This is Hailey. She is a service dog of a very dear friend of mine. I have wanted to paint her for some time. Her owner was kind enough to send me multiple images of her to be able to pull this off. I was intrigued by her skeletal structure and her dignified expression. I have to admit that I had to use my piece of acrylic with the crosshairs drawn on them to get her long nose right. I kept wanting to shorten the nose on the initial attempts at drawing her. You can find out more about that drawing technique here.
Here are my steps in painting her:
I drew her with the use of the piece of acrylic with crosshairs, mentioned above. I payed careful attention to the linear forms of shadow throughout her face and ears. I knew I would need those lines, carefully placed, in order to render her contours and form accurately.
This was the longest stage of the painting for me. I worked very slowly. I used small round brushes with very light washes and worked from very light to dark. She is so lightly colored and I did not want to “botch it” and have to begin over. The smallest brush I used was a #1 round. The largest was a #8 round. I applied liquid frisket on the highlight areas on her nose and eyes and some on that thin strip of a blaze on the bridge of her nose. I chose raw sienna, naples yellow, sepia, some burnt sienna, permanent rose, and blue stone as my colors. I made the grays with mixtures of blue stone, permanent rose and a raw sienna. The raw sienna and permanent rose were very watered down as they were added to the blue stone.
Prior to finishing the details in a painting, I usually work in the background. I know the addition of a darker background will lighten the appearance of the colors in the subject. This gives me an opportunity to go back into the portrait and darken what I need to and refine the details. Prior to washing in the background, I frisketed Hailey’s ruff around her neck, so the texture of her hair will show up in the finished portrait. I then worked blue stone washes around Hailey’s head and into the shadows of her ruff with a #12 round. I find areas within the positive shape to include the background color so the painting looks more balanced and not like a cut out of a dog pasted on a background. The whole time I work my washes, I make choices about what edges I will leave hard and take the time to soften all the others with a damp or thirsty brush.
The above step is what I call finishing and balancing. I went back into some of the yellows and darkened some of the forms and enhanced some of the contours with lightened or watered down sepia. I detailed the grays around the muzzle and defined the shadows around her ruff. While the frisket was still on, I darkened and detailed the nose and went back into the eye and darkened it and detailed the pigment of the lids. I darkened her lips, freckles and the dots for the whiskers. I removed the frisket around the eyes and nose and washed light color into some of them so they did not appear so dark. Notice difference of highlights on the nose and the highlight in the eyes. I darkened the tips and dark line around the ears. I softened the pinks in the ears with very light washes of sepia. I then removed the frisket on the ruff. I did not have to go back into that area to soften the edges. Sometimes I do have to do that. The last thing I did was add the whiskers with sepia and a small rigger.
I hope, by including my steps, there might be something you can use in your own portrait attempts.
A heartfelt thankyou to my friend for sharing this beautiful dog with me so I could paint her.