Gouache: Christmas Puppy (demonstration)

A friend who works in an art supply shop in Italy recently got a new German Shepherd puppy. As this this friend often sends me gifts of art supplies, I like to paint her a personalised Christmas card each year, and I thought the puppy would make the perfect subject for the 2022 card.

Art Spectrum Gouache:
-Titanium White
-Primary Yellow
-Primary Red

Holbein Gouache:
-Pure Red
-Ultramarine Deep
-Burnt Sienna
-Burnt Umber

M Graham Gouache:
-Payne’s Grey

Schmincke Horadam Gouache:
-Titanium Gold Ochre

Winsor & Newton Designers Gouache:
-Naples Yellow

Schmincke Horadam/Pearl Metallic Watercolours:
-Ice Blue

Winsor & Newton Artists’ Watercolours:
-Smalt (Dumont’s Blue)

-NEEF 970 Taklon Glaze (size 1/8)
-NEEF 970 Taklon Cat’s Tongue (size 2)
-Princeton Neptune Synthetic mop size 6
-Isabey Kolinsky Sable Round size 3/0

Fluid 100 Watercolour Paper – 300gsm Cold Press (255X200mm folded in half to make a card)

Step 1
Tape down your paper, and then draw the linework for the puppy and the presents. I find it helpful to outline significant changes of colour (such as when the puppy’s fur goes from black to cream) so you can reserve the lighter areas more easily; with gouache, most of the lines will end up being covered anyway by the time the painting is finished.

Step 2
Add a light wash of Pure Red to the top and bottom boxes and a light wash of Payne’s Grey to the ribbon on the middle box. Apply a light wash of Titanium Gold Ochre to the puppy’s front legs, hind leg and the golden areas on her chest and around her muzzle, as well as a few little spots near her ears and her eyebrows, using light feathery strokes at the edges of the chest and neck areas. Use a diluted Burnt Umber and the same feathery strokes to layer in the darker fur around the puppy’s chest and ears, as well as her upper hind leg, tail and shoulders. With a very light and weak wash Payne’s Grey, fill in the top of the puppy’s nosepad and the little highlight on top of her snout, then with an equally weak wash of Black, colour in the pup’s face, darkening this as you move to the top of her head and inside her ears. Add the dark shadowed fur under her chest with Black as well. Use a darker, stronger Black to fill in the front of the puppy’s nosepad and define her mouth.

Step 3
Apply a stronger layer of Pure Red to the right side of the top and bottom boxes. For the top, add a tiny bit of Titanium White to the Pure Red, and for the left side, add some Primary Red to the Pure Red to darken it. Colour in the ribbons on the red boxes with Primary Yellow with a tiny amount of Pure Red mixed in to warm it (adding the shadows in the bow by mixing a tiny amount of purple – I used a leftover mixture of Pure Red and Ultramarine Deep that was still on my palette from my last painting), and then colour the green box with Viridian (pure on the right side, lightened with a tiny amount of Titanium White on the top and darkened with a little Primary Red on the left).

Continue building up colours on the puppy by adding a stronger wash of Titanium Gold Ochre to the insides of her front paws and the underside of her hind leg, as well as her eyebrows (with a tiny bit of Burnt Sienna added to the thin line beside her eyes). Mix a tiny amount of Black into this colour to create the shadows under her toes and where her hind leg meets her body, as well as to the gold patch on the left side of her neck and chest, then add a little Burnt Umber to this and dilute it to create the lines between her toes. Add a lighter patch to the gold area on the right of her neck with a little Naples Yellow.

With a pure but diluted Black, continue building up the fur texture on the pup’s chest, neck and head, then darken her chin and some areas of her muzzle, leaving the highlight on top of her snout and on top of her nose and a slightly lighter patch just under each eye. Darken the inside of her ears with Black, and then apply another darker layer of Burnt Umber over the outsides of her ears.

Step 4
Build up another layer of dark fur on the chest, head and left side of the neck with Black; for the black areas on the right side of the pup’s body where the light hits her, let some of the brown underlayer show through. Add a little bit of fluff to the upper left of her left her with Black and then, with very light washes of Black, continue building up the shading on the puppy’s muzzle. Mix a dark brown using Burnt Umber and Black and use this to fill in the puppy’s eyes (be sure to leave a small light area around the edge for her eyelids), and once this is dry, use pure black for the pupils. Let this dry and add a tiny speck of pure Titanium White for the highlights.

Paint the floor with Ice Blue watercolour, and the background with Smalt Blue watercolour, blending some of the Smalt Blue down into the floor area. Mix some Burnt Sienna with the Smalt Blue to make a soft grey and lay in the shadows under the presents and around the puppy, making them darker as they get closer to the objects. Go over the silver ribbon on the green present with Silver watercolour, and the yellow ribbons on the red presents with Gold watercolour. Finally, use the grey shadow mixture to sign your name in the bottom left.

I hope you’ve enjoyed painting this puppy along with me. I realised while writing this post that I haven’t done proper reviews for a lot of the gouache I used yet, so I’m hoping to do that over Christmas once my academic workload has wrapped up for the year, though I only have one or two tubes for some brands (so maybe I’ll get myself a few more as an end-of-year treat).

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