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'Why I blame my Husband and my Brother for my current Art Style' Part 2

Blame is a negative word, maybe I should have said ‘How my Husband and Brother inspired my current Art Style.’ I think blame is truer though. For me, when I’m inspired, I’m excited and can’t wait to get started. I was definitely inspired by the time I got to the point of putting paint to canvas, and I’m still today inspired to create new portraits, but in the beginning… both challenges were so far from my comfort zone that it was a bit of work.

In the previous part I explained how my brother was to blame, here is how my husband shares it.

acrylic and spray paint on canvas
My Husband, and the finished portrait. "Chuck I" 2016

If you’ve been to my facebook page, or instagram feed, you’ll know we have a beautiful miniature Bull Terrier, my girl, Watson. She’s a little over a year old, but it was back in 2013 that my husband and I decided when we were finally in a position to get a dog, it would be a miniature Bull Terrier (a boy called Chuck).

A few years later, with still no dog, my Husband sees a great big brightly coloured painting of a Bull Terrier in a house for sale and tells me he wants me to paint him something like that when we have our own house. At the time I agreed, it was a cool painting, but I didn’t put any thought into it because we didn’t have a house yet, and you know, he might forget.

He didn’t forget. 2016 arrived and with it, a new house, but still no dog. The new house though, had a massive brick wall in the living room, crying out for a large statement painting, and I had to step up to the challenge.

Me and 'Chuck I' and some others

As I learn more about myself as an artist, I realise I’m something of a minimalist, even a detailed human portrait doesn’t include detail not needed. I wanted this piece to be bold, in order to hold its own against such a large space, so my thought process in creating this massive Bull Terrier, started with two questions: What and/or How much detail do I need? and How can I get it on the canvas to create this ‘bold’ image?

Using the pallet knives again seemed like a good idea. I could place a big amount of paint on the canvas in a nice big swathe, get some great colour down, and create texture too. I was far from an expert at the pallet knives though, a nice big swathe was about all I could create, and any sort of finesse was going to be lost on me so I needed to find a way to get detail on to the canvas.

It was at this point I realised my experimentation with stencils and spray paint at Art School could be used. I loved creating stencils and using spray paint at uni, but I hadn’t really found the right way to incorporate it into my art. This was my chance. What I love about creating a stencil is bringing down the detail in an image to its bare minimum, to a series of lines and shapes that somehow still create an image. You also have to use your brain and a little forethought to insure that what you want to cut out of the stencil isn’t going to remove more than you want. (More on the intricacies of stencil design in a future post.)

I had a plan, but the steps were a little terrifying. I designed my stencil, and cut it out. In order to get the most out of the stencil and spray paint though, it had to be the final step to the portrait. I did many a practice portrait on paper to work out the best placement for the coloured paint and eventually came up with something I was happy with. And finally the day came for me to step up to the challenge and get the paint on the canvas.

Just colours down, work in progress 'Chuck I' 2016

I marked the canvas where the stencil would sit so I had guidelines to place the paint and went for it. It was scary, my design meant most of the canvas was staying white, so there wasn’t really room for error, but on the other hand the design was still quite loose, so perfection wasn’t necessary. I was excited once the colours were finished, I could see it taking shape, but I had to make sure it was completely dry before placing on the stencil.

Placing the stencil down, and spraying it was so nerve wracking. I was completely at the mercy of the painting Gods, to whether it was going to work or if I had just destroyed a very large canvas.

'Chuck I' 2016 acrylic and spray paint on canvas with stencil
Just moments after the stencil was lifted. Perfection.

It worked better than I had hoped. “Chuck” was bold and bright. The stencil and spray paint had created strong, sharp black lines, and soft over sprayed moments, which created another layer of texture amongst the thick coloured swathes of paint. And he looked striking on the wall.

'Chuck I' In situ. 2016 acrylic and spray on canvas

The rest they say is history.

Me and My Awesome Husband, and 'Chuck I'

To my Brother and my Husband, I do blame you, but I’m so thankful that I am where I am today creating my animal portraits in this way.

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