For a long time, I’ve wanted to paint an animal portrait, but always put it off out of fear I’d mess it up. I still have that fear, but I decided I should at least try to do something about it by practicing a dog portrait. I thought I would have a go at painting my friend’s German Shepherd, Vedina (who works with her mama in an art supply shop in Italy).
-Permanent Chinese White
-Jaune Brilliant Dark
Daniel Smith Watercolours
Creative Mark Rhapsody Kolinsky Sable Round size 4
Isabey Kolinsky Sable Round size 1
Isabey Kolinsky Sable Round size 3/0
Canson Heritage Watercolour Paper – 300gsm Rough (150X210mm)
After transferring the greylead line onto the watercolour paper, wash a light layer of Potters Pink over the dog’s tongue and the insides of her ears. Mix a very watery wash of Jaune Brilliant Dark and Yellow Ochre and wash this over the left side of the dog’s neck and head and the whole chest/torso area under her chin. Mix a little Venetian Red and Spinel Brown so you get a slightly reddish brown and apply this in thin strokes along the dog’s forehead and nose and down her back, as well as a few strokes anywhere the fur looks reddish. Now make up a weak to medium wash of Burnt Umber and run this along the edges of the dog’s ears (as well as in the fluffy areas), down her back and in a few places along her collar and head. At this stage the colours should be fairly loose and light as you will build up the colour in multiple layers.
Make a medium wash of Payne’s Grey and put this over all the dark areas of the dog, especially her muzzle (make sure to leave some highlights for her lips and the top of her nose) and the blackish fur on her back and near her ears. Build up some darker strokes of Burnt Umber around the black patch on her back and under her collar, as well as to the left of her muzzle and around her ears. Build up some more strokes of your reddish brown made from Venetian Red and Spinel Brown, focusing on the fluffy areas around her ears. After this is dry, put another layer of Payne’s Grey over the darkest areas (her back, the left and underside of her muzzle and nose and her eyebrows and ear fluff).
Continue building up the same colours you used in previous steps, gradually covering more of the pale tan areas leaving only a small amount under the dog’s collar and chin. Switch to a smaller brush to create the fur texture on the dog’s head, following the direction of her fur with your brushstrokes. Put another, stronger layer of Payne’s Grey over most of the dog’s muzzle and face except for the bridge and tip of her nose and just under her eye, then, when everything is dry, use almost pure Payne’s Grey to draw the outline and pupil of the dog’s eye.
Add a little more Potters Pink to the inner part of the dog’s ears, then mix some Permanent Carmine with Potters Pink and paint the dog’s tongue, making it slightly darker at the top where it is in shadow from her mouth. Layer more Payne’s Grey over the darkest parts of the dog’s muzzle and let this dry. Mix a black from Payne’s Grey and Burnt Umber and use this (watered down slightly) to colour the darkest shadows under the dog’s chin and on the front of her nose, plus some of the darker markings on her head and cheek. Now use the same colour in its purest form to colour in the dog’s nostrils and redefine the outline of the dog’s eye and pupil. Some of the highlights beside her nostril and on her lips are still the white of the paper at this point, so now is a good time to put a very weak Payne’s Grey over it, just to tone down the pure white. Add a few little dots on her muzzle beside her nose to give the impression of whiskers. I also darkened the area under her eye slightly as it looked too light compared to her face.
Once this is dry, put a little bit of shadow in the top half of the eye with Payne’s Grey. Then, once that’s dry, put a light layer of Burnt Umber mixed with a tiny bit of Indian Yellow and Venetian Red (you want a rich, golden brown for this bright eyed dog’s gaze). Make sure you leave the white highlight in the top right corner of her eye. If you’ve accidentally painted some grey over her tooth (like I did), put this back in with a dot of Permanent Chinese White. For her tag, mix Yellow Ochre, Indian Yellow and Permanent Chinese White into a very pale gold. Any visible parts of the chain under her fur can be painted using Payne’s Grey mixed with a bit of Permanent Chinese White (don’t make it too dark or it will detract focus from her face). Once the tag is dry, you could either build up more of a gold colour by layering more Yellow Ochre and Indian Yellow, or if you want an excuse to use sparkly paints (and who doesn’t love sparkly paints?) you could just use a metallic gold watercolour over the top of it. Most metallic watercolours will do a good job, but I used Daniel Smith’s Iridescent Gold as that’s what I had handy. All that’s left to do now is sign your name, using any leftover light tan (Yellow Ochre and Jaune Brilliant Dark) mixture you have.
I hope you’ve enjoyed painting this German Shepherd. I was pleased with how it came out, and I look forward to trying my hand at more animal portraits.