portrait

From Polar Bear to Pet Portrait - It's All in the Eyes

Although I am an experienced portrait artist, over the past few years, my online presence has evolved to that of polar bear artist. Recent followers do not know about my portrait painting service. And so recently, when out of the blue, I was contacted to paint a portrait of a very lovely Labrador Retriever, it was interesting for me to learn that one of my polar bear paintings had inspired the commission!

Golden Lab Commission. 24” x 24” x 1.5” oil painting on canvas. ©Christine Montague Contact me  here , or visit  Commission a Portrait .

Golden Lab Commission. 24” x 24” x 1.5” oil painting on canvas. ©Christine Montague Contact me here, or visit Commission a Portrait.

How does a polar bear painting possibly relate to a portrait of a beloved pet?

It lies in that fact that I regard all my subject matter as portraiture, and my polar bear art is no different. I paint with the theory the eyes are the “mirror to the soul”. Until I get the eyes “right”, until they feel alive to me, I personally don’t connect to the painting. When that magical moment of connection happens, then the painting is on its way!

All artists have their own way of approaching a painting, especially when painting from photographic reference. Some artists apply the paint inch by inch, finishing each section completely before moving on to the next.

I use the more “whole painting” approach in my technique, but I start each session with the eyes and work out from there. As each new layer of paint is added, my focus remains on the eyes, until finally, the portrait comes to life in my imagination.

I have a biology degree, a fine art degree and most of an illustration degree. As a result, I like my portraits to be realistic and anatomically correct, yet emotional, too. But my ability to draw from my imagination, honed from my illustration studies, plays an important part in this process, too. One learns to be a bit of an actor - to feel that emotion and spirit of the subject and to try transfer it to the canvas.

For example, when I was commissioned to paint Dr. Oscar Peterson (Living Arts Centre, Mississauga, ON, Canada), I was honoured and thrilled to paint the jazz great’s portrait, but I had also never seen or met him in person. This was a larger than life portrait and I was working from someone else’s photographs. .

How was I to connect to the subject and make it more than a copy of a photograph?

First, I brought the whole painting to the edge of completion. It was a large painting (larger than life) and a complex one , as in fact it was multi-portraits.. Dr. Peterson’s piano was to be accurately represented. His hands were a portrait in themselves. And his face was clearly selected in the piano top!

So with the face roughed in, I began the final painting of it as I listened to the emotion- filled, heartfelt tribute of music and song that aired on CBC Radio that day. As his teenage daughter spoke lovingly about Oscar Peterson, the father, I did the final paint of his eyes and face.

So, when I began to paint polar bears, I wondered, how to bring the bears alive? How to make them more than a reproduction of a photo I took of a polar bear at the Toronto Zoo?

So for the painting below, Polar Bear Portrait Study 1 (Wistful Bear) ( and a couple of others in this earlier series) I placed my laptop on a stool in front me, as if a portrait model on a chair. One of my polar bear photos was up on the screen. I then created the polar bear portrait as if the bear was seated there in front of me. (wouldn’t that have been fun, although short lived.) Once again, the eyes say it all in this painting. (Read more about this painting here)

Wistful. Polar bear portrait. 12” x 12” x 1.5” oil painting on canvas. ©Christine Montague Contact me  here

Wistful. Polar bear portrait. 12” x 12” x 1.5” oil painting on canvas. ©Christine Montague Contact me here

So when Ottawa’s CTV news reporter and anchor, Christina Succi contacted me to paint a portrait of her beloved dog, I was flattered, but also surprised to learn that it was one of my polar bear paintings that inspired her request. But then I learned which painting and then saw a photo of her dear doggy,

Can you see the connection?

Wistful Bear      and the  dog portrait  it  inspired  side by side. ©Christine Montague

Wistful Bear and the dog portrait it inspired side by side. ©Christine Montague

If you would like to know more about my polar bear art , or info on how to commission a portrait, please feel free to contact me here.

New Face of Portraiture: Mostly Online Except for the Painting

Baby boy portrait oil painting by Christine Montague. 6" x 6" on canvas. Here is my latest little 6" x 6" portrait oil painting on canvas. Commissioned by this dear little guy's mom, it was a joy to paint this bright little baby boy face.

This is an example of one of the wonders the internet holds for the artist and for the art collector. I  have never met this mom or  baby. In fact, they live hundreds of miles away.

