Monday, March 3, 2014

Emma's Painting, Steps and Progress of a Watercolor Pet Portrait

The Best Portraits Begin with a great photo.
Paper is torn to size, wet down and stretched/stapled onto art board.

I sketch either directly onto the watercolor paper, or sometimes sketch onto the sketchpad and transfer the image to the watercolor paper (saves too many crazy sketch lines).

The next step is to add the masking, which is a glue like substance applied to paper to hold the fine white lines from the white of the paper.  If you look really close you can see the greenish glue around Emma's eyes.  It rubs off easily (when your paint is dry). 
I then begin adding thin washes of color, working light to dark.  This stage is pretty quick and rough, no detail, just thinking of where the dark areas are and which areas will stay light in value.  This is my favorite part!  Sloshing on loose washes of color. FUN.

Important to let the washes dry, before you add too many washes.  The colors dry so much lighter than they appear when wet.  
That is a great time to prop up the picture in the kitchen and make a green smoothie, check Facebook, emails.....throw the ball for the dog....

I keep working this way for days, slosh a little more paint on, let it dry and stare at it for a while to see where it needs to go.  Works much better if you have good music playing.  Loudly.

I use mostly Winsor and Newton Paint.  Arches 140 pound cold pressed paper.  I have a large covered palette with all my colors in it, but add the ones I am using for a particular painting on a little palette like this one.  My paintbrushes are a mixed bag of those I have found on sale at local stores.  Would LOVE some fancier, higher end ones when I have the money to buy some.

I spend a lot of time looking, that is what takes the longest, right here I liked it but it just looked too flat, I wanted the nose to come right out at you.  So I added some warm colors to the nose, and left side of the face and like that much better.  You can see that in the photo below.  About now, I removed the masking, always brightens the painting.  I work on the eyes a little at a time.  I know a lot of folks like to get the eyes done first thing. I used to wait until the very end, but I'm not as scared of them as I used to be, LOL.  I add a little color at a time throughout the painting, fine tune them at the very end.  

For portraits I like to smooth out the washes a bit and have it not be so chunky. I use an old oil brush with short bristles and wet it and rub at some of the harsh lines, in the direction of the hair.  I add some fine hairs, I don't paint every hair!  I just want to suggest it is hair without painting every single hair follicle.  

Finished!  Any Questions??


  1. Fantastic process pics! Thanks so much for showing! Gorgeous dog!

  2. What a gorgeous English Setter! Love hearing of your process, Maria.