Come fall, and the requests for watercolor portraits start pouring in. I am always amazed at how organized people are about getting their holiday shopping done so early in the year. I just worked on this piece of a pair of really fun Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. I took some photographs of the piece in progress, and thought I’d share how I created it.
Step 1: Blocking in with pencil.
I worked with a fixed size for this piece, so it was important to compose for the size. I always work on a much larger sheet than I need, as it allows me to move the boundaries of my image up or down, to the left or the right, even after I’ve drawn it in. See the line here on the left side of the image? That was supposed to be my left boundary. I eventually moved it out further to give the image some space to “breathe” on that side.
Step 2: Drawing in the details
I draw in a few more details: Some lines to indicate mass and details on the face. But I let the rest of the composition remain loose.
Step 3: Pen and Ink
I use an extra fine sharpie for my line. The trick is to NOT draw in every detail with pen. The line and the color, which comes next, need to complement each other and create a complete picture, and too much information with either line or color would leave no room for the other…
Step 4: The first watercolor wash
King Cavalier Spaniels are tricky to paint since they are black and white. An all-light-colored or all-dark-colored dog would be easier in terms of choosing a background. With this piece, I take inspiration for this breeds name: This is the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Party Colored. With a fabulous name like that, I had no choice but to go bright, happy and fun on the background :). I work wet-in-wet, with no base wash, just bold colors.
Step 5: A second wash, adding depth
My next wash: More saturated colors. I work on both the foreground and background together, leaving out the darkest darks and lightest lights. Working on the background and foreground together keeps them related, in color and in how I handle them. I’m still working wet-in-wet, and with a big, round brush.
Step 6: Details and splatter
Time to switch to a smaller brush for details: eyes, noses, light tones in the whites of the fur. I use colors from the puddles I end up with in my palette. That way I there are no surprising and distracting new colors in my painting. Instead they’re more complex colors related to the brights I’ve been using so far. And then it’s time for splatter: I love splatter. I load saturated color in a brush and splash away. The tough part is stopping.
Step 7: Final details and I’m done!I don’t always add pencil, but it felt right here: white pencil for whiskers and fur. And a little bit of a dark blue-grey pencil in the darks of the ears and eyes. All done.
Happy Painting! If there’s steps here in the process that don’t make sense, just ask, I lve talking watercolors!
And if you’re looking for a custom portrait (yes, I do people portraits too), you can email me or order through the ‘Custom Portraits’ section of my Etsy site, where you can see a few more examples of pieces I’ve worked on.