How to Paint a Sheltie Portrait
This is Binx, a purebred Sheltie and professional service dog. I filmed my painting of Binx from start to finish, and sped it up into a time lapse video. You can watch the video or read my descriptions of the steps below. Here's the video:
In the original photo (left) I wanted to capture Binx's happy smile and sparkling eyes. In my initial rough sketch, I turned his head a tiny bit and adjusted his eyes to focus on the viewer. He's a little wet in the picture, so I'm also going to smooth out his fur.
I started by making a mix of transparent pinks and purples, and mapping out the basic features of Binx's face. This layer is called the underpainting. I chose purple tones because they are complimentary to the warm colors in Binx's coat. The underpainting will be almost completely covered in the end, but it serves two important functions. First, it helps me to plan out the areas of contrast and make sure the overall proportions look correct as I go. Second, the underpainting will show through the face color in places, giving the portrait a more vibrant, lifelike look.
After painting in the pinks and purples, I quickly map in the dark areas of Binx's coat and face with some black paint. The key is to do it before the purple paint dries so you can blend it in naturally. I use my large filbert brush throughout this process to keep me from getting stalled on details. The idea is just to map out the features.
Next, I get my smaller angle shader brush and start to work on the details of the face and coat. Again, you want to do a pass of coarse detail over the whole painting, then go back later and do another round of fine detail. Don't get bogged down making one area perfect. If you're using my method, I recommend getting through it quickly so you don't get frustrated or lose interest. As you can see, it looks pretty strange at this point, but that's part of the process.
Now the fun part. Once I've got my colors and rough detail in, I take my small round brush and begin to put fine detail into the painting. This is where the likeness starts to come through. In this part, I'm working on the detail in Binx's eye. I roughed in the basic colors of the eyes in my initial detail pass (left) with the angle shader, and on the right I'm refining it with the small brush.
More detail work. It takes longer than the first part, but it's fun to watch the portrait coming together. Throughout the portrait, it's important to stop periodically and take a few steps back to check it out. The bigger the canvas, the more important it is to check the portrait at different angles. You'd be surprised how different it can look from a few feet back.
Now I've got enough of the detail in that I'm ready to paint in the background color. In this case, I'm using a shaded pink background. You can see other examples of my portrait backgrounds here.
After painting in the background, I did some final adjustments to the detail, especially around the edges of the head. Here's the finished portrait: