About 6 months ago I was approached by a gentleman who was interested in commissioning me to paint a portrait of a stuffed toy. This in itself wasn't all that unusual, I have done many portraits of vintage Steiff animals and have painted favorite stuffed animals on commission. The interesting part was that I was to be one of many artists he was commissioning to paint his stuffed bat....named Joey. When I began to research him I found that not only did he have his own Facebook page (Joey T. Bat) but that he had travelled all around the world and been photographed in every location. The more I read, the more intrigued I became. Joey's owner also didn't want to see sketches or concepts at all but preferred to be surprised at the end. That was a little unnerving but I assumed that he looked over my work and had a rough idea of what the outcome would be. He even provided a "Stunt Joey" for me to use as a model as I wanted to set the light source up myself and not rely upon existing photos. I did use those photos however to note the subtle differences between the actual Joey and the stand in. It was difficult to decide how best to portray him; should he be outdoors? If so what would the best setting be? Should he be full body or simply his face? I tried several different poses and made quite a few sketches before I settled upon a classic head and shoulders. After all, that is the signature style of most of my animal portraits, stuffed and otherwise. I also decided to paint him in sepia tones instead of full color. I thought it added dignity and sense of mystery to him. He is in fact only 5" tall standing so I wanted to zoom in to create a greater sense of stature.
I sent this photo of the painting to his owner yesterday who was very pleased and said that I captured the softness and peacefulness of Joey which is exactly what he had hoped for so I couldn't be happier! It has turned out to be a delightful experience and one I thought worthy of sharing. These are my favorite kinds of jobs, the unusual ones that bring you in contact with such interesting people who you never might have met otherwise.
You can read more about the Joey T. Bat project on Joey's blog Zip Me Up. It tells the story of how the project came about, how it has evolved and is chock full of wonderful photos!