Millie, A Dog Portrait Oil Painting

Portrait of Millie, oil on Gessobord panel, 10x8 inches

Portrait of Millie, oil on Gessobord panel, 10×8 inches

This painting was a labor of love: love for my sweet Formosan Mountain dog Millie who has come a long way (literally and figuratively) and love of painting. Millie was rescued from the streets of Taiwan as a 4 month old feral pup and flown to SF with some other rescued pups. She was very fearful and independent (e.g. standoffish and stubborn) at first, but after one year together she is now a very happy pooch who makes me laugh every day with her quirky ways.

I love painting dogs, and gladly accept commissions to paint animals of any kind (including humans). You can see photos of the work in progress as I painted Millie below.

I started with some sketches (posted here previously) and then took photos of her in the studio to paint from. (The little bow on her collar was from Mud Puppies Tub and Scrub at Pt. Isabel after they washed off the sticky brown mud from her dive into the bay at low tide). I did a drawing on tracing paper from my favorite of the photos, corrected the drawing by taping it to the iMac monitor to compare to the reference photo and then transferred the drawing to a Gessobord using Saral Transfer Paper. I used Panpastels for the first block in and then began painting with oils, starting with her face.

Random Little Moleskine Sketches


Here are some random sketches from hikes and walks with my dog, sitting in meetings, a movie shown in a library and at the dog park. These are all in my pocket Moleskine that I carry with me all the time. Hover over images to read captions or click on them to see them larger.

EDiM 5 and 7 (Hobby: Millie and Microwave)

EDiM 5 Hobby (Millie), ink on Stonehenge brown paper glued in Moleskine, 5x7 in

EDiM 5 Hobby (Millie), black ink and white Sharpie on Stonehenge brown paper glued in Moleskine, 5×7 in

I filled pages of my sketchbook trying to draw Millie from life but never got more than 1/3 a dog before she moved. So I pasted some brown Stonehenge paper over a couple of the dog scribble pages and then drew this one from a photo. She’s extra elegantly long in my drawing and seems to be prancing through the air (I forgot to add some shadows or a part of her bed so you could tell she was relaxing lying down.

EDiM7-Microwave in the studio beside the sink, ink and watercolor 5x7 in

EDiM7-Microwave in the studio beside the sink, ink and watercolor 5×7 in

I inherited this microwave from my son, left behind when I converted the grease monkey garage into my studio. When I use it to heat water for tea in the winter I just have to remember that if I have both electric heaters on, all the lights and the stereo going and a hair dryer blow-drying a watercolor, there’s a good chance I will shortly be sitting in the dark until I visit the circuit breaker box and flip the switch.

Dog Chews #6: Saved the Worst for Last: Puffed Pig Snout and a Tooble

Puffed Pig Snout and a Toozle, ink & watercolor 5x7 in

Puffed Pig Snout and a Toozle, ink & watercolor 5×7 in

I am so glad to move on from this series finally! Lately I’ve been sketching lovely spring scenery, trees and flowers but before I post them, here are the last and the grossest of the dog treats. These two items were neither a treat to draw nor did my dog’s digestion appreciate them (to put it mildly!)

The Puffed Pig Snout is exactly that, a kind of weird half-face; really quite disturbing. Millie was quite happy to munch it right up, though she will also happily eat cat poo and grass, so that’s not saying much.

I labeled the Tooble incorrectly in the sketch as I’d lost the label and remembered wrong. It’s not a sheep esophagus, it’s a smoked beef trachea, cleverly renamed a “Tooble” for marketing purposes. I’m glad that they are finding ways of using all of the animal, but still…

I’ve completed my investigation of the weird new world of dog treats and we settled on Millie’s two favorite chew treats: Pizzle sticks and raw organic marrow bones.

Phew! Done! Now on to something completely different!

Dog Chews #5: Pig From Head (Ear) to Toe (Hoof)

Dog Chews # 5, ink and watercolor sketch, 5x7 in

Dog Chews # 5, ink and watercolor sketch, 5×7 in

Second to last of the gross dog chew sketches: pig ears and pig hooves. While these are pretty nasty, they aren’t the worst. That comes next. Pig ears are pretty popular but they are definitely dog junk food, more like big, thick, greasy potato chips than rawhide. Millie ate half an ear in just a few minutes and it didn’t do her digestion any favors. I will not be buying them again.

The hooves are not really digestible, they’re more for just the fun of gnawing on something and shredding bits off. They’re pretty hard so last a very long time. If they start to splinter or break they have to be thrown away, but they’re very cheap so I don’t mind.

My Art in a Book, a Field Guide and a New Commission

I am happy to say that the excellent new book Urban Sketching: The Complete Guide to Techniques by Thomas Thorspecken, includes this “Urban Animals” page (above) featuring my sketches of cats. When the publisher contacted me to request the use of the images, I was delighted. I was even happier when they sent my complimentary copies of the book and I saw all the really useful information and wonderful sketches it contains.

Field Guide to San Francisco

Field Guide Cover

Field Guide Cover

Then I got an email from an art director from the San Francisco office of the national advertising agency, Ogilvy. They were moving and she was designing a “Field Guide” to the new SF neighborhood for their employees. When searching for sketches of the area she found mine, and as she looked through my blog she found sketches to illustrate most of the pages in the guide.

(This would be a good time to point out to fellow art bloggers how important it is to tag or attach categories to your images and your posts. WordPress makes it easy; the feature is a little hidden in Blogger but it really helps to find posts or images with specific content.)

In the end, they licensed 18 of my sketches for use in the printed field guide. Above are a few of the pages, brilliantly composed by the art director.

What I’m working on now

I am honored to be working on a commissioned large watercolor painting for a couple who live in Europe now, but were married in a lovely building in a Bay Area park. The wife wants to give her husband the painting for their anniversary. I visited the venue and took photos and we agreed on a composition. The painting is underway and so far is going well, but because it is large and has many details, it is keeping me very busy (and happy) in the studio.

(I’m leaving out any identifying details about the locations to make sure there’s no way her husband will find out. I know that seems unlikely, but when working on a previous commissioned painting of a house for a surprise anniversary present for the husband, their daughter found the work-in-progress painting I’d posted of her parents’ house when she Googled “Oakland Federal Building,” landed on my sketch of the building, scrolled down and the next post was her home. She was so surprised to see it she called her parents!)

Stuff Millie Picked Up and Carried Home on Dog Walks

Stuff Millie Carried Home From Walks, ink and watercolor 5x7.5 in

Stuff Millie Carried Home From Dog Walks, ink and watercolor 5×7.5 in

When Millie and I go out for walks she takes in the world around us with all her senses and when she finds something interesting, carries it home with her. In the sketch above are some of her more attractive treasures. Not pictured above are the various pieces of plastic, the advertising flyers for gardeners or maids stuffed in a baggie with a rock, and the many sticks and branches she’s carried home (the latter to chew and shred to mulch).

She walks with her nose to the ground for scents; ears perked for the sounds of gophers underground or dogs nearby or birds in the trees; eyes scanning for squirrels; and always looking for things to pick up and carry (or eat…ick!) during our walks.

One of the first things I had to teach her was “Leave it!” and “Drop It!” since so much of what’s on the ground in the city is nasty. She’s pretty good about dropping things, especially when she knows I’m carrying treats to swap with her for the yucky thing.

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