Birthday Gift Portrait
Tenshi – The “Angel”
I’m happy to announce that birthday gift portrait number three is complete! But let me back up a bit. When I moved more than two years ago, I moved into a home that was well stocked with cats. Three of them, in fact. Three pretty amazing cats. It was at that moment that I knew that I’d be drawing all three of them at some point. Their human’s birthday was right around the corner from the date that I moved in and so I had determined almost immediately that over the next three years, I’d crank out one portrait for each cat on that special day as my gift to her.
All three cats are special. Each has their own very unique personality. You’ve already met two of them via my portraits.
Kazu was the first.
Shima was the second.
Tenshi makes number three.
Tenshi’s the one who always has shenanigans in mind. You can see it in his eyes. Even in this birthday gift portrait, the glint of shenanigans is there. And make no mistake. He’s quite capable of carrying out whatever it is he has in mind, too. And though he looks like a sleek little grey panther, he’s not always the most graceful. He can be clumsy and misjudge his leaping capabilities. He’s the one to knock the neatly stacked mail off the table and onto the floor. If you’re not careful, he’ll help himself to whatever you’re eating. He’ll also get himself into predicaments he has a hard time getting out of on his own and he’s all for harassing the girl cats with a game of rough and tumble. But all the shenanigans aside, he’s never short on love and affection for nearly everyone who will stop to give him the slightest bit of attention.
His portrait however, was different than most that I’ve done and so there was a bit of apprehension in the beginning stages. Most of my work is done entirely in pencil. In fact, all of my work is done entirely in pencil. Except for this one. Let me explain…
Kazu’s portrait was with the profile of a Buddha. Her name means “peace” and so the Buddha behind her turned out to be quite appropriate. Shima’s a gorgeous, dainty little thing and very much like the bonsai behind her. Tenshi needed something else. Something that depicted the boy cat that he is. And I couldn’t really put a set of horns or a tilted halo around the little bugger so I wracked my brains for something else. I decided on the kanji for his name engraved in stone or a concrete surface. And though his name means “angel”, he is the mischievous one and so the stone’s surface has its tiny little cracks. Not necessarily a devil in disguise, but an angel with character and personality. One that you can’t help but love.
What made his portrait different was that in order to get the appearance of stone, I had to use mixed media. For this one, I pulled out the old airbrush and dusted it off and fired up the compressor. It had been at least ten years since I last handled it. I had to search the old memory banks for the tips and tricks to getting a believable look of stone. After a few test runs, I was ready. I masked off where Tenshi was going to go and I started spraying black acrylic paint with just a touch of dark brown. I sprayed a fine mist at first just to lay down the color. Next, I continued with low air pressure and aimed at a spatula to get the random splatter and black speckles. The cracks and engraved kanji were hand-painted with a brush and some small details were added with grey color pencil to give depth to the engraving.
The rest of the portrait, Tenshi himself, was done only with pencil, as usual. I’m pleased with the results and will definitely consider doing more of this in the future. The airbrushed background actually saved me hours of work and there’s no way that I could have done the random black dots that make the stone believable by hand.
I’ve never done a mixed media portrait like this, so the usual trepidation about blank canvases was kicked up a notch or two. But what they say about comfort zones is true. Step out of them and you’ll find where the magic happens. Well, I stepped out of my comfort zone on this one and I must say that I was not disappointed. But now with birthday gift portrait number three completed, the question now stands… what the heck do I do when next year’s birthday rolls around?