My next project is a commissioned
oil painting. Lily's parents have asked me to render a cherished
moment on canvas. It will capture a special time in a
young girl's life. "Lily's World"
will be just that...her world of animals in her playroom.
Stuffed animals that is. Each holding a special place in
her heart and in her mind. This painting will try to
portray that innocent time in Lily's life when anything is
possible. It's a time when her toy animals can come alive
and fill her room and mind with joy and wonderment.
This painting began by the parents sending me some photographs.
The photo above shows Lily in her playroom, surrounded by all
her stuffed friends.
This photo shows the view out the windows of the playroom,
something that Lily's parents thought would work well in the
background of the oil painting.
They also sent photos of Lily's
favorite animals. We would be using some of them in the
painting, so the right ones needed to be chosen from the
The most important animal is the elephant. This soft 'big
guy' would have to play a large role in the image.
Since this was a long distance
commission, I was sent all the images by email. My clients
wanted me to include three photos in the painting. One
with their immediate family (not pictured), one with grandma and Lily
...one with grandpa.
With a combination of my Wacom drawing pad and Photoshop, I put
together my vision for the painting. With so many birds
being amongst the favorite grouping, I decided to have them
flying to Lily in her room, as she sits atop the elephant.
The mouse seemed appropriate with all the stories of mice and
elephants, so I had him sit next to the elephant, watching his
bird friends on their approach. The seagull had already
landed and sits on the wall at rest. The three photographs
have been put into desktop frames, all angled at Lily.
After emailing this to my clients, they decided that all three
of the photos in the painting should have Lily in it (great
suggestion). They sent me a replacement photo for the
Happy little girl on grandpa's lap.
Another good suggestion from the parents was to use a stacked
stone wall in the painting, since their home has this wall style
integrated througout its architecture.
During our back and forth emails, it was also discovered that
one of Lily's favorite animals was left out of the picture... a
baby red-tailed hawk. I would add him to the other three
in the sky.
With those three changes in mind, I came up with the final
design. "Lily's World" is ready
to become a reality.
I'm going to show how I put together a top-of-the-line canvas
for this painting. First off, I use the best double primed
linen portrait canvas available -- Fredrix Rix DP. Since
my clients want a contemporary presentation, they've requested a
gallery wrap canvas, which is wider on the edge so that the
linen canvas can wrap around the perimeter without any staples
showing. The stretcher bars I am using are incredibly
strong and versatile. They are made out of aluminum with
the wood attached to outside of the bar. In each corner is
a turnbuckle, which can be uses to tighten the canvas if
The two nuts of the turnbuckle twist to spread the corner of the
Here it is fully assembled.
I then lay the linen canvas face down on the floor and measure 5
inches beyond the stretcher bar.
I mark the cut off point from the roll and...
...it looks like this.
Initially, I staple a few areas around the stretcher bar so that
I can stand it on end.
In order to get some pressure to staple, I lean the canvas up
against the wall, pull the the canvas tight with canvas pliers
and then staple the linen canvas securely to the frame.
Now the canvas is ready.
My clients flew into Orange County and brought their daughter
and most of her stuffed animals to my home and studio.
Just as my children and many other models have done in the past,
Lily sits in the sunlit street in front of our home, with dad
helping to position her to be photographed.
I have her looking up in the sky, which will be perfect for her
positioning in the painting. She looks great!
Her parents toted a large duffel bag with all her animals except
for the elephant, which is as big as all the other animals
combined. He arrived via UPS later in the week.
Mr. Seagull is photographed on the edge of a table to simulate
the stone wall he'll be sitting on.
Carol (wife and assistant for 42 years), held each bird for me,
giving me some idea what they would look like in the air.
The eagle is soaring.
The owl is hovering.
The parrot is spreading his wings.
I didn't have to ask the mouse to look up in the sky. He
seemed to already know his part in the painting and was the
Mr. Elephant had a separate photo session after arriving via
In order to get the proper perspective on the three photographs,
I put them into a frame and photographed them in the proper
Each photograph not only shows the people who love Lily...
...but shows Lily at 3 different ages, which is very cool.
I've sketched the objects out on the canvas, using the
photographs I've taken, and have started the painting by
blocking in the sky.
We discussed the treatment of the outside edge of the canvas and
have decided to paint it a shade of blue.
Next I've roughed in the distant hills and bay.
The foreground area of green hills and trees is painted in.
I've completed roughing in the landscape out the window by
painting the foreground bushes.
This is a close-up of the right side of the canvas and...
...here is the left side bushes. I've painted them in a
value that is dark enough to begin pushing the lighter
background into the distance.
I blocked in the wall, painting it a little darker and more
defined so that I have some good underpainting when I detail the
stone and the irregular cracks or spacing.
Since the wall casts shadows onto the floor surface, I painted
in the mouse, who sits in the shadow of the elephant.
The shadows from the wall, the dinosaur and the
elephant/mouse are now in position.
I've also painted the warm floor color.
