My palette : cobalt blue, yellow ochre, magenta and indigo. "A beautiful watercolor is first a great drawing".
The indigo will allow me to create dense colours, close to black, while blending it with ochre and magenta.
The cobalt blended with the same two pigments, will give me light shades of grey close to white.
Arches 140 Lb Hot pressed 12" x 16" . For once, I did not stretch my paper before painting.
I drew my portrait in Paris, to be able to paint at once in front of my students with a light 3H graphite pencil.
On the left the photo portrait of a drahthaar. Concentrate your eyes on his left ear. Do you see the blue reflection on the top of it? And one inch on the right, the violet-blue lock that becomes purple and ochre blond in the sunlight ?
Now look at the top of the skull. Do you see the blue, violet or purple shades, where the fur reflects the dark sky, while the fur on the forehead reflects the ochre and orange colours of the sunset?
On the right the same photo contrasted with photoshop to exaggerate these reflections. I drew blue, yellow and red lines pointing to the strongest shades in the dog's fur.
The first glaze will roughly give the prevailing colours in the fur.
My aim for that portrait painted in a workshop was a demonstration. So I ovedid it a bit, and exaggerated the colours. But I think now that it gave a more artful portrait. Glazes after glazes, these strong colors will blend.
Notice that from the first brush stroke, each lock is painted in the sense of the fur. From the beginning to the end, whatever the size of the brush, you should always comb the hair and remember that each brush stroke will be seen by transparency.
On the right side, this strong colour close to black is a mix of indigo, ochre and magenta.
SUCCESS WITH THE EYES
Is there anything worse than this blind mask ?
Before going on with the fur, I had to create the eyes of the dog to give a soul to the portrait. If the eyes turn out well, the whole painting will be successful.
As I paint in watercolour without adding white gouache, I have to search for the most intense light in the reference photo and always think to preserve it in my painting. My first brush stroke in the eyes will be for this white sparkle in the middle. I shall use a very light glaze of cobalt blue. So light, that I dont see the pigments when it is done. Nevertheless, I think it is really necessary.
Working on the iris, I paint a very light glaze of ochre and let it dry. The next glaze will add a mix of ochre and magenta on the edge of the iris. Then I start to paint the pupil with a mix of my three colors, close to a dark brown-red. I did not try to find the exact shade at my first glaze, not even the exact shape.
Colours are relative, their values change with their immediate surrounding. Consequently, I shall take my time before to finish the inside of the eye. While painting the eye lids with a very light glaze of indigo, I create a humid light reflection, even if it is not in the photo. I know that such a tiny detail will bring more life in the eye. Now thet my first glaze of the pupil is dry, using a very dark mix of pigments based on indigo, I paint the edge of the sparkle in the eye and what is pehaps the heart of the pupil. NB: I painted these eyes during the workshop. As we used to scan the portrait only once a day, I cannot show you images of all the stages. I shall try to create a special watercolour lesson, step by step, on "painting the eyes".
A few steps further, details of the same eye.
As you may see, instead of adding a glaze on the iris to get closer to its brown red color, I chose to keep the transparency of the thin original ochre layer and added red-brown streaks. They give at the same time more volume to the eye.
The lower eyelid was not painted in one horizontal brush stroke, but with small vertical strokes to give matter and volume.
On the upper eyelid, you see my three basic colors : blue, yellow and magenta.
On the eyebrow but also on the top of the head, I paint the wooly fur with "tremolo" brush strokes. Even if I paint stronger glazes over it, your eyes will see it and feel the impression of wool.
On the final image, the basic colors are still there, as strong as at the beginning: The magenta and indigo mixed in a deep violet blue sing beside their opposite colour ochre.
A Very Moist Nose
Most of the time, a healthy dog has a very moist nose. The nose of the dog will allow the painter to give light, life and brilliance to his portrait. So take your time to succeed it.
Underneath, a blow-up of the first glazes.
The top of the nose has been painted wet on wet, with a light cobalt shade and a darker mix on the right side, where you can see a few magenta and ochre pigments. With a large brush I sucked part of the cobalt pigments to give more light on the top.
On the left, you see the first glaze of the nostril. On the right, the attempt to paint its relief. It seems perhaps difficult to realize, but it is not. Have a closer look. You have streaks to the right crossing streaks to the left. Easy and quick, but giving a great effect, even with darker shades painted over it.
The proof underneath !
As the fur was getting more colour and contrast around the nose, I dared to give more value to my nose. I damped again all the top of the nose and part of the fur around it, before adding a mix of cobalt and magenta, wet on wet , wthout laying any pigment on the light.
The hole of the nostril is painted with indigo, magenta and ochre, wet on wet first, then dry on dry. The darker the shadows, the brighter the light.
This detail shows the fine work on the dog's moustache. Once more you can see brush strokes of pure colours, whose shades are changing by superposition.
The blind mask of the beginning take sense as soon as the eyes appear. The whole head is searching for its balance between nose and eyes. Consequently, you have then to counterbalance colours and masses.
A Dog Portrait Close to "Fauvism"
Notice the background :
Nearly pure ochre at the bottom right, pure cobalt on the top left and a violet blue (cobalt-magenta) at the bottom-left
painted wet on wet.
Dedicated to my friend, Nina Gagarin.
I hardly worked 3 days on this portrait during this workshop in Palm Beach. So it is not really finished.
I could hardly be concentrated enough during the workshop hours, while each one of my students was hoping for my particular attention and advice on their own work. On sunday, I painted about 10 hours as on monday morning, I had an appointment in a gallery to present my paintings.
This Fine Art gallery use to present, each year in Palm Beach, the Willian Secord's dog paintings.
I did not meet him, but he saw my work. Next year perhaps ?
Look at this photo in B&W. Interesting, is not it ?