Two Pet Portraits, Wellington and Luke

Seems like it is the season for black pet portraits, or more specifically dog portraits. I am pretty much finishing up Erin’s painting and now I am sketching out Wellington’s portrait and in a little while my little cocker spaniel portrait. I thought it might make this blog a little more interesting to work on the two alongside each other. It may not of course, but I paint so many portraits and often it is second nature so I wondered if I approach long haired dogs much differently to short. I am sure there must be some differences, even if they are subtle. It also saves three blogs in a row being about black dog portraits! We shall see if it proves an interesting exercise. I also believe there are many people out there that follow this blog to get tips on how to paint there own pet portraits and I know long haired dogs can be daunting to paint, I know I used to feel that way when I was presented with a long haired animal. I think this blog may help reduce some of the fear and make long haired animals less daunting. Please do drop me an email and let me know if the blogs help in anyway.

So first up is Wellington, the lab and the short haired dog. I am taking Wellington away from the ugly background and putting him infront of some green foliage, another theme. At least it isn’t pet paintings in santa hats I suppose hahaha. It is nice to have your pet in nature though, I guess most pet owners are nature lovers, I know I certainly am, which is why this plantar fasciitis is so frustrating as my poor dogs are only limited to short walks, and my method of destressing has been taken away from me. Don’t get me wrong, I find my art very relaxing but at this time of year it can be a little overwhelming! Speaking of which I need to get cracking so will be back with updates soon!

So as usual I start with going over the faint outline sketch just make sure I have all the key points established, you don’t want to lose those if you can help it. It does happen and it’s a bit of a pain when it does. From there I go into my blocking stage and the ugly stage, the part I hate to show to the world, but I do you lucky folk. I think you can see what I mean. It doesn’t really resemble a dog portrait yet does it! But never fear that will change.

I do believe this stage is pretty much the same with all the pet portraits I do. You can’t really avoid it and it is essential to get this right as it is the building blocks of every painting I do. Get the proportions wrong, or paint an area that is in shadow, light or the fur direction wrong as I did with Erin it can change everything and the portrait will not work.

I have nearly finished the blocking in of Wellington, you can see I have also started to soften the hard edges between the basic blocked in shapes. We don’t want too hard edges for the most part, unless something calls for it, like a shadow or similar. I gradually soften it with each layer and when I am pretty much happy with everything and the whole portrait is pretty much finished to this level I can start really adding the detail. I do sometimes get a bit carried away with detail in certain places before it is all done as I just can’t help myself, the detail is my favourite part of course!

I am really pleased with Wellingtons progress today. I think I am going to start sketching out the cocker portrait. I think the early stages will be very similar to Wellington. Oh I just remembered before I down tools on this handsome lad I will put in his eye. I always find it a little weird if they don’t have their eyes in. You will see what I mean if you watch the time lapse of Melody, Chico and Urchin . It’s a Jolly Splashes painting, but still odd! 

Oh and we all need a bit of humour, here is me trying to work while my little rascal Maggie is trying to tell me she wants her dinner. Isn’t she just the cutest and dearest little thing!

I have put down Wellington’s portrait for the time being and sketched out the wee little cocker spaniels portrait.  I may try and start work on her this evening if I get Erin’s portrait framed and packed up ready to go out. I will wait until I hear from Wellingtons owner before I resume as I have sent her some progress shots. I am ready to move on to the background with him and then move onto all the final details. Both dogs are having green backgrounds so the green soft pastels can stay out a bit longer. For a little break from the black dog portraits I am have sketched out another dog portrait Ike and you can read about him here.

I am making a start on the background in Wellingtons portrait. I think I may add a hint of blue sky like I did in a previous labrador portrait, and possibly some grass, but not 100% sure. I will decide as it progresses. It’s funny, I used to have the background completely set in my head before I started work, but I guess as my experience has grown, so has my confidence to let my pet portraits become a bit more fluid. I have decided to proceed with Wellington today and pick up the cocker spaniel portrait tomorrow, he was so close to being finished it was bugging me to be left. However they are both being worked on closely enough to make a good comparison. 

I proceeded to finish the background and I did go with the grass and sky and after that it was a case of picking out the highlights and shadows and finishing up remaining details, not forgetting those whiskers! I am really pleased with how the portrait has turned out overall, especially as the reference photo was taken with flash and wasn’t the best to work from. I definitely think placing him outside rather than just a plain colour background was the way to go. Here is his finished painting. Do you agree?

I have returned to my blocking in and establishing the shadows and highlights like I did in Wellingtons portrait. I have noticed with the ears I am tending to block in one whole shade first and then I will go over and pick out the detail. I think as they are quite small I can get away with doing that, if it was a close up then I think I might be picking out some of the small shapes in the ears that are made by the shadows created by the strands of fur. Wow that was mouthful. I had to read it back to make sure the sentence even made sense as it didn’t seem to as I was typing it.

It is also worth noting I am using a lot of indigo blue for the first layers, as he has a very definite blue sheen in his coat, as do most black dogs. It also helps as a transition blend between the dark and light areas. I think the way I work in this pet portrait maybe slightly different also due to the fact it is a full body portrait as opposed and the detail is smaller and fiddly. 

It’s 8pm and I think I am going to down tools, the eyes aren’t looking quite right and I am trying to adjust them with little success. I think it is time for a bit of rest and relaxation and get back to the pet portraits tomorrow!