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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.

Hailey  finished painting

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.


  1. Great job. I bet your friend thinks so as well. That kind of subtle structure gives such character to a dog’s face. I think it’s one of your best.

  2. This is a beautiful portrait, Leslie! I love her kind eyes and those ears are amazing… oh and her snout. Just Beautiful!!!

    • That snout was hard! Didn’t get it down to my satisfaction until the fourth try. Thank you, Beth. 🙂

  3. Beautiful – both your painting and the dog. What breed is she?

  4. Gorgeous eyes! I love the wet nose, deep eyes and unique character you portrayed in your painting. Beautiful!

    • Wow. Thank you, Nancy! The eyes look like she has make-up on, don’t they? 🙂

  5. Hailey is magnificent. I’m in love!

    And thanks for showing your steps. They are quite informative.

    • I responded to my friend the same way, about Hailey’s magnificence, the first time she sent me a photo of her. Thank you, Carol!

  6. good work and thanks for sharing it.

    • Glad to meet you, ssgt Leslie! Thank you for taking the time to visit and comment. Thank you for your service to our country.

      • pleasure meeting you to, my pleasure. your welcome. all the best,

  7. Beautiful soft colors. The whole painting has such a gentle feeling… Delicate and precise! This is a beauty! Thanks for sharing the steps. I will try something…

    • Hi Isabelle,
      Thank you for that about soft colors. I really had to water the pigment down to get this effect. I was worried about washing out the vibrance of the specific colors but don’t think it really hurt them.

  8. I feel a kind of naught feel in her eyes, she probably plays around too much?!Loved the child like quality in this portrait!

    • I don’t know if she is ever naughty. I know her owner has another dog that she and her husband rescued to be a friend or companion for her. His name is Olly and I will paint him next. He has a rough coat like “Lassie”. Thank you!

  9. How beautiful! Is Hailey a Collie?

    • Thank you, Sherry. Yes. She is a smooth coat collie. Her ears don’t tip over like most collies. Perhaps that’s why she looks a little different than other collies.

  10. Wow, what a beautiful face! You really captured that long curved nose, no easy feat! (Four tries or not, haha.) I love the progress pics! You really took your time and I think it’s my favorite dog you’ve done!

    • Thank you for that about the nose, Cindy. You know, don’t you? My mind was saying “no, no, no”. Until I stared at it under my crosshairs, I just could not get it down the way she looked. I think this is one of my favorite dog ones I’ve done, too. Now, I have to do justice with her companion, Olly. The challenges never cease, do they? 🙂 …and you even add that creative spin to yours!

  11. Love this dog, Leslie. Such a wonderful nose. Reminds me of an aristocratic woman dressed in furs. Beautiful portrait.

    • Exactly, Gretchen. She had me thinking of a classic portrait I’d seen of an Empress or Duchess or something that had some kind of cowl around her neck? Thank you!

  12. Your beautiful portrait of her makes me smile, Leslie. What a sweet and friendly dog she must be.

    • I believe she is very well mannered. More training than I have done with my three little pals, for sure. Thank you, Hannekekoop.

  13. Service animals are such heroes. One of the women who came to South Africa on our jaunt three years ago lives near San Francisco and voluntarily trains service dogs. The various conditions that service dogs deal with amazes me. Like detecting an on-coming seizure before the person even knows.

    Yes, that long snoot…I can feel those very wiry whiskers. I cannot imagine the love that is built in those relationships.

    What a great gift you’ve given, Leslie.

    • Even we animal lovers, who knew our pets were special, underestimated the capabilities and the intelligence of our canine friends. Hailey alerts my friend to oncoming insulin reactions. I also believe cats, for years, have been underestimated because of our supposition that they are aloof and self serving. I have had many cats that do not fit that picture and hover, listening to my every word, talking to me and soothing me over the years. If anything, a feline friend respects us and our differences and softens our boundaries through their pateint attentiveness to our person. I have watched them do this. I love it when you share about yours. Thank you, Amy.

    • Katy Boyer's Bliss Bait Art
    • Posted January 18, 2013 at 6:39 am
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    • Reply

    Beautiful. And SOOOOO graceful. Would love to have a conversation with Hailey! I’d forgotten that You take shots incrementally as You work. LOVE that. My sister keeps suggesting I do that and I just forget. How fun to see the journey! Next time….next time. And I just saw Your ‘red and purple’ for the first time. Amazing!!! I’m off.

    Wanted to ask if You have a second if You would please remind me how to connect my gravatar back to my blog? I went into profile and personal settings and copied/pasted the url. It says my comments will be directed back to me, but it keeps going to the old blog which no longer exists. Any ideas? Ich’s doesn’t work either! You apparently as the most techno savvy of the three of us!

    Thank You both for Your lovely work and for any tech ideas!

    Hugest Hugs and Namaste. 🙂

    • Yes! I know how. I’ll share it here, in case there is anyone else who needs this info. Your gravatar looks fine. That’s the picture. Your tag name needs to be linked to your url. Go to your dashboard page and scroll down the left side and hover over “USERS” a drop box will open and you then click on “PERSONAL SETTINGS”. On that page? Scroll all the way down to the section that says “ACCOUNT DETAILS”. Put your url to the “blog” in the box that says website. If you put your url to the website where you sell, that one comes up instead. Hope that helps, Bliss!
      Thank you for the comment on Hailey, Bliss!

  14. Beautiful portrait, Leslie. You know, I looked at it and said collie in my head before I read into the comments. I have always loved them, but I forgot about the smooths.

    • Collies are so cool looking. I agree, Ruth. I certainly don’t see as many of them today as back in the days when they were popular due to “Lassie”. Thank you for the comment!

  15. Hey Leslie – this is beautiful – it is softer than your usual animal portraits somehow. You are getting so good at this. I think animal portraits are every bit as difficult as people. You have captured something very special with this.

  16. Nice progression of images…always cool to see the process in action.

  17. What a calm, intelligent expression you’ve captured, Leslie. I’d like to be her companion.

    • Thank you, Eva. I wouldn’t mind being her companion, either, come to think of it.

  18. Leslie, thank you for the lesson. An incredible painting of a beautiful animal. The eyes capture the genteness of this incredible spirit. Super painting.

  19. Hi Leslie, After all the wonderful complements to both you and Hailey I thought I would add that as your best friends husband and the man in Hailey’s life, you have truly captured the heart and spirit of this wonderful dog. I find myself coming back to your blog and looking at what you have created in the portrait of Hailey. Each time I look at your work I feel an emotional connection to the portrait. I know this dog so well and you have done an amazing job of capturing her spirit. I think you have truly immortalized Hailey and she will always be with us through your work.

    • Thank you, Jerry. What a nice thing to say. I am working on Ollie. I hope I do as well with him. His rough coat is way more challenging. 🙂

  20. what a stunning dog and what a stunning portrait you created of her! It was really interesting to read all the technical details of the colours and technique used. I’m sure your friend will want this portrait of her wonderful service dog.

    • Thank you, Nicola. I did paint this for her. I am now working on a portrait of Hailey’s friend (my friend’s husband’s dog).

  21. Beautiful Leslie.

  22. Another beauty beautifully interpreted for us by you, Leslie.
    I feel like I can reach out and hug him!

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. By Meet Olly: Hailey’s Friend « Leslie White on 05 Feb 2013 at 5:22 pm

    […] is my friend’s  husband’s dog. He is also a friend to Hailey, featured in the previous post. I really enjoyed painting these two collies. Olly is the Rough Coat […]

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