Moving into the sky, I'll begin painting the flock of birds,
starting with the baby red-tailed hawk.
Below the hawk is the bald eagle. As with all my
paintings, I have painted this in with a fairly rough form,
allowing me to adjust and focus on detail in the final pass of
Here is the owl, floating above.
A bright spot of color, the parrot completes the 4some in the
Here's a photo of the gang of four.
When working from photographs, I clamp a holder to my stretcher
bar and tape the photo off to the side of the canvas. The
seagull is painted onto the top of the wall.
The dragon sits amongst the family photos.
Here's a look at the entire canvas. I'll work on the
The elephant is painted in, making Lily look like a ghost on top
of him. I'll work on the three family photographs before
I've begun the first of the three photos. Each is a
painting all by itself, with three portraits in this photo.
It took me quite a while just to get one of the faces rendered.
The first of the three portraits is roughed in. Turned out
great so far. Will refine it later.
The second of the three photos has its first layer of paint.
As well as the third photo.
I've been working on Lily on top of the elephant. This is
the last area of the painting to be painted its first layer of
oil pigment. This type of commissioned imagery not only
expresses a fun idea, it also captures a moment in time, showing
the clothing that Lily wore on that particular day. Her
shoes are very colorful also, documenting a style of footwear
that is popular with young children.
The last element of the painting has been addressed. Lily is
atop the elephant, holding her flamingo. I decided to
render her shoes and the pattern in her dress, both of which are
extensions of her happiness.
Although I call this the 'half-way' point in the painting,
(because one of two layers of paint have been applied), time
wise it is about 1/3 of the way to completion. Up to this
point, I have been thinning the oil pigment with turpentine,
trying to come as close as possible to the final coloration and
value range (darkness). From this point on, I will be
mixing my colors straight from the tube, without any turpentine.
The pigment will be heavier and leave its impression with
The baby red tailed hawk is the first piece of the painting that
has its final layer of paint.
The owl is made up of subtle shades of gray, defining the soft
folds of the fabric.
Here's a close-up, showing the thick brush strokes of the oil
paint. This final coat of paint isn't thinned at all with
turpentine or any other medium. It is 'straight out of the
tube' thick. The grays consist of a mixture of white,
french ultramarine blue, burnt sienna and cadmium yellow.
All the stuffed animals in this painting have such great faces
and textures. I have to fight the tendency to make them
look real and to just render them as material rather than
feathers etc. The bald eagle looks very stuffed...
The final flying bird, the parrot has been painted, showing his
I've made a small adjustment to the shrubbery behind the
seagull, raising it up to provide a better background for his
head. The photos above show the before and after.
I've begun to apply the final color in the sky. The red
arrow helps show the edge of the wet paint. I'm increasing
the value and raising the intensity of the hue.
In this photo, I am applying the final layer of paint in the
sky. Notice that I am wearing a hat. Because I have
to stand on a stool to get to the top of the canvas, it puts my
head very close to the lights. The glare in my eyes is too
strong to see properly, so the hat blocks that glaring light.
Here is the finished sky.
I'm painting the landscape scene out the window. Here is a
close-up photo, showing the thickness of the paint.
Here are a few more details of the landscape...
The "Stanford Dish" is in this detail. I treated it
loosely since it is in the distance.
The trees to the left and right of the window are completed.
This makes everything 'out the window' finished.
This close-up shows the detail of the left tree/shrubs and...
...this is the right side with the final paint.
I've detailed the stacked rock wall, varying the spaces between
the rocks and adjusting the final colors.
Here's a look at the left side of the wall.
The seagull is completed. Notice the darker shadow right
behind his right foot. This is because his foot is blocking the
reflective light from the ground. This kind of detail
makes a very 'unreal' situation look real.
The largest of the animals, the elephant is done. I've
worked hard to make him look as fluffy as he is.
Here's a closer look.
One of the smaller animals is also finished. When I positioned
these two characters, it made me think of all the cartoons where
the elephant was frightened by a mouse. They're good
buddies in this senario.
The dragon has his final layer of oil. This completes all
the stuffed animals. Now I will concentrate on rendering
each of the three photos, which is not unlike doing portraiture
The first photo, which is the most difficult, is finished.
It is painterly, but pretty specific to the subjects.
The second photo is done. I darkened up both the photo and
the frame except for the top part of the frame where the light
The last photo is done, so I am on the home stretch. Just
need to paint the ground area and apply the final paint on Lily.
This close-up of Lily shows the final strokes of paint on her
face. I introduced some warm red tones, cast into the
shadows on her skin from her dress. I'm very happy with
the final result on this very important part of the painting.
Here is a photo of Lily in full. Notice the vibrance in her
clothing and shoes. This rich color helps push the
background into the distance.
To complete the painting, I'm carefully painting the edge of the
canvas to match the color of the sky.
The story of "Lily's World" is told. It's a wonderful
feeling to have documented this special moment in time.
Click Here to see a larger
image of this painting.