Goooood morning, all of you art lovers out there! I hope that you're doing well on this fine, crisp, autumn morning!
I won't waste your time with a lot of chit chat...this morning, it's pet portraits! I know there are probably tons of blogs out there about how to paint them, but this one is going to be a step by step, how-to photo and how-to capture your pet with watercolors.
First off.....always start with a good photo where there's a plethora of light in the eyes, a photo that's well lit, the pup has a cute expression on its face, ears up, etc. I was using my friend, Britta's, dog, Roxy. She's a cutie. It doesn't have to be a big old production, just grab your cell phone and start snapping until you get a good pose.
This is the pic I chose to paint from. Yes, the background is distracting, but we're going to eliminate everything except for the head and shoulders. The reason I chose this photo is that there is a great reflection in the eye, there are great light and dark contrasts in the ear and mouth that give depth to the painting. Her pose is relaxed and the light on the eye and nose is clearly defined. A lot of dogs have dark muzzles, so if you can get a pic where the light clearly defines the mouth and nose area, it will help you greatly.
Once I've sketched it out to my satisfaction, I put masking fluid (very carefully) on the white of the eye, the white on the top of her nose and a couple of little white specs that she has here and there (like by her eye and in the corners of her eye) Anywhere the light reflects. I did not mask the white of her chin b/c that will be fairly easy to paint around.
Using a number 12 round, I load the brush with burnt sienna and start working my way around the face, laying on a mixture of van dyke brown and violet for the darker areas and french ultramarine blue on the nose area. I keep clear of the eye so that I can do small detail work on it later. Here's the first wash. You have to work rather quickly to get the wash on without making a mess of it. (don't worry about the whiskers....I did away with them eventually b/c they were distracting)
While the first wash is drying, I wet the entire pupil/iris area of the eye and using burnt sienna for the iris and a van dyke brown/violet mix for the pupil and edge, I carefully start the first eye details. I used a number 2 round for this one. Put on the burnt sienna first and while it's still wet, carefully paint on the darker areas with a thicker mixture so that it doesn't turn the whole eye brown. Control the water on your brush with a tissue or blotter.
I also lightly painted on some opera rose on the ear and under the chin. For under the chin, I wet the whole area, painting on a light wash of opera rose first and then using a heavier pigment mixture of the brown, I dotted in her spots. The pigment for the spots needs to be heavy on the brush so that it doesn't spread as much.
While the eye is drying, I started a light wash of the brown mixture on on the nose/nostril area, closely studying my photo for the small variations and shapes that will define the nose area.
Once the eye was dry, I painted another wash on it, deepening the colors and defining the shapes more. I always encourage my students to spend several minutes simply studying the subject, noticing shapes and shadows, subtle changes in color, before painting. Then, while you're painting, you need to be looking at your subject constantly. Make it a habit for your eyes to be consistenly switching between your painting and your subject. This keeps your brain from filling in incorrect details...which our brains LOVE to do for us.
Ok, don't panic! I know this is a huge change, but it's actually only one more wash over the head and face area. I'm using the same colors as before, just deepening them. I'm using my number 12 again so that I have a lot of water on the page and I don't let my edges dry. Lay on your wash quickly and then while it's still wet, deepen the darker colors around the eye and nose. What a difference it makes, eh? While it's still wet, with a lot more pigment on my brush, I quickly lay on the "wrinkles" so that they are soft.
After the last wash has COMPLETELY dried...(don't attempt another wash until your paper is really, really dry) (I use a hair dryer sometimes to speed up the process), I noticed that the nose was a little too blue for my taste. I washed a light layer of the van dyke brown over the nose area. I wanted a hint of blue on the snout, but not too much. I've also defined some shapes in the ear, painted on a bit more color on the cheek and neck area and I've added just a light touch of color to the throat area of her white coat.
I darkened the nostrils a bit more and now, at the end, I'm kind of just adding touches here and there, seeing what she needs in the finished details.
For the finishing touches, I've taken off the masking fluid, softened up some lines and spots with clean water, a tissue and my brush. When you splatter, lay tissues on the dog so that the splatter doesn't get on her.
Here's a close up of the eye to help you see what I've done. As you can see, after the masking fluid is off, I've softened the spots so that they aren't so harsh. I've softened spots on the nose where the light softly hits it. This helps defined it from just being a black blob. I softened the edges of the white streak on her nose. Just use your own judgement at the end to give your painting that finished look
I sincerely hope that this has been helpful to you. I always love to hear feedback or answer questions, so please don't hesitate to ask.
It's funny b/c sometimes I post a blog and I don't get any comments on it, so I naturally think that nobody has read it. Then I see friends and acquaintances later who say, "Oh, I love your step-by-step pics and instruction." Or "Oh, it's so neat to see the process of your work"....and that is encouraging and fun to hear.
Really, my blogs are for your instruction and enjoyment and I hope you have learned some from this one.
Have fun painting your pets!
I'm a wife and mother of four kids. I homeschool, paint, run, and garden! I am always interested in digging truths out of Scripture. Here, you'll find my thoughts on art, adoption, gardening, mothering, homeschooling, books and whatever else is on my mind. Enjoy!
Creativity doesn't exist in a vacuum - like skepticism, it's a means, not an end. It cries out for a theme. To treat creativity as an end in itself is to assume godlike character for humans as though they could create ex nihilo. -J. Cheane