It's a question that I ask myself frequently.
Given a choice, I'll always choose to draw a dog with its mouth closed and its tongue out of sight. I think it looks nicer. Classier. You wouldn't hang a picture in your home of a member of your family if their mouth was gaping wide open and their tongue was lolling out, would you?
Perhaps you would. Maybe you're a family of skydivers? Or you're related to Miley Cyrus.
Assuming that's not the case, 'tongue in' is best. Occasionally though, a customer sends me photographs of a dog that make me ask that question again:
Tongue in or tongue out?
This is Alfie. A happy-looking dog. With a BIG tongue! For that reason, and the fact that this photograph is slightly blurry, I decided not to work from this.
This photo is great. It's close up, well lit and in focus. I can see Alfie's eyes clearly. But there's one problem: his face is foreshortened. It makes Alfie's snout look disproportionately large and his head elongated. He's not looking as chirpy here either. ...It's a maybe.
Hmm. This is an interesting full-length shot, and it's nice to see Alfie looking happy again, but his tongue is out and he's backlit, which means the front of him is cast in shadow. I can't see his eyes very well. It's not ideal.
I like this one. It's in focus, Alfie's mouth is closed, and the natural lighting is softer. There's a lovely glint in his eyes. However, the photo is a bit dark. I suppose I could crop it and increase the exposure. Alfie looks a bit glum though. I'm noticing a trend here...
Bingo! Alfie is looking away from the camera at just the right angle, his face is perfectly lit, he looks happy, and the photo is in focus. But look at his tongue! It's bigger than ever and it's covered in dribble and... stuff. Gross! I can't draw that.
Maybe I should draw his mouth shut. No, when his mouth is open he looks happy, and I'm sure that's how his owners would want to remember him. So 'tongue out' it is. I'll just have to leave out the... stuff.
These are the thoughts that went through my head before I even attached a piece of paper to my drawing board or chose a pencil to sharpen.
Below is the portrait that I drew. Did I make the right decisions? Would you have chosen a different photo to work from? And most importantly: Tongue in or tongue out?
Richard Pettitt, cartoonist.