The mom stumbled upon my web site while surfing online late one night (all new moms can relate to this). She took a photo of her baby in his stroller with her cell phone and emailed it to me. We discussed the commission process by email, including that I leave out details of the stroller straps, etc.

I received payment for the commission via snail mail, but, there are many payment alternatives available to buying online.  I  used Canada Express Post to deliver the carefully packaged portrait. This insured service supplied a tracking number that I shared via email with the client.  By the time I got home from the post office , only a short distance away, the online tracking info informed me the parcel was in the system, about to be on its way, and posted the estimated date and time of arrival.

Pretty amazing, I think.

If you would enjoy seeing more of my little 6" x 6" portraits please visit www.littleportraitpaintings.com

For larger oil paintings, please visit www.christinemontague.com

New Portrait: Baby Firsts

Christine Montague Portrait of a One Year Old Baby Girl This 6" x 6" portrait oil painting was commissioned to celebrate this pretty little baby girl's first birthday. I love creating these 6" x 6" portraits, more of which can be seen at my website www.littleportraitpaintings.com Every portrait teaches me something! A first for me? Why baby's first teeth!

 

New Portrait Oil Painting: Polar Bear 6

 Polar Bear 6 oil painting portrait. Copyright Christine Montague

The sixth in the series of little polar bear portrait oil paintings now dries on my easel. The Toronto Zoo's male polar bear "Inukshuk" is once again the model, and as in the fifth portrait, he is lit by the moonlight. Two more of these little portraits are blocked in and waiting completion. Yup. Those big blank canvases are calling for attention now.

More Little Portrait Paintings

For those of you who don't know I am gradually filling one of my studio walls with my 100 Little Portrait Project a series of 6" x 6" portrait oil paintings on canvas portraits. Here are a few of the portraits commissioned before Christmas.  I work from photos e-mailed to me, or from photos I take, if the subject comes to my studio on my "open to the public" days.

But so far, to my surprise,  almost every painting commissioned  is as a surprise gift for a loved one. Do you know that goes for my large portraits, too? They are almost always a gift!

A Timbit Paints Another Polar Bear Portrait

"Polar Bear Portrait 1" is an 8" x 8"  head on portrait of  Inukshuk, the male polar bear at the Toronto Zoo.

It is the first of four studies in my  new miniature oil paintings series of polar bear portraits. By painting this little canvases, I' ve improved my understanding of the polar bear face and head.

Polar bear eyes are brown, close-set and face forward. I've learned that their eyesight is similar to our own, and that they are fortunate to have a protective membrane over their eyes may shield them from ultraviolet light. No snow blindness for them.

The polar bear 's rounded ears lie flat against his head when underwater.

And the polar bear does not, as I believed , hide that terrific black nose,with either his left paw (or the right one) when  hunting. You can learn more about polar bear myths and misconceptions at this Polar Bears International page.

Don't you just love the mighty Inukshuk's great big, handsome, snuggly toy of a face? Don't you just want to hug him? But I'm not fooled. I know in Inukshuk's eyes, I'm just a  Tim Hortons timbit in waiting. Better make that a Boston Creme.

Now what? No. 9 of 100 Little Portraits Project

Just finished this new 6" x 6" portrait oil painting on canvas of a teen, "What Now." (said as a statement not a question) just long ago today for me to snap an iPhone photo of it and post it! Here it is http://wp.me/s1rNWY-68

Just a friendly note, the  link above simply takes you to my other Wordpress art blog 100 Little Portraits Project http://100littleportraits.wordpress.com

 

Eye-to-Eye With a Salmon

Since I am an artist who usually works 2D, I found myself hesitating for a second when I picked up the brush to paint the salmon cast. But I quickly realized I should use the same approach to this sculptural fish as I use with any portrait painting on canvas. Start with the eyes! The ol' the "eyes are the mirror of the soul thing".  As soon as I did this, I found my "connection" to this pre-made form. I only had salmon photos off the internet to use as reference. Thus I realize, for any salmon aficionados out there,  the salmon is probably not exactly like the Coho. Apparently,  the cast itself is not quite correct, the fins are too small, etc. But that's not really the point. To create what I proposed, all I need to start with is a shape that is easily recognizable as a healthy salmon, no matter the breed or  how exact its representation is.

My poor salmon. He only stayed "healthy" for one day. Stay tuned.

