White Focal Point

A dear friend's oldest daughter is moving into her college dorm today. My graduation present to her was a painting of her pet bearded dragon that will have to stay at home with the family while she is at school.

I like almost all of God's creatures and I was excited about this painting, until it dawned on me that this beardie is predominantly white. I needed to capture his personality too. Like most things in my life, I just jumped in with both feet. I had four reference photos. I made my drawing and started painting.

A few hours later, I thought I was through. I was surprised that I was able to get such a good likeness in his face. I stood back and looked at the painting. Perhaps it is obvious to you what I saw....a big cactus dominating the scene. Perfect for a dorm wall? Not so much. Granted, it looks just like the composition in the photo I was working from, but I knew it would only work if all involved thought it was hysterically funny.

I debated matting the painting in a smaller size. It looks fine compositionally, but I sort of figured that the tail is an important part of a bearded dragon, so I decided to add some additional cacti.

I thought that this idea certainly took the main focus off the cactus in the dead center of the painting, but now the right hand side is heavy and his face sort of blends into the background. It is always amazing what one change can do to other elements in a painting! 

I put another wash into the background and beefed up the shaded parts of the face.

Later today I will pop it into a frame and send it on its way. Best wishes at college, my reptile friend!