Choosing the best reference photo…

“My dog won’t stand still for a good picture.” I get that a lot. Or, “my pet passed away when polaroids were still popular and that’s all I have.” Believe me, I completely understand this dilemma and I’m here to tell you not to give up all hope of having a portrait done. It’s a very specific kind of picture that makes for a good painting, but I think I can help.

A good photo is:
A. one that is well lit (not too dark or overexposed);
B. Taken preferably at eye level with your pet so the photo shows their face in it’s entirety; and

C. Shows your pet’s personality.

Now I do realize that is a tall order, so…

Here are some TIPS on snapping a great photo of a smiling dog.

1. Go to the park.
2. Play, Play, Play.

(…stay with me here)

3. Tire out your pup.
4. Stop for a drink of water or a breather.

(Now’s your chance!)

5. While he/she is panting/resting, get on your knees and start snapping.

Now it may take a couple, or a hundred tries, but chances are you’ll get a good one like this…..254617_3934180068655_119109629_n[1]

Did you know you can also download an app that will help you snap the perfect pic with your cellphone? Seriously. The wonderful folks at Pose-A-Pet have used years of professional pet photography experience to create the Pose-A-Pet app. It’s available for iPhone and Android and the premium version is only $2.99.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 12.42.02 PM
NO, NO and more NO!

Will this work? ORDammit Jim, I’m an artist not a miracle worker!

I have, in most cases, never met your pet. I know they are in all likelyhood adorable AND gorgeous, but your painting can only be as good as your photo. And I can’t stress that enough!

I can sometimes photoshop a picture enough to zoom in, lighten it or soften the contrast to see definition, but if it’s blurry, overexposed, or I can only see the top of your pet’s head because you were standing over them when you took the photo, that wont work. I’m being completely honest here because, let’s face it, we both want the same thing – an awesome portrait that we can be proud of.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 1.02.53 PMThat said, you’d be surprised what will work. I’ve worked with some tricky photos out of necessity because the pet had already passed on. Here’s one where I was able to take a photo, crop it, lighten it up, and Voila!

So, please don’t be discouraged. Just be patient and always ask me. We can work together. Send me a few pictures, I’ll have a look at all of them and we can talk about the one that will work best.

Remember, your portrait can only be as good as the photo you send.

Thanks -m

Remembering a giant….

It’s been several years since a child fell into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo sparking outrage and controversy surrounding the killing of Harambe, a 17 year old western lowland silverback gorilla.

While emotions still run high when Harambe is mentioned – particularly in animal rights circles – I can’t help but go a little deeper in the sadness I feel for the plight of all zoo animals.

Harambe has become a symbol of what some people believe is a broken system. Gorillas, like their chimpanzee brothers and for that matter, all non-domesticated animals imprisoned in unnatural habitats for the gawking pleasure of the paying public need a voice.

Yes, zoos also do good work, rescuing and rehabilitating animals that would otherwise likely die due to human abuse, neglect and destruction of their natural habitats. Or, in some circumstances, they provide medical care for physical abuse from hunters and poachers. In addition, zoos often study various species within their natural surroundings to better understand how we can help them. However I believe, the case of Harambe, who was born and raised inside a zoo environment with no anticipation of or preparation for his release into the wild, was a completely unnecessary situation.

There comes a point in the evolution of a species when one must ask the vital question, how ethical is it for one to keep another held captive for profit? Wonderful organizations such as The Jane Goodall Institute and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International work tirelessly to learn about and help endangered primates in their wild habitats. In addition, there are rescues organizations such as the Save the Chimps sanctuary in Florida, where chimpanzees rescued from medical research labs and the entertainment industry are able to roam all over an island designed specifically to mimic their own natural wild environment where they are not held captive in cages or enclosures. Even  the Non-human Rights Project is currently fighting for the right of “personhood” to be extended to sentient animals like chimps and elephants to legally protect them from profiteers looking to exploit them. In my opinion, this is the way for one species to humanely help another in need.

With my memorial portrait of Harambe, completed in 2017 (a year after his death), I wanted to give a voice to these great captive wild animals. To perhaps raise an awareness of their sentience and emotional maturity. There is one gene, only one gene in our genetic code that separates humans from chimpanzees. Think about that. My portrait is meant to highlight the vulnerability and a human-like quality that Harambe possessed. In the original photo (source: Flickr – by Jason Miklacic, June 2011) Harambe’s eyes convey to me a look of sombre resolution, as though he is innocent of any crime but has been forcibly sentenced to life imprisoned, despite it being the only life he’s ever known. He did not ask for nor create his unfortunate circumstances. With all the physical power he possesses, he remains exposed, defenseless and trapped in a situation not of his making.