Little portrait painting #6

Sold.  Above is portrait #6 completed March 18th, 2011.  Started number #7 today. Only ninety-three and a half 6" x 6" portraits to go for my "100 Little Portraits" project.

Finished Big Cat Painting Today

Detail of Big Cat Painting Copyright Christine Montague

I didn't want to leave the studio today until I finished this painting - I was so anxious to see it completed. Although I adore painting in oils, drawing was my first love, and so, it was exciting for me  to both draw (oil sticks) & paint (oils) in this art work. This piece also combines my love of portraits, my love of animals and my love of black (I am only painting in black until they invent something darker). Equally as fulfilling was my use, for the first time, of silver oil paint as my "white" - although its reflective values proved a little trickier to photograph. My iphone camera, couldn't quite do the trick.

Do you know that many artists give a lot of thought to the placement & appearance of  their signature on their paintings? Well, I am one of those artists. This new work called for a different look to my signature. Traditionally, on my carefully rendered, realistic paintings, I carefully print my full name in block lettering. I don't like my signature to distract from the work, and even will use more than one colour to print it so that the signature  flows with the work. This painting called for something more expressive. Artist Carmen Hickson of www.theredpigstudio.com lent me a nifty colour pushing brush* ( a rubber chisel tip instead of bristles). It was perfect for carving out a cursive signature with values that suited the painting.

By the way, "Big Cat Painting" is not the official title of the painting...

* I don't know the official name of these rubber tipped brushes, and tried unsuccessfully to  google them for this post. My son, who used to work at Curry's Art Supplies, informed me they weren't big sellers, but I sure found it terrific to use.  Do you know what this type of brush is called?  I did however find this new neat little cleaning gadget while trying to find the rubber brush name https://www.currys.com/catalogpc.htm?Category=A021B006823&Source=Search. I could have used this when washing piles of black oil paint out of about 8 brushes this evening :D

New Art - Giant Cat Portrait Painting Continues

Yesterday I mentioned I used Tri-Art's sludge as the preliminary step (the canvas was already gessoed in white)  to starting this 60" x 48" cat painting. I was quite enamoured of the taupe, neutral colour of the sludge, and began the day by ensuring areas had the sludge show through. This was not my original vision for the painting. Sometimes it pays to go with one's instincts, but in this case it was keeping me from connecting with the portrait. If I don't fall in love with the face, I know something is wrong.

So back to the plan - Black and silver oil paint for this silver tabby. What appears white in this painting, or light gray is actually silver. The painting is not done yet. But the concept that one side of the cat disappears into the darkness, and the other side is awash in silver light -  is becoming clearer.

This oil painting incorporates the use of oil sticks as well as oil paints.

New Painting Begins: Giant Cat Portrait

I just finished a series of 8" x 8" paintings  - Scotsdale Farm: Snow & Shadows. I needed to stretch my wings after painting so small.

A larger than life portrait painting of a Maine Coon cat in silver, black, and white oil stick and oils seemed the natural next step.

What I have done so far -

  • It is the first time I have used Tri-Art "sludge". I used it to cover the white canvas and add some texture.
  • After applying the sludge, I saw a large cat eye, ear &  head looking right in the swirls of the paint.
  • Decided to go with my instincts. Found a photo of my silver tabby  Main Coon cat to use roughly as a reference.
  • &  voila ... the painting begins. The face emerges some more out of the darkness.

New Oil Painting: Lake Huron Afternoon

Original oil painting copyright Christine Montague 2009 Just finished this painting today, and have another small one almost done.  With my first art fair,  Art 2009 , drawing near, the crunch is on!  I am quite excited about this painting as I made a conscientious effort to apply more paint to the canvas.  After looking at a detail of the brush work of Australian artist Wayne Haag on his blog, I had a Eureka! moment. I am too stingy (not deliberately) with my paint. Although I am a confident painter, and my past paintings have definitely met with success, perhaps I am still caught up in my watercolor roots. Although the painting above  is not textured, the paint is quite loaded on, in comparison to most of my other paintings. I really enjoyed painting this piece - and it wasn't just because I got to paint a scene of my daughter  reflecting in the summer sunshine by Lake Huron.

Note: this is third of a a series I am tempted to call  "The Reluctant Tourist" .  Any one out there who has "forced" their  children or teens to vacation or day trip will relate. Although I am not without sympathy - I certainly remember teen age trips  with my parents, where I spent my time ducked down in the back of the car . Who knows who might have seen me?!