Our fur baby Pasco, born 13 May 2009, turned 11 this year, and he is a very special character in our life’s story. He was a gift to my daughter Jodie on her 10th birthday and she was lucky enough to celebrate her 21st birthday with him last year. Jodie and Pasco share an unbreakable bond and have been besties through all the types of ‘weather’ that life could throw at an adolescent. As the only child and only dog, their pairing was destined for a life time of bedtime cuddles, and sneaky treats.
In April 2014, Pasco developed an intervertebral disc disease and lost the use of his hind legs (read more on FaceBook https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=652335468188512&set=a.114336675321730 ) He spent 2 weeks at the Johannesburg Specialist Veterinary Centre in Randburg. The surgeon talked us through the procedure and delicately warned that no surgery can be guaranteed, but that she would do her very best. Pasco made slow progress, and his hind legs showed no movement after surgery, even till he had to be discharged from the hospital. The veterinary team were amazing and offered us advice on his post-op therapy and care, they even offered to extend Pasco’s stay till he showed signs of recovery. Jodie was 15 at the time and couldn’t bare leaving Pasco in a hospital cage any longer, so we made the decision to continue his convalescence at home. Weeks passed and although Pasco’s physical and emotional state showed tremendous improvement, his hind legs remained lame. After a few months I decided it was time to have him fitted for wheels, as he was so eager to run around, that he dragged his hind legs till they were sore. In the nick of time Pasco’s perseverance and endurance triumphed, as he started to stand on all fours and even take a few tentative steps. Although his hind legs were wobbly, we knew he was on his way to a full recovery.
Pasco’s beautiful character, and tenacity in the face of adversity inspired me to immortalise our little friend in oils. I chose a pose in which he looks quite regal yet still curious. If you've encountered a Dachshund you will know, they are always on alert as they loathe strangers and their demeanour always leans toward an anxious need for your attention. They are short, barky-bullies at dog parks, suffer from separation anxiety and tend to favour their own breed as pals. If you can embrace these quirky personality traits, they make the most loyal and affectionate companions.
Technical stages of the Painting
I always encourage my students to start painting with a value painting, which is simply a single colour study (Monochrome) of the light and shadow within the image. This initial painting starts with transferring the basic outline of the subject matter onto the canvas or page. A black or sepia thin paint mix is usually used to block in the main shapes and the shadows (think of it as a tonal draft of the final painting). Although many seasoned artists may omit this process and start with colour, students can use this stage to assess errors and get a sense of 3 dimensionality right from the start. By adding sufficient detail to the value under painting, you can get a good impression of the final result as it provides a solid foundation to confidently build colour.
Tips for painting Animals
We love our dogs for their quirks and individual personalities, start your painting or drawing with a good quality reference photograph.
Choose one that speaks to your doggies special character. Pose and angle also could also add to their story. See the photo of our miniature Doberman ‘Jet’ below, which was taken from a low vantage point, making him appear quite regal and large, to symbolise his important place in the home at the ripe age of 16. Jet’s age and fragility can be seen in his eyes, but I hoped to capture just a hint of his puppy-like curiosity and friendliness which he maintained till the end.
‘Mushu’, a Maltese cross breed, tends to be moody with a sad demeanour. He likes attention, but on his terms, spends lots of time on his own, exploring or sleeping. I used loose ink washes for his shaggy coat and tried to capture the human-like melancholy in his gaze.
So when attempting to immortalise your best friend, put some thought into choosing a good reference photo, it’s not just about achieving a likeness. Consider what aspects you would like to capture the most, so that years from now when you look at your painting, you will remember all those happy moments.