Friday, May 26, 2006

A Wedding Gift

Years ago, my neice handed me a stack of photos upon her return from a long vacation through northern Canada, and joking said to use them as inspiration for her wedding painting. We had a good laugh - she wasn't even dating anyone seriously - but the photos were beautiful shots of sunrises over vast expanses, with lots of interesting architecture and sort of an old world feel. Not my typical subject matter choice, so I dutifully filed them away, and sort of forgot about it.

Then, two Christmases ago, she got engaged. After the bubbly was passed around, and the euphoria had settled in, I remembered those photos tucked into a drawer in my studio, and couldn’t wait to dig them out.

I chose a wonderful old Montreal building façade, with overflowing window boxes greeting a late morning sun. I did a few sketches, a value study or two, and then floundered when it came to choosing the painting size. The file sat buried on my desk, yet again forgotten.

A few months ago I stretched a nice sized canvas, 18x24, and blocked the painting in. Not confidant of my abilities to paint straight lines, it hung on my wall, ostensibly for me to study while deciding what the next step would be. Of course, it got a little dangerous, when I remembered at the last minute to stash the painting in a closet prior to a visit by the bride to be. And there the painting sat, again, seemingly never to be tackled with abandon.

That ended this morning. After all, the wedding’s only 8 days away, and there’s nothing like a deadline to get me going!

I modified my palette a little for this one. Cadmium red dark, cadmium yellow dark, and azurite hue. The azurite gave a lovely green tint to the grays, which played up the limestone façade beautifully.

I did find myself wanting to reach for a darker blue, as the azurite is essentially a stain, and didn't lead to terribly dark values. But I exercised some restraint, and left it as is. For now.

I also am considering cropping the sky and dormers out…… and still need to clean up the mullions and trim on the windows. I'll live with it for the weekend, and see what it tells me it needs come Monday morning.

But overall it’s not such a bad painting (coming from someone who does pet portraits exclusively!), and one more example of how important it’s been for me to step out of my comfort zone.

Kimberly Kelly Santini
distinctive pet portraits
& 4-legged paintings

Thursday, May 25, 2006

2006 Flower Fair

Last Saturday I had the best time! I set up my easel on the streets of downtown Lake Orion, as part of their annual Flower Fair street festival. Not only did the sun actually shine (we hadn’t seen it’s face in a10 days), but because of a last minute cancellation on “artists’ way,” I garnered a booth-sized space.

Having planned only to work on one canvas, I hadn’t arranged for a tent or any sort of formal setup. Thanks to my husband (who returned to the house for a second load!), I was able to set up both easels and a small table with an array of works, both finished and in process. They are, from left to right:

  • Untitled (two black dogs), from the Larger than Life series, 24x24 (standing on my new Julian plein air easel, which I adore!!), exhibition painting (I highlighted this one in another blog post below, see "Symphony in Blue").
  • Sunbather (horizontal cat painting on top of table easel), from the Larger than Life series, 16x8, available for purchase.
  • Untitled (white cat painting on bottom of table easel), from the Larger than Life series, 18x14, exhibition painting.
  • Red (chestnut horse painting), from the Larger than Life series, 54x28, available for purchase.
  • Fergie (viszla head study), from the Larger than Life series, 36x36, commissioned pet portrait.
FYI: For those of you interested in the background of my space, that is the boarded-up front of the new Sagebrush Cantina. You may recall that this restaurant, along with 5 other businesses encompassing 1/2 a block, burned to the ground in March 2004. The buildings have been rebuilt, and the new Sagebrush is supposed to open in July. Hello margueritas!!

I met some amazing people, took photos of one unbelievably personable dog (Boomer, a labradoodle), actually accomplished quite a bit on the painting in question, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Overall, a highly successful day.

The piece I worked on, an as of yet untitled painting of two border collie mixes, came quite a ways during the course of the day. I am happy with the layers of blues and purples in the undercoats of the black dogs, and short of an adjustment I’ll make to correct the length of the smaller dog’s nose, I am relatively close to starting on the final layers.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by – and a very special thank you to Holly Hatfield of Red River Vizslas, who brought Thyme all the way from Kentucky to meet her painting, which is available for purchase.

Kimberly Kelly Santini
distinctive pet portraits
& 4-legged paintings

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Untitled (but Lucy)

I have had the inspiration photo for this painting for about 6 weeks now. I knew I wanted to soften the image, but wasn’t quite certain how to go about that. So I tried several smaller studies, which have been staring me down from my desk – none of them quite captured the modified sense of light I was looking for.

So how did I solve this problem? I went bigger and I chose 4 completely different colors. Yeah, that doesn’t make any sense – to step away from all the studying I had been doing with the new palette these last few months, and try something entirely different on an even bigger scale.

But somehow it worked.

So here’s Lucy, almost finished. At 18x14 she’s larger than life, but serenely unpretentious. I used primarily Quinacridone Red, Cad Yellow Dark, Azurite Hue and Cobalt Blue. I reached for some Raw Umber, Cad Red Med, and Bone Black for minute details around the eyes and collar. The two blues combined to give some interesting green to blue to violet shadows, but one thing I did realize was that this combination of colors did not give me a dense enough neutral (hence the addition of bone black).

I want to make the ground richer and darker still, and might lay down another layer or two of a red glaze, but I’m going to live with the painting for a little bit first, and see if she tells me anything else.

And she needs a title, too - I'm open to suggestions. Usually they come to me while I’m working, but nothing rose to the surface today. Initial thoughts are “Bells” or maybe “Wren” or “Sparrow” – something alluding to her bird hunting skills. But then the old standby is just her name, “Lucy.”

Thanks to Erin Chop for allowing me to “borrow” Lucy for a bit – I would love to paint her again. Hint, hint, Erin - send more photos!! (grin)

Actually, for those of you reading this - I am always looking for inspiration. You are welcome to send me photos of your dog or cat for consideration for my next painting. You may send your materials via email to, with the subject line of "New Model." I am currently preparing work for a number of shows that call for canine, feline, and equine characters.

Meanwhile, I’m planning to enter this painting in the Birmingham Michigan’s Community House October 2006 juried exhibition, titled “Our Town.” I will keep you posted if she makes the cut.

Kimberly Kelly Santini
distinctive pet portraits
& 4-legged paintings

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Quiet Progress

Yes, it’s been quiet at the easel. I’ve been working on two very large pieces, a 36” square dog portrait, and another 36”x48” large dog painting. Because of their sizes, the progress is slow. I am enjoying their growth, and continuing to learn so much from putting Vianna’s lessons to work.

It’s also the end of the month, when I complete the bulk of my volunteer work. I am so blessed to be able to work as an artist, that I feel compelled to give back in a variety of ways. Ironically, those “ways” all involve committee meetings and projects that occur within a 10 day timeframe.

I’ve been immersed in the creation of a new artists’ group. Called the Canine Art Guild, it’s a group providing support, education, and numerous other resources for all canine artists. I’ve been busy building a database and collecting information and content for the website.

I’m also taking an online course on search engine optimization and website marketing. This is part of a long term goal to revamp my website. While I love the simplicity of using a WYSIWIG design program, it simply does not provide enough flexibility with the coding, which seriously compromises my search engine results. The changes I’m implementing now are not huge visual ones, but rather infrastructure changes. But they will make a world of difference in the traffic I’m able to draw.

There’s far more that goes on in the studio than flinging color!!

So am off to varnish a couple of poodle portraits, stretch a new canvas for a sweet little yellow lab puppy portrait, and see if I can’t make some progress on the emails sitting in my inbox…….

Kimberly Kelly Santini
distinctive pet portraits
& 4-legged paintings