How to Paint a Cattle Dog Portrait
This is my portrait of Jolanda, a cattle dog and talented medical alert dog. Here's the video of her painting from start to finish:
To read my description of the steps and see progress stills from the video, read below.
I used the photo on the left below to make a rough sketch for my painting. I chose an 18" x 18" square canvas, so the painting is slightly larger than life.
I started by painting a thin purple underpainting to map in Jolanda's features. I used Dioxazine purple because it's complimentary to her coat. The purple layer will be almost completely covered by the end, but it will show through the warm colors of her coat and give it a vibrant glow. I used a transparent glazing medium with a drying retarder to keep the paint wet and workable.
Next, I painted in the darkest areas of her face with my angular shader brush. This is mainly to map out the features and make sure my sketch is still on track, since the pencil marks on the canvas are rapidly being covered by paint.
Once the underpainting and dark areas are painted in, I began with the colors of her coat. I made a mixture of reds and browns, and blended them into the partially wet purple layer. I use thin layers throughout the process so I can slowly adjust the colors and let some of the underpainting show through. I used a the more opaque Titanium White on her face.
Once I've got the basic colors of the face in, I like to work on the eyes. The video at the top of the page has a neat closeup of the whole process, but you can see in this still that I'm using the small round brush to add darker and lighter areas and make the eye look three dimensional. I consider the eyes the most important part of any portrait.
Once I'm mostly happy with the eyes, I begin to refine the detail, color and texture of the rest of the face. Can you see hints of the purple showing through around her ears and snout?
This is still a bit too dark, but I decided to put in the background and then do the final color and detail adjustments to her face. I chose a blue sky background because Jolanda loves to play outdoors, and the blue looks good with her coat.
After referring to the original reference photo again, I decided that she needed more black around her eyes and lighter spots on her face. I added layers of color until I felt like it captured her. I never try to make my paintings photo-realistic, but I like to make sure I capture a good balance of likeness and spirit. Here's the finished painting: