April 20, 2011

English Cottages and a French Bulldog

One of those excess of brothers I've mentioned in the Violin post (though not the one who needed braces) will occasionally come home from his library job with no-sells from book sales.  I love attending library book sales, but I also love getting library book sale rejects, meaning free books.  According to him, they just toss out the ones that fail to find a buyer-- which seems so criminal in a world of charitable donation outlets, I wonder if it's indeed true.  If so, then this is less about taking free books and more about nobly rising to the call of rescue.  That's something I make a point to do, especially when all it involves is showing up at my parents' house.

There wasn't much of a haul this most recent rescue mission, at least not in my very diverse favor.  Perhaps it's for the best since I currently have more books than I do shelf space, but there are so many books I appreciate for reasons beyond reading.  One of the best examples of this is my attraction to bargain-table, craft store checkout, generalized-to-the-point-of-impractical coffee table books.  This also includes books that pretend to be "how-tos" or "style guides" but they're really just hard-bound home and decor magazines with much higher price tags in place of page after page of advertisement.  Even though my brother talked up books on wine and fairy tale collections with color illustrations, something went amiss with those gems, and instead I received one of those craft store checkout style guides on English country cottage interiors and gardens.

It makes decent sense.  After all, I live in a cottage.  And upon paging through the book, it's confirmed that an essential part of living in a cottage is filling it with more books than shelf space, beat up ancestral kitchenware and furniture, and plentiful tchotchkes that should almost never be dusted.  Not to brag, but I'm quite adept at meeting such criteria.  In addition to confirming how very good I am at living in a cottage, this book expectedly contains many photos.  Photos that could serve as nice painting references, which is the primary reason I'm writing about it.

There is one photo the especially caught my attention-- specifically, one element in the photo.  If you've looked at the title of this post, it's not hard to guess what that element is.

Photo by Brian Harrison

There was something about that little French bulldog-- maybe it's because she's the only animal in the book.  Since I couldn't yank her out of the photo, rub her belly and toss her pieces of matzo with hummus after we'd gone for a stroll through the park, the best I could do was yank her out the photo and paint her portrait, but I wanted to be sure she was the focus.  Photoshop helps for that sort of thing. 

I used the lasso tool to drag her out of the original photo and
onto a new background.  I'm not sure if that's the best, most
efficient Photoshop method for that sort of thing, but it
worked for what I needed.

I liked the idea of isolating a rotund dog with a white coat on a plain white background, but one thing I've come to learn with painting: whites are seldom white.  To determine just how off-white this white little dog is, I decide to adjust the photo a little more.  This gives me a better understanding of shadows and texture.  It helps when trying to add dimension and depth to subjects with even the most consistent colors.

Even though I can do more extensive editing in Photoshop, I
usually do a general adjustment in iPhoto.  It's also nice to
have everything in one window while painting from my
laptop screen.

If this dog was a beagle, a rottweiler, or even an American bulldog, it probably would have been a better rendering for the fact that I'm more familiar, but here she is just the same, and purposely off-center.


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