When I painted my California Girl and Feet on the Beach watercolors, I knew they would be challenging for me, but compared to my most recent project, those were a walk in the park. Speaking of parks — and walks — I loved going to the park when I was a little girl. Even more, I loved taking one of our many dogs along for a stroll.
I love dogs. Always have. Always will. When I was growing up, we had — literally — dozens of dogs. Labradors, English setters, Weirmaraners, Russian Wolfhounds. Big, beautiful dogs.
Today, I still have lots of dogs, but now they’re the stuffed variety. We have them everywhere, all over the house, most of them doing some sort of “guard duty” — like Woof-Woof and Patch Puppy who guard the pajamas in the bedroom.
When I began learning to draw last summer, one of my first “live subjects” — if a stuffed animal can be considered a live subject — was Topsy. I sketched her as she sat in her chair in our living room. Her job is to hold mail or other important things my husband might need to take with him when he leaves for work.
At the time, she was wearing one of his scarves, you’ll notice, still left over from the winter before! She was also wearing an adorable dress one of our girls bought for her. Topsy, you see, has a twin brother, Flopsy. It was hard to tell them apart. Oh, she was wearing gloves, too, so that’s why it looks like she has floppy fingers.
I was pleased with the way my drawing turned out. Considering I’d only been drawing a week or two, I was surprised that I still managed to capture a likeness of my furry little friend.
Toward the end of summer, I sketched Scraps, another of our stuffed puppies. He’s the favorite of our oldest grandson — who, truth be told is actually getting a little too old to have favorite stuffed animals, but I won’t tell anyone. He still loves Scraps, so the only job Scraps has is being a favorite pet.
I adored my little drawing of Scraps. I liked it so much, I actually took it out of my sketchbook — the first time I’d ever done that — and left it sitting out where I could look at it. I was especially pleased when the oldest grandson saw it and exclaimed, “You drew Scraps!”
Yes, he recognized his furry little friend. That certainly made me feel good!
Later in the year, when I began working with charcoal, I did a quick sketch of little “Bowser” — complete with the bow around his neck.
As you can probably tell, I love my stuffed puppies, and I love drawing them.
Recently as I walked through the living room, I glanced toward the corner. Many of the doggies sit there, guarding the toys and games we keep for the grandkids.
At once, I knew. I had to paint their picture as they sat together. I even knew what I would call the painting.
Playmates. Three stuffed puppies sitting amidst the toys, quietly waiting for laughing little boys and girls to come hold them, hug them, and love them.
And so I got out my watercolors and made the painting. I realized that what I was attempting was far beyond my skill level, but I remembered what I hear so often. Paint what you love. It didn’t matter that I had no idea how to get all the toys in the right places, or how to create the “vignette” background I envisioned. The quilt on the old chair behind the puppies? No idea how to do something so detailed. But none of that mattered. I just wanted to paint these puppies and share them with the world.
So, here are Homer, Flopsy, and Hartley.
I let my colors get a bit muddy when I tried to do the toys — that’s the blotches of color between Homer and Flopsy — and I was at a loss as to what color to use for the background. I don’t care for the color I chose. Any suggestions?
One other question I couldn’t answer was how far to extend the back of the chair. Originally I had only a little of the back, but it was hard to tell exactly what it was. It looked better after I extended it, but then when I did the background…well, you can see that I wasn’t sure how to handle it. I’d love to hear suggestions on that, too.
After I’ve gained more experience with watercolor, I plan to paint these “Playmates” again, hopefully with clearer, brighter colors. Until then, I’m going to cherish this first painting. I do love these crazy stuffed critters, and I love that I was able to share them with you. The imperfections don’t really matter when we paint from our heart.