Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ears Matter ... in pet portraiture

"Mac" from Australia ( see all proofs)
© rebecca collins /

A lot of pet portrait artists will tell you that the eyes are all important because they contain the soul of an animal. This is very true and yet it is important to remember that while the eyes may hold the soul ... the ears often contain the joy. The only thing that expresses more about mood and attitude than a wagging tail is the way a pup's ears are showing. I love perky ears and when I do not have them in an original photograph I will try to create them. Scroll down and check out the original image below and you will see that Mac's ear to our right was a little flat. Many digital service providers that offer pet portrait services have a routine of erasing the background and then slamming on the filters, never pausing to really see the image in front of them. Even traditional painters can fall into a trap of interpreting the original photograph way too literally, not pausing to ask themselves what could be better here, what is distracting and what could be better? In Mac's case I found he had too much collar flap and not enough ear. I don't mean to pick on other artists, in fact sometimes I fail to catch these sort of things too, in a pet portrait project I did last week Lady's ear to our right was folded a little strange and I am going to go back in and fix that.  Anyway ... the point of today's post : "Ears Matter,"  and never allow yourself to be limited by the original photograph of your subject.  A landscape artist painting a lovely lake would not hesitate to throw in a sailboat even if he has to create it from scratch based on his own knowledge of what a boat looks like.

© rebecca collins/

How Did I Make  A New Ear?
I borrowed our ear to the left by selecting it and making a duplicate layer with just the ear. I flipped it horizontally so it was facing the right way, cloned over a dark freckle and then used the warp tool to change the shape slightly. That last step of warping the new ear is very important, nobody is perfectly symmetrical and depending on angle and the tilt of the head the ears will be different sizes naturally. Just slapping on an identical ear would not have looked very natural, it had to be reshaped and fine tuned.


Bark Off said...

Wow very good. Quick question on your dog art. Did you draw it on the photo or is it from scratch. Sorry if i asked a wrong question but I have to tell you the art is stunning. Great work!!

Rebecca Collins said...

Bark Off- The work is digital and I use both the smudge tool, the paint tool and my wacom tablet to create these. They are created on layers above the original photographic layer, so in a sense I am painting on the photo. I also use a variety filters set to various opacities ... I try hard to avoid a filtered look.... because there is enough of that type of work out there. The wacom tablet is pressure sensitive so 10 different artists could do the exact same steps and achieve 10 very different results.

AutumnLeaves said...

Well, he is surely fabulous and he looks much more alert with the ear change. Thanks for the explanation in your answer to BarkOff.

cbmosaics said...

Changing his ear has made him look happier, and as AL said, alert. Nice job! :)

Rebecca Collins said...

Thanks Sherry ...thanks Christine. I am always amazed at what a difference perky ears make. This was a great high resolution image, and a cute shot, even great photos can be enhanced and made even better.