Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Doberman Dog Portrait - Max and Maya - Under Painting

Pet Portrait beginnings by Lori Levin Under painting for Pet Portrait in Oil

What is so fascinating about art is it can exercise the mind in many ways. Two processes of the mind are the doing mode and the being mode. I will discuss the development of this pet portrait of Max and Maya to illustrate my point. When I was first commissioned to do this piece I had many decisions to make. I was provided different photos and options to create the portrait. My mind busily made decisions and judgments on which photos to work from and sizes to pick. This is the doing mode where the mind actively darts from thought to thought analyzing and comparing everything to evaluate and decide. However, at times I would feel a sense of calm and stop thinking. My eyes would look at these dog faces and just feel them looking back at me and there and then a connection to my subject was born in the being mode. In the being mode I did not decide how to feel about these two but rather I was just aware of the feeling. It is in that frame of mind that my work begins to breathe on its own.

The beginnings, where I sketch and measure with my eyes, I am very much in the doing mode. It is critical to get proportions correct and planes well described. As the piece becomes structurally sound my mind relaxes. When I’m painting for some time and finally become aware that my playlist of songs has gone from Billie Holiday to Bing Crosby without grabbing my attention, I realize I was in being mode. In being mode, my natural instinct takes over and the natural creator in me begins to paint. Later in the doing mode, I will see corrections need to be made, much as I see in this under painting. However, without the being mode, my dear Max and Maya would never live on canvas. No, they would just be painted images representing two Dobermans named Max and Maya.

Painting much like life requires both actions of the brain. Sadly, our culture stresses the goal oriented, doing mode, far more than mindfulness of just being. When we are goal oriented we tend think out ever issue and go over and over a problem in a forced way to solve it. Being mindful allows the body and mind to be aware without judgment and naturally things sort themselves out. I was strongly reminded of this last night while trying to learn to dance. My judging mind kept trying so hard to learn and figure out the steps. The more I did that the worse the result, not to mention the plight of a few toes. Now and then when I relaxed and just absorbed the music, my feet took care of themselves. As soon as an instructor mentioned I was doing well, the magic stopped and my thinking was in charge of my feet again with an obvious bad result. One instructor even said, “Don’t think just dance”. Oh this is very true but much like being told not to think about a pink elephant, once one is told not to think, that is all one can do.

So what is the answer to all these mental gymnastics? Curiosity. Curiosity for life and just enjoying it unfolding trumps all. More on Max, Maya and the art of curiosity in future Soulful Studios posts.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Doberman Dog Portrait - Max and Maya

pet portrait sketch by Lori Levin "Max and Maya"
Custom Pet Portrait
beginning sketch on canvas

Being that it is Valentine's Day I thought I would share the beginnings of Soulful Studios' recent pet portrait. This is to be an oil painting commissioned to show love for another and about love of two beautiful Dobermans named Max and Maya. The care and devotion attached to this piece, coupled with the sculptural beauty of the animals make this so enjoyable for me to create.

The success of my work often depends on a connection I have with the people that commission me as well as the connection I feel with the animal subject. In this case I am moved by both. These two dogs have amazing personalities that compliment each other. Max is regal and far more forthright in his interest to show himself than Maya is. Maya has a stoic nature and uses her thick build only when she has needs to be met. The dog parents take immense pleasure in the antics of these two and the entire group is full of love. I actually used the direction of the dogs' ears to suggest that they are also paying attention to their beloved owners. It is a good compositional tool as well as a way to include everyone in the image, even if it is only known to me (and you).

Our dogs show us love 365 days a year without fail. They do not let a bad day after breaking squeaky toy keep them from expressing their love. They do not wake up and say they feel to fat and ugly to share themselves with us. They always seize an opportunity to cuddle if the desire is there and don't let thoughts of being pushed away earlier in the day stop them. They never worry that other dogs might laugh at their displays of affection nor do they judge another for their efforts. Dogs don't use words; they use action to show their love. Dogs that are treated well just love.

I invite you to spend a day being open with your love like your dog does. Forget about your bad day, it will be there waiting if you want to come back to it. Just love. You might just get a good belly rub out of it.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Greyhound Dog Portrait - Angel

Pet Portrait "Angel"
Dog Portrait Commission
graphite on archival paper

The more information you give this pet portrait artist the better. When I was first sent photos of Angel, this sweet greyhound, I felt unsure that the photos represented her well. Though she was lovely and gentle, she appeared camera shy. I insisted that the owner take another group of photographs. That group showed her even more coquettish but confirmed that is indeed her personality, ears down and all.

This is a loving gift commissioned by a daughter for her mother. Young women investing in art touches my soul like nothing else. It gives me hope that things made by hand are not lost on the current generation of young adults. Also, I'm reminded that love of one's dog is a truth we all can agree upon.

Often people ask me why I do pet portraits and focus on animals in my art. It isn't that I don't like people or can't paint them. That isn't the case. The real issue for me is when we have a pet in our minds and hearts, all words and judgments cease. We no longer are controlled by voices in our heads or the world. We just have an overwhelming feeling of love. For some people this sensation happens when they listen to music or walk in the woods. I know the truth of love when I look into an animal's eyes. Since one cannot really put the feelings of love accurately into words, creating pet portraits fills that need. That is the idea behind Soulful Studios. Only people that truly know the love of a pet, commission me therefore, I deal with all the best people. How lucky am I?

When are you going to commission your own portrait of love?