Dog Portrait of Katie


Within a year of starting this new adventure, a friend and Historic New England colleague asked me to do a portrait of her pet, sweet Katie, who loves to frolic in the ocean off Bailey Island. At first, I was flattered that this curator of decorative arts had such confidence in my talent... then I saw the photograph! Black pets are always a challenge when using transparent watercolours; though I had perfected my style with Blu, Ditto, and Catie Copley. But that water!! This was definitely going to be a test of my ability.

I looked to the watercolour masters for a little guidance - Thomas Moran, Winslow Homer, George Hawley Hallowell, Charles Burchfield. All were inspirational - some too loose, others too rough - but technique was left for me to discover. Creating water with watercolour? Not quite so easy as it sounds, since, to preserve detail, each wave and swirl needed to be completely dry or the ocean could become swamp. I started with small studies of water pools and the swirling effects around Katie's paws. As the photograph is rather dark, I chose to brighten the dog's facial features and capture the essence of her wet fur with highlights created by the paper emerging from beneath the transparency of the paint.

Receiving enthusiastic compliments from Katie's "mom" and "dad," the completed pet portrait is also considered an outstanding success by class colleagues at the Museum of Fine Arts. When on display in the studio, my MFA mentor warns all near not to touch as "alarms may begin to sound." High praise indeed!

Sketches for Katie's Portrait