It's all in the eyes!
Join PA Jean Haines in her article on painting dogs in a loose style
In this feature we are going to look at painting dogs in a loose style by looking at their eyes. As always we need a really good model to work from. As you can see my own wonderful pups aren't really helpful in that I can never see their eyes. They will be more suitable for when we start looking at how to paint fur!
However this doesn't ever stop me from painting them. Just capturing noses alone can really create a fantastic painting as this row of friends (above) clearly shows.
Tip: Before we even start painting we know we need to find an excellent model that appeals to us as a subject. We also need to open our imagination.
A variety of eye shapes and colours will give you an idea of what to aim for and also help you look for differences. Practise a few "eyes" to warm up. Time taken to think at this stage will really benefit your way of working once you pick up the brush.
Throw your pencil away and start with some simple circles of colour leaving small white sections for the highlight of the eye. While they are still wet drop some water into the lower section of the circles and let this push the pigment away to form a softness for the shine of the eye. Use curved brushstrokes.
Next paint eyes with a little more detail. Experiment with unusual colour combinations dropping in several shades to your circles at a time to merge and create stunning results. Allow time for each new pigment that you add to dry and form patterns which in turn will create interest in your results.
Study your subject to paint an outline shape. For the iris work around the white highlight area. Remember older dogs' eyes will be less defined.
Smudge colour and detail to give the illusion of old age. Clean fresh vibrant colours give the illusion of a young dog. Bear in mind the highlight really does accentuate the direction the eye is looking. It also gives character and interest to your subject. Little details make all the difference.
Next add some darks and work away from the eye. Look at colour in the surrounding hair area and create harmony by dropping pigment from the eye colour into the fur sections and vice versa for interest. In Image 3 I have painted a dog that had mainly grey fur. To add warmth and interest I added golden tones from the eye colour into the fur. Playing with where and how to place colour really does add life to what could otherwise be a very dull painting. Always think about the colours you are using and where you are going to place them. Try to make a subject far more exciting than it really is. Use a variety of brushstrokes to give an illusion of movement or shape.
Tip: Take time to look closely at your chosen subject before you start painting.
I really would like you to experiment with colour, shape and working without a pencil. Being guided only by what you see in shapes with the focus only on the eyes and nose.
Try to incorporate an eye and a nose in a painting but with very little detail. Stop at a half finished stage long before you think your painting is finished. Leave your work and look at it over a few days letting your brain fill in what is missing. Working with very little detail and giving less information in a painting can often intrigue the viewer and leave them using their own imaginations to determine what they see.Tip: KEEP YOUR WORK SIMPLE (And don't fiddle!)
Tip: With good quality materials we improve our chances of great results. I recommend good quality watercolour paper because you will be working with large amounts of water to carry pigment in these techniques.
Try looking at a variety of dog breeds and try to paint just half a face; with a soft wet nose and bright clear eyes, or a nose