This painting has been submitted in the ENDANGERED: Art4Apes Global Juried Fine Art and Fine Art Photography Contest with proceeds benefiting The Center for Great Apes.

IMG_3986Meredith London, Artist

Harambe 36″x48″ acrylic on canvas

My trip to the ‘One of A Kind Show’ in Chicago….

OVERWHELMING – in one word. So, last weekend, I decided to check out the Spring version of this show which is normally held around Christmastime at the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago. Beginning last year, the promoters of this show decided to add a “scaled down” version (and I use that term loosely) of the show in April with about 1/2 the vendors it normally showcases in December. Now, I’m not one to ever turn down a chance to check out other people’s art, so of course, I wouldn’t miss it and WOW. Just WOW.

This is a juried show, with an incredible variety of hand created pieces of artwork. Everything from jewelry, sculpture, clothing and fiber art, blown glassware to funky Steampunk mobiles. There is live music and cooking and art making demonstrations and even scheduled fashion shows for the artists to really showcase their creations.

Artists come from all over the US and Canada, there may have been other geographic representations as well, I just didn’t have time to meet and converse with all the artists.

I walked the entire show of 300+ vendors in a systematic left to right method as to not miss anything. And it was simply remarkable the amount of incredible artwork in one, albeit very large, place.

Of course, we all know art is subjective and taste based – not everything was for me, but I was so impressed with the range of creativity and the expertise.  One such artist who particularly grabbed my attention.

Time Maclendon is a world renowned wire sculptor and this was his first time at the One of a Kind Show. I was blown away at the breath-taking quality and workmanship of this man’s work. Every piece is twisted by hand – nothing is soldered! It is an incredible sight to behold. And, well, I just had to buy a pair of his gorgeous earrings. If you’d like to check out his work here is a link to his website: http://www.timemcclendon.com/

So, you’re asking yourself: why isn’t Meredith London Pet Portraiture at the One of a Kind Show? It’s simple really. At this time, I primarily do custom work and commissions. There may be a time in the future, when I can expand and make pieces that I could display/sell at a show like this, but for now, I’m good to just go and admire everyone else.

For your reference, the One of a Kind Show will be back in Chicago at the Merchandise Mart in December, 2017 with it’s full contingent of 600+ artists, including an entire section of Etsy sellers. If you can, make a weekend of it and come to Chicago – you will not be disappointed. It is a highlight of the holiday season.

 

 

Roman 1966-2014

dsc04577@SavetheChimps, Inc. is a 501c3 organization providing permanent sanctuary for the lifelong care of chimpanzees rescued from research laboratories, the entertainment industry, and the pet trade. In 2014, one of their long time residents, Roman, passed away. He was 48 years old. As a animal artist and activist, STC is one of many animal rescue orgs I follow on social media. I’d been scrolling through my feed and saw his photo. I was simply captivated by his charm. His gentleness just touched my heart. His face was both kind and strong and perhaps due to his age and life experiences, his eyes seemed to hold a world of deep thought and introspection that really pulled me in. I immediately went to the Save the Chimps’ website to read his biography and see more pictures of him.
Later, I called the sanctuary and requested permission to use the photo I’d been so captivated by, as reference for a portrait. The rest is history. As a professional pet portrait artist, I had to work on my friend Roman when I didn’t have any other commissions which is why it’s taken me some time, but I’m proud to say I’ve finally finished. Next week, his portrait will be donated to Save the Chimps, Inc. to help in future fundraising efforts.
I have grown so comfortable having Roman in the studio with me – and I will miss him. However, I find happiness and peace knowing he will someday be lovingly framed and hung in the company of those who care so much for the chimps and for the great work they do for the animals at Save the Chimps, Inc.
Thank you to Roman’s caregiver who took the amazing reference photo, with her phone! Thank you to Save the Chimps, Inc. for their incredible mission, dedication and for accepting my gift, and thank you to my friend Roman, long may you rest in peace sweet boy.

Below is an edited excerpt from his obit from 2014…

Save the Chimps is saddened to share that one of our most handsome and dignified chimpanzees, Roman, has passed away at the approximate age of 48, after a struggle with heart disease.

Roman’s exact date and place of birth are unknown, but it is estimated that he was born in 1966, possibly in the wild. Roman’s records start on May 6, 1975, when he was brought to Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, NM. Roman was used as a research subject in seven different biomedical studies. He was anesthetized at least 225 times and had multiple liver biopsies. One of the experimental vaccines tested on Roman was for contraception; it did not work, as Roman went on to father seven children.

