Mini Lesson – Painting the Cat

I should clarify the title:  we’re not literally painting the cat 🙂 🙂 🙂   This “mini-lesson” shows step-by-step how I created a watercolor painting of my cat, Abby.

  1. Begin by sketching the cat with an HB pencil.  Make sure your drawing is accurate!  Lighten the pencil lines by dabbing at them with a kneaded eraser.  Contrary to what most books say, once wet, these lines can’t be erased completely.

    Pencil sketch of cat, in preparation for painting a watercolor

  2. Mix the following puddles (a puddle is paint mixed with enough water to dilute it to the desired value):
  • Cobalt blue + Brown Madder (warm purple mixture)
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Burnt Sienna + Raw Umber
  • Burnt Sienna + Raw Sienna
  • French Ultramarine + Payne’s Gray + a bit of Alizarin
  • Sepia + French Ultramarine
  • Alizarin Crimson + French Ultramarine (make two puddless:  One very dilute warm & one cool)
  • Alizarin Crimson + Burnt Sienna
  • Raw Sienna + Ultramarine (very dilute for the cat’s eyes)
  • Viridian Green
  • Winsor Green
  1. Mask out small detail areas which you wish to remain white.

Use liquid frisket and a cheap brush coated with standard bar soap to “paint” these white areas.  When the frisket is dry it will look and feel a bit like dried rubber cement.

  1. Next I paint the base washes of the cat.

Base watercolor wash of a cat, in preparation for painting a watercolor

Glaze water over the entire cat until it glistens evenly;  drop in the following colors and combinations based on where they can be seen in the cat’s face:

  1. For the eyes use the diluted raw umber/ultramarine mixture;  then drop in viridian green;  add the pupil using sepia/ultramarine.
  2. For the ears paint the raw umber/burnt sienna mixture;  then drop in the cobalt/brown madder mixture;  finish with the ultramarine/Payne’s Gray/Alizarin mixture before the ear dries.
  3. For the face and body let raw umber/burnt sienna bump into ultramarine/Payne’s gray/alizarin, allowing the colors to blend alongside each other.
  4. Add Winsor green and drop in viridian for the collar.

** If necessary wet a section at a time to keep the paper wet while painting the cat.  It’s important that you paint wet-in-wet not wet-in-dry!!

  1. Allow all initial washes to dry completely.  Never paint into an area that has started to dry.
  2. Rub off the frisket to expose white areas.
  3. Add the final details:
  1. Use sepia/ultramarine for dark black highlights.
  2. Use Alizarin/burnt sienna for reddish highlights in fur
  3. Use a second glaze of raw sienna/burnt sienna and raw umber/burnt sienna to form the area around the mouth and nose.
  4. Use a 2nd glaze of alizarin/burnt sienna, cobalt blue/brown madder, and raw umber/burnt sienna for hightlights in the cat’s ears.
  5. The collar tag is created using alizarin crimson.
  1. Finally if you have lost whites such as the whiskers use a rigger brush and a diluted mix of permanent white gouache to paint over the watercolor.

Final watercolor of a cat.  Part of a mini-lesson tutorial for this blog artfulpassages.com

Hope you enjoy!  If you have any questions at all, please use the comment form below.

Thanks, and happy painting!

Watercolor Hummingbird Signature

Best Friends – the furry kind

“Whoever said that diamonds are a girl’s best friend….never owned a dog”

Watercolor painting of the word "Believe" with a Golden Retriever as a backdrop

I believed in Daisy, and I’m pretty sure she believed in me!

You often hear individuals describe themselves as a dog person or cat person.  I’ve always considered myself a dog person with a capital D!  I grew up with collies.  The “dog love” of my life was a golden retriever named Daisy.  She started out as my kids “best friend” but became mine when they grew up and left home.  Daisy turned gray with me and limped a bit, having sore hips just like me.  When I drew or painted she sat at my feet moving closer and closer.  This was very comforting except for the following moment.  Stop reading if you’re squeamish!   I had just sharpened 25 drawing pencils and placed them graphite point up in my pencil jar.  The bathroom was calling my name.  I took one step away from the drafting table.  As I put my foot down I nearly fell because it landed on the dog.  I heard a loud yelp.  To avoid hurting Daisy I dropped my hand toward the drafting table for support, and it landed on guess what?  Yes indeed all 25 pencil points!  Who said art was painless?!  It took an hour or so to pull the graphite points out of my hand.  Daisy was loaded with empathy.  She  acted a bit sheepish and concerned.

Watercolor painting of a three-colored cat named Abbey, sitting in a window sill looking out

Abby loves to stare out the window

Presently I’m a cat owner (or is she the real owner?).  Our three year-old adoptee Abby can probably avoid getting stepped on because cats are quick and limber.  Thanks to my husband, children, and a mostly friendly Abby, I have recently come to appreciate the finer attributes of cats.   I still miss the empathic love I felt with Daisy by my side, something I’ve never quite felt from the often aloof Abby.  Cat, dog, or whatever furry friend you may have, there is nothing quite like the love of a pet who can’t talk back.

Watercolor Hummingbird Signature