A watercolor portrait in steps: Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

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.
step1

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.
step2

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…
step3Step 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.
step4

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.
step5

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.
step6

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.
step7

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.

About Suhita Shirodkar

obsessive-sketcher. graphic designer.
This entry was posted in How to, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to A watercolor portrait in steps: Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

  1. Carmen says:

    Suhita,
    Thanks for doing this:) Reading your steps i understood how water coloring works…and i liked the most the step that is tough to stop doing it : splash away with saturated colors…it sounds so sophisticated …I will never say splatter again:))
    From the way you explained it i think that you have not only a great gift with brush and color but also with teaching others how to sketch away!
    Good luck with all!
    Carmen

  2. Beliza says:

    Thanks for sharing your work process with us. It is so interesting to see how people get to the results we see and love.
    I think the different steps are very well explained. I’m not completely comfortable with watercolour yet, so this is very useful. Thanks again Suhita!

  3. Jaci says:

    Suhita, it was so fun to watch the process and to see your painting come to life!

  4. Sara says:

    Really loved seeing your processes, and the end result is gorgeous. I have a soft spot for those dogs as I used to have one. Their full name is Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

  5. Anna Almeida says:

    Really beautiful watercolour painting! I love the fact that you mixed some different and unusual colours in this painting. If this work was painted with ‘regular’ colours it would get a bit boring !,
    Anna

  6. Sarah says:

    What a great drawing Suhita, I actually own a Cavalier King Charles and they are amazing dogs! A lot of people tend to think they are very hard to manage, hyper & difficult to train but ours has been amazing! And if any of you fellow readers plan on getting one i suggest you do some research!! – http://petvoice.com/cavalier-king-charles-spaniel/ a good place to start!

  7. Reblogged this on Traces of the Soul and commented:
    Step by step how to actually sketch and watercolour!!

  8. Tanya says:

    Wow Suhita, you make it sound so easy, you are very talented. I’ve always wanted to draw, now thanks to your step by step I’m going to give it a go:)

  9. Beautiful! The vast majority of my water color paintings involved a lot of sea and sky, since the first thing I learned how to do was blend different colors together … and that’s pretty much all I learned, lol. So I have beautifully shaded skies … beautifully shaded lakes … and then absolutely nothing else in the painting :D

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