In 1997, Roman was transferred from the US Air Force to The Coulston Foundation, a research lab also based in Alamogordo, NM. In 2002, Coulston went bankrupt, and Save the Chimps stepped in to rescue Roman and over 250 other chimpanzees. Roman joined Kiley’s family, becoming the group’s elder statesman. Kind, charming, and mellow, Roman won the hearts of both his chimpanzee family and his loving caregivers. One of his caregivers, Torrie, remembers:

“Roman’s eyes were always full of thought and love. He was the first chimp with whom I developed a close bond. I loved Roman. We all did. Everyone who met him fell in love with him. He was just special like that. He will always have a place in my heart.”

Roman was an important part of his group, and they respected him. Roman and his family
were released onto a spacious island home, which included a large Western-style platform known as “The Saloon.” He loved the island, and often slept on the Saloon under the stars.

Earlier this year, Roman began to show signs of his age, slowing down and eating less. All signs pointed to cardiac disease. A stubborn chimp, Roman refused to take most medications. Who could blame him, after years of being given substances in the research lab that only harmed his body? The veterinarians and chimpanzee care staff did whatever Roman would allow to see to his comfort and well-being, and his best chimpanzee friends Kay, Lupe, and Gertrude were never far from his side. As time passed, however, Roman became progressively worse, no longer eating or active. The veterinarians and his caregivers made the decision to humanely euthanize him. On June 17 Roman passed away peacefully on his island. His caregivers were with him during his final moments.

Roman’s last day seemed to play out like a movie. He spent his final moments on the island he so loved. The sun warmed his face, the wind blew through his hair, he foraged some sunflower seeds, and then he peacefully went to sleep. It was an experience I will never forget. Roman was the reason I woke up every morning, and and I feel privileged to have been a part of his world.”

Roman is survived by his son Nigida, and daughter Patty, both of Save the Chimps. Another son, B.C., and two daughters, Lena and Toni-Renee, reside at the Alamogordo Primate Facility (APF), waiting for their chance at retirement.

A large photo of Roman and Kay graces the road exiting the sanctuary, a daily reminder of the gentle, handsome chimp with the kind eyes who touched our hearts.

We love you, Roman.
May you sleep under the stars wherever you roam.

And….it begins

It’s that time of year. It creeps up earlier and earlier each year and yet I find I’m still burning midnight oil in December. Sometimes I consider taking a year off so I can actually enjoy fall and the holiday season with my family instead of sequestered in my basement studio ’till all hours drinking coffee and listening to KD Lang records.

I do love, LOVE what I do. Every little furry face makes me smile and makes my heart happy. When I get an order and I’m out of the house, I wait until I can get to my computer to open the photo – – it’s a little thing I do to surprise myself. And I’m truly never disappointed. But, at this time of year, I especially want to acknowledge that it takes a village to make me look like I know what I’m doing. Albeit a handful of friends and family members but…

  • There is only one of me. I do all the painting, baking, packing and shipping myself. I do all my own marketing, website updating and general, self-emplyed, business stuff. And achieving balance can often be challenging and difficult at best.
  • I have very understanding friends and family. My bffs all know not to try to plan anything with me between October 1st and January. My husband and son do whatever they can at this time of year to help – my teenager packs boxes for me, replenishes my supplies, organizes my very chaotic studio, keeps my white board up to date.  My husband runs drops offs to the post office and makes person to person deliveries when he can. He also helps me with the math – because, you know, math. They do the cooking, laundry and my husband single handedly makes Thanksgiving every year for anywhere between 10 and 15 people. I am truly grateful to them for making it possible for me to get your portraits done in time for holiday gift giving.

    dsc05592
    The employees
  • I am grateful to my repeat clients who appreciate my artwork and come back for more year after year. No one understands better than I, the reality that art is subjective and I’m constantly astonished and overjoyed at your reaction to my work.
  • Your understanding of what it takes to create 50-70 individual, one of a kind, custom pieces of artwork in a three month period is very appreciated.

So, thank you all for making it possible for me to do the thing I love most in the world as my job! I am so blessed to have you all in my life. See you on the flip side….

Great NYT article re: Overcoming ‘Imposter Syndrome’

Are you a creative? A visual artist, writer, musician, chef, you know who you are…

Then at some point or another you may have suffered…suffer…suffered, from “Imposter Syndrome” and maybe not even known it. Well, I for one am all but too willing to admit that I have experienced this, and back in October of 2015, Carl Richards brought the issue to light in this succinct and helpful article in the NYT. I’m so glad he did because I didn’t even know this existed and it was life-changing when I discovered it.

No, people will not understand that your job is as legit as a neurosurgeon’s or a firefighter’s or a teacher’s – but to you it’s everything. If you are making money doing what you love and what you’re good at, if you have talent worth recognizing, that is as valuable as it gets. Do not devalue your work though you may be tempted to do so. Embrace the genius that is you and embrace those who don’t understand – and you keep going – don’t slow down.