How I get from this 2 x 3 inch doodle …
to this 2 x 3 foot painting…
Here’s an example of how it all comes together.
I’d met Les, Ros and their little boy Sonny-Ray at quite a few car shows, and we’d talked often about having their cars and Sonny-Ray painted.
As always, I tell people I work from photos, usually their own, though occasionally I take the photos myself if the subject is close by. Les and Ros had the idea of capturing everything that was special to them in one big painting. So they sent me some photos of their cars, their home, two dogs, and of course Sonny-Ray.
Les & Ros knew the size they wanted but left it to me to come up with a composition. I usually doodle a few sketches when there’s so many subjects to capture, but with this one I could see a layout that would work straight away.
By placing the ’55 Oldsmobile Starfire center stage I had somewhere to put Sonny-Ray, and as it’s a convertible, there’s no roof to get in the way of their cottage. Using a rear three-quarter angle meant the windshield did not impose on Sonny-Ray and it also gave me the opportunity to show off that continental style rear end.
I drew a slightly more detailed sketch to present to Les & Ros.
They were pleased with the composition.
I had quite a few photos of Sonny-Ray to work with but the one I kept coming back to was of him in his cart where he seemed to be transfixed by something ahead. I had the idea of him and their little pug dog both looking at the same thing, my first thought being a butterfly. I had ideas of other things to catch his attention but I often find the immediate thoughts are the best.
So I was ready to commit my idea to canvas.
I usually start by drawing the composition straight onto the canvas followed by a wash of colour with hints of light and dark to get rid of the expanse of white.
Starting in the distance and working forward means the sky is the first area I work on. This sets the mood of the painting almost instantly.
The cottage is by the sea and when you’ve a low horizon to play with what’s nicer than a sunset? Not too late in the evening though because of Sonny-Ray’s bedtime.
Once the surrounding hedges are painted attention is given to the cottage.
With the canvas being so large these images don’t show the details
So here’s a close up of the area where the path arrives at the front door.
Having met both dogs this one, “Missey Mae”, is such a gentle giant compared to “Big Boy” the little Pug.
Now the lawn is complete the scene is set and work begins on the vehicles. I start at the back and give attention to the caravan (or travel trailer).
Here’s a close up of the Chevy. When a painting is created from several different photographs I like to try and tie things together. Here I had the chance to reflect the front of the Starfire into the Chevy’s hub-cap.
Sometimes it’s hard to know when to stop when it comes to reflections!
Here’s a close up of highlights in the chrome and paintwork.
Having completed the old Chevy and caravan I am now putting the finishing touches to the 1952 Oldsmobile.
Work can now begin on the 1955 Oldsmobile Starfire. Such a beautiful blue and so reflective.
Again, these images don’t really give a feel of just how big this car is on the canvas
The closer you look the more you might realise how little blue I use. There’s quite a pinkish hue to the top of the trunk lid.
And down the side of the car the lawn is reflected.
For me the juiciest bit has to be all that mirror like chrome on the continental kit.
And now I start on the main center of interest within this whole painting, Sonny-Ray.
Even though he only takes up a small area of this canvas, all eyes fall on him.
And more specifically, it’s his little face we can’t help but zoom into. It’s this area that, per square inch, I spend most of my time.
So now the painting starts to get quirky as I turn my attention to the little pug and to what all the fuss is about….
A butterfly that probably sits within a two-inch square on this two feet by three feet canvas.
Having gone to bed thinking the painting was finished, I looked the next morning with fresh eyes and my attention was drawn to this area.
Something just wasn’t quite right, and after a cup of coffee, it hit me that the rear wing of the car was looking too simple because I hadn’t seen that the little pug and the cart needed to be reflected into the car.
I set to it and straight away everything ties together.
Now the painting is finished.
So how do I know when the painting is complete?
When there’s nowhere left to put the next brush stroke. I might be stood there with a loaded brush and it just subtly let’s me know we’re done.
This one took just a little over two weeks
So there we have it, a huge painting of a little boy who spots a butterfly, simple.
And if you’re left wondering what Les and Ros thought of their painting,
they sent me this to share with you…
Dear Ian –
As you know we waited patiently in line for our turn. At various car shows we supplied you with photos and wish lists with enthusiastic anticipation that our commission would include all the things that we hold dear. Our home, our classic cars, our American Bull “Missy-Mae”, our pug “Big-Boy” and most importantly our 3-year-old son “Sonny-Ray Peek” (he is growing so swiftly we wanted him preserved as our baby!)
We were glad to leave it to you to decide on the paintings content even suggesting that Sonny could be prominent or obscure (like Where’s Wally?) you were left to decide.
Your pencil sketch was well received but we never imagined just how fantastic the painting would turn out to be. As we said to you on the phone tonight we cannot believe the detail, the reflections, the sky, the realism, the proportions, the butterfly (we had 1000’s the same in summer) the…..
Les cried…. we cannot emphasise to you enough just how grateful we are. You are so talented Ian & if you are ever near Goldhanger come and see for yourself. It is perfect!
Thank-you so much 🙂 😉 😉