a distance it looked great.

Using a "pointillism" technique for the eyes
Using a “pointillism” technique for the eyes

Then we were allowed to turn out paintings right side up… and it was funny to hear everyone “oooh” over their work.  Hah!   After that we were told how to block in the basic underlying body color.  Those with single colors pets had an easier time of this than I did.  Sergeant Margie is basically “white” but underneath that are red tones, amber tones, blueish grey tones…  So I had to block out a lot of different things.  Then we were shown how to lay the “fur” down over the base color… starting at the rear for those who had full-body images, and starting from the outer edges for those of us who were just doing head shots… then working forward or in from there, laying the fur up as we went along with a very “dry brush” technique.  Because Sergeant Margie’s fur goes every which way, I had a lot more freedom in this process than those with flat-coated pets.  I was able to incorporate a lot of “movement” into his coat and make him look “jaunty”.  Some people really struggled with this part, and one woman actually walked out of the class to take some time to compose herself because she was getting so frustrated.  The hardest part for me of this portion of the painting was to not “over-work” it.  I found myself putting on so many layers in some areas that it lost all of its “softness” and went kind of flat.  I had to really restrain myself, and just let the paint do the work.

Almost finished
Almost finished

Once the fur was down, we were shown how to add whiskers, ear hair, and extra highlights… and by then 3 hours had rushed by and the class was over.  Wow!  It went by sooo fast!  We all went outside to have our photos taken with the paintings, and then headed out for the day.  On my way to the car, several people stopped by me and said, “You won… Yours was the best.”  Awwww!  How sweet.

That was an awesome way to spend a Sunday morning… and I would totally do it again!

Me and my finished painting.  (Photo by Aimee Rebmann)
Me and my finished painting. (Photo by Aimee Rebmann)