This “mini-lesson” shows step-by-step how I created a watercolor painting of a German Shepard named Lobo.
- Begin by sketching the dog 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.
- Mix the following puddles (a puddle is paint mixed with enough water to dilute it to the desired value):
- Cobalt blue + Brown Madder (3 puddles: warm purple mixture, red mixture, cool bluish mixture)
- Burnt Sienna
- Burnt Sienna + Raw Umber
- Burnt Sienna + Raw Sienna
- Sepia + Brown Madder
- Sepia + French Ultramarine
- Violet + Burnt Sienna (make two puddles: one more chocolate, and one more burnt sienna dominant)
- Alizarin Crimson + Burnt Sienna
- 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.
- Next I paint the base washes of the dog.
Glaze water over the entire dog until it glistens evenly; drop in the following colors and combinations based on where they can be seen in the dog’s face:
- For the eyes use the raw sienna/burnt sienna & burnt sienna/Alizarin mixtures. Outline with the cobalt/brown madder mixture, add the pupil using sepia/ultramarine.
- For the ears paint the raw umber/burnt sienna mixture; then drop in the cobalt/brown madder mixture; finish with the ultramarine/sepia mixture before the ear dries.
- For the face and body let raw umber/burnt sienna bump into ultramarine/sepia & violet/burnt sienna, allowing the colors to blend alongside each other.
** If necessary wet a section at a time to keep the paper wet while painting the base washes of the dog. It’s important that you paint wet-in-wet not wet-in-dry!!
- Allow all initial washes to dry completely. Never paint into an area that’s started to dry unless you’re using thick paint straight from the tube.
- Rub off the frisket to expose white areas.
- Add the final details:
- Use sepia/ultramarine for dark black highlights.
- Use Alizarin/burnt sienna for reddish highlights in fur
- Use a second glaze of raw sienna/burnt sienna and raw umber/burnt sienna to form the area around the mouth and nose.
- Use a 2nd glaze of alizarin/burnt sienna, cobalt blue/brown madder, and raw umber/burnt sienna for highlights in the dog’s ears.
- The collar tag is created using alizarin crimson.
- Use lifting to add lighter areas in the fur.
- 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.
Hope you enjoy! If you have any questions at all, please use the comment form below.
Thanks, and happy painting!
The dogs in this painting/card are named Mufasa and Rafiki. As the card suggests they are truly friends. They are friends because they live together, and to a large extent because they are both dogs. I met them when I first submitted a rack of my cards to the Decorator Warehouse in Lexington. Mufasa and Rafiki are “store dogs”, happily spending their days with shop owner Natalie.
Ironically and more unexpected friends: Sam, our family dog many years ago, and “George”, the orphan baby blue jay. These two became friends as I nursed George back to health. I fed George every day with Sam, still a puppy, watching. As the jay learned to fly Sam became very interested, especially when he saw the bird poop on my friend’s head and my drawing in the same day. When he was ready we released George near the town home where we lived at the time. When I walked Sam the blue jay would follow us, flying high in the sky. When I swam in the complex pool, George perched nearby on the fence. When I opened the door to our house, George would fly inside take a bath in the small tub of water on my drawing table. The entire neighborhood came to know and delight in seeing George and Sam frolic together.
It was the perfect yet dangerous (for George) friendship, a result of how a baby bird imprints on whoever it spends time with, in our case a dog and humans. Following this imprinting experience with George I learned how to care for wild animals in a way to prevent such connections. My ignorance in George’s case gave us the opportunity to really appreciate the antics of George the Jay, and our puppy Sam.
Thanks for listening!
“Whoever said that diamonds are a girl’s best friend….never owned a dog”
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.
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.