Painting a pet portrait


Portrait painting is simple and complex all at the same time. The simple is getting the basic shape down. This can be drawn loosely as a pencil sketch or traced, depending on the level of accuracy you are trying to achieve and the time constraints you are working with.
From there, you can block in the base colors (with watercolors I start with the lightest ones, where the highlights will go).
Now begins the complex. Here you have to observe, or understand, where the shadows go and what colors make them up. This is where a little color theory is helpful. You could do your best to match the colors you see in the original photo, but to get the most vibrant effect, you’ll want to know about how colors react when in each other’s company. I’ll touch on that in a later post.
Anyway, as you are figuring out your colors and discovering which combinations get you the contrast you are looking for, you are also adding details to your painting, in this case the light in the eyes, the darkness of the nose, and the fur… lots and lots of fur.
I do this by switching to a much smaller brush than the one I started the painting with. At this point I’m using it more like a drawing tool, like a pen, than a painting tool.
At the very end of my painting, if I feel it’s needed, I’ll go in and add highlights with white paint or a white gel pen. This, however, is only for the extreme brights. I mostly use the white of the paper to indicate the lightest points in a piece.
And that’s it. Obviously it takes a lot of practice to be able to paint a realistic painting, but the concept is simple. Happy painting, and please feel free to ask me any questions that occur to you.

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