The level of detail in this work is calculated. I’m trying to strike a balance between a counterfeit reality and outright insanity. I want to suggest the texture of the sunlit arm of the couch without descending into painting every thread. Despite how it may appear, there isn’t as much fussy detail here as there seems. I’ve applied mixes of every color used to date in the couch to stroke in a few cords of texture, tapering off as the arm recedes. I used a wet-on-wet technique to avoid an overworked look.
I am especially pleased with how the texture of the canvas I am painting on came through the thin layer of paint to enhance the texture of material. Use what you've got!
I will revisit the background at intervals, but that portion of the painting is basically finished.
It is now time to start painting Melvin, the focus of this painting. This is where the painting will succeed or fail. First, I lay in the basics of the left side of his face using asphaltum, burnt & raw sienna, some Naples yellow, and a titanium/zinc white mix. There are traces of burnt umber, a color I don’t really care for, and lamp black.
This primitive stage is often discouraging.
I block in the ear, tighten up the eye, and I smash in the tones of his big snout. Things begin to shape up with these details, and I am happier with the results.
I have given some definintion to the muzzle, focused the eye more, and did some work on his flabby lips.
This side of his face has become acceptable for now. The other side of his head, the focal side must now be considered.
I complete the other side of his face and the critical focal point eye. The shadow side of his face will have to come down in value, and the bright whiskers on the right side of his nose will also go in later, although I have already fussed in some of his eyebrow whiskers above the left eye already.
Note: You can see in the detail on the right how thin my paint is kept.
The “eyes” have it.
In portraiture, yes, even animals, the essence of a successful capture radiates from the eyes. I toyed with the idea of having this hound look at the viewer, but decided against it. Instead, I went with that aloof, King of the Kennel look.
The eye is truly a fascinating object to paint. The clarity, luminosity and light-refracting wetness of the orb are all qualities I wanted to achieve. On the left you see a detail of the photo, and on the right is my interpretation of the eye in the painting.
With both the head and expression captured I’m into the final stretch. I began to paint in the mass of his chest, varying my colors with bits of almost everything used so far.
I refine the fur some more, and lay in the basics of his big fat foot. You can also see here how I’ve fussed some more with his muzzle, adding tones to suggest the rows of his whiskers. I have also defined the dimension of his floppy ears more. I added a stronger core shadow on the right-hand ear, brightened the highlight on the right side of that dark and added hue, a burnt sienna, in the dark-side to the left of the core shadow.
Below is a detail where you can better see the range of colors in white fur of Melvin's chest.
I worked out the second forefoot and the basic ripples of his flab, in and out of shadow. I won’t be worried about evening out the tones at this point. I’ll be able to balance them when I put down the next (and final!) layer of paint/glaze.
(That's the last little patch of bare canvas as well!)
Here’s the progress to date. I've completed all of the brown tones on his back.
I’ve painted in the rest of the “white”, as well as his hind-ham. Here I chose to use more green to harmonize the right hand-tones with the value on the left. Still requires adjusting, but nearly there!
(The canvas is completely covered now, except for the tip of his waggy tail!)
This detail more clearly shows the transition of the various changes in light. Up until now I have not really touched on one of the ultimate bugaboos in painting: edges. In most compositions you’ll want to strike a balance between hard and soft edges. The harder the edge, the more your eye is attracted. Softening the boundaries of areas outside your center of interest will make that center work harder for you. Fur by nature is soft. You can better see here the use I’ve made of green on his hind leg. To create the illusion of fur I simply extended the darks from the core-shadow well in the light. This was allowed to dry, and I then went over with a stiff mixture of white and stroked in the fur. I then darkened the tones beneath that leg, then rubbed in some reflected light on the under-side of the limb.
The waggy tail tip is now complete.
From the beginning, I wanted his right eye and the sunlit whiskers to be my focal point. Of the whiskers, I isolated the one that was critical to me, and that was the one curved whisker. Holding my breath, I got it right with my first stroke. I used a Liquin-ified mixture of titanium white and a 4/0 brush. The other whiskers, not too many, were easy to add.
This is it! I harmonized some more colors. I have darkened his back, the under-side of his hind-leg to bring his one visible hind-paw into sharper relief. I also darkened his front, the left-paw in shadow, belly, side, left-ear, and all the body creases; nearly everything!
This completes the painting.
It was odd for me to condense over a month of time into these few pages, but I hope you can find one or two things of value.
As I said in the beginning, this process is very adaptable and forgiving. I encourage you to try and adopt some (or all) of it in your own work.