Rigel

Meet Rigel, from Cincinnati. As a young adult he was saved by a Bernese Mountain Dog rescue group, and quickly found his forever home, by showing off his warm and gentle personality and charming brown eyes. His family didn’t mind that his white blaze was crooked, it was part of what made him beautiful. Rigel was a true pack animal. He expressed his gratitude and always wanted to please those he loved. With them he traveled to places near and far, and he learned many human words. Of course all mountain dog breeds love winter, and Rigel enjoyed snowy days in his backyard among the spruce trees.

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Socksie

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I finally had an opportunity to paint a beagle! This is Socksie, a very sweet girl, who is dearly missed by her family. While I wasn’t able to meet her in person, I had many photos to work from that showed her playful, happy nature and beautiful beagle markings.

Here’s a peek at the portrait in various stages. A basic sketch establishes shapes, angles, and proportions of the dog’s body. Then a value study helps me understand her form, markings, and how she will fit into her environment. These first two stages involved some input from my client, which is an essential part of my process. I won’t move on to the painting until the preliminary drawing accurately shows the dog’s unique appearance and personality. After selecting my color palette (described in more detail below), I transferred the drawing to watercolor paper and began laying in color, from lightest to darkest.

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I’m a fan of limited palettes, so choosing my colors is a little project of its own. With a limited palette (2-4 pigments) all the colors I mix are related, and they work to unify the painting. Fewer tubes of paint in my work space also keeps me organized, and I don’t waste time trying new colors on the fly. (Although that can bring in some spontaneity, it can possibly mess up my painting and I don’t have time to redo a pet portrait in the weeks before Christmas.)

For Socksie’s portrait I needed to be able to make (1) summery greens for the grass and (2) the correct shades of amber and brown for her fur. I always choose my palettes around blue –  Which blue will give me the colors I need? Ultramarine (made dull greens) and cobalt and cerulean (not dark enough to make dark gray) were immediately ruled out. I also experimented with phthalo blue, and that was pretty close – it made some nice greens, but not quite the right browns (see below, left).

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I settled on Holbein’s royal blue (above, right). Mixed with burnt sienna, it made rich browns that ranged from rusty brown to a very dark and neutral gray. See that dark bluish gray? That’s exactly what I needed for the shadowy parts of Socksie’s back, side, and tail. Mixed with a bright lemon yellow, royal blue made a variety of greens. And by mixing the lemon yellow with burnt sienna, I found the warm, earthy golds and oranges necessary to show the sunlit parts of Socksie (on her face, ears, and right shoulder) and her grassy environment. For her pink tongue, a fourth pigment was needed – just a touch of cadmium red. So that’s it – 4 pigments in this entire painting!

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Rudy

Rudy

Rudy

This has been the most fun I’ve had creating a portrait. Rudy is quite an extraordinary little dog who has fought hard to overcome debilitating injuries. He’s just the sweetest guy – I feel so lucky to know him!

Prior to starting this portrait, we met up at a local park so I could take some photos of him and learn his story. Rudy walks on all fours now, but there was a time he couldn’t use his hind legs – he was in very rough shape at the shelter and not expected to survive. He was taken in by a wonderful family and treated by a group of veterinary surgeons, all who have made it possible for him to heal and have a very happy life. As a result of his trauma, he has lost one eye completely and is blind in the other. Rudy has a confident, curious, and charming nature that melted my heart instantly.

The natural garden in his yard is his favorite place to be, so that’s where I painted him – a summer afternoon among the clovers, black-eyed Susans, and lilies.

Indy

Indy

Sweet, gentle Indy. She is the seventh boxer I have painted!

This is another watercolor painted with a limited palette. I selected the colors based on what I would need to create her fur: burnt sienna, neutralized to different degrees with phthalo blue, or warmed with touches of cadmium yellow or quinacridone violet. The violet was a new tube (Holbein), so this was a great opportunity to see what magic this hue could make. Burnt sienna or the violet functioned as my red, except in parts of the collar and her tongue where I needed to cheat with a tiny bit of alizarin crimson.

Also, look at that green! ↓ Why bother with green paint when you can mix one that pretty?!

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