How do I ACTUALLY Paint my Dog Portraits? Part Two of Tools & Techniques I employ to make your painting.

I begin to paint.  In my last post, we talked about the tools and techniques I employ to get the drawing of your dog onto my painting surface. (you can find it here).  In this second post, I’ll be writing about the actual painting of the canvas.

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Thank you for joining me on this second post about how I actually paint your dog.  My process is a long one - too much information for just one post! You can read the first post here.

So, we got to the point where we have our drawing, and the first sloshes of paint on our canvas.  As mentioned before, it’s at this point that I send out my ‘NOT FINISHED YET’ email to my client.

In my email, I state clearly that our painting isn’t yet complete, it’s about 50% underway.  I ask the client to sit with the photographs of the canvas (there are about 4 in the email) and dip back into viewing them a few times, perhaps send them onto a friend or partner.  Once the photographs are with the owner, I like to leave them for about 2 days to think about any tweaks and feedback.

This is a great part of the process.  We talk about background colours and how I envisage completing their painting - lots of lovely mark-making and brush marks or a more traditional approach (most are happy for lots of brush-marks)

Once again, I leave our painting on the wall for a few days to see, this gives me a feeling about which way I wish to proceed.

Once I’m clear I begin working on the canvas again.  I mix up colours and begin. I use a mixture of techniques, if the dog has lots of curly hair, I use my fingers to gain the right texture, if smooth, I might use a wide and soft brush and layer up thin coverings of paint.

The eyes, of course, are perhaps THE most important part of our painting - they have to be perfect.  The character of the dog, the mood and manor are pretty much all conveyed through the eyes so many hours are spent getting them right.  

The paint that I use is Acrylic.  I use these because are so fast and suit my personal tempo of painting…  (that sounds WAY too arty, sorry!)  Acrylic paints are plastic, so if and when mistakes are made (and there are many) I can simply paint over, dry completely with my trusty studio hair-dryer and go again.  

One of the problems I can encounter,  are to use too many thick layers of paint around tender places such as the eyes or the nose  - I work hard to avoid doing this (unless I intend them to be there). Working too many layers over the eyes or nose, may simply look wrong and if I paint over too many times, I could well be in danger of losing my painting and having to start all over again.

Knowing the various stages of your painting inside out is purely down to experience.

When I feel like I’m nearing finishing a painting, it’s a simple case of downing tools, hanging my painting back on my studio wall and leaving well alone for another good few days.  Via this process of living with your painting on my wall, I get to know it better.  I glance at it as I go about my days and this is the ultimate acid test in whether I am happy with it to leave my studio - or not!

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my process.  The journey takes about 3/4 weeks in total. I work on two, perhaps 3 canvases at any one time, picking one up as I hang another on my wall to rest.  Working on more than one canvas at a time ensures I keep my painting arm alive! The worst thing I could do is on one at time, it’s too much pressure for that one painting.

Obviously, I prefer to have three dog paintings on the go at any one time - this keeps my head totally in dogs - but if I have only one, I work alongside it on either stock paintings of dogs (which you can see in my gallery) or perhaps some landscapes or drawings unrelated to canines.  Working on more than one peice at a time, brings a freshness to all my works.

I am a funny human being I recognise!

Best wishes, if you have any questions, simply leave them below in the comments and I’ll reply as soon as possible.

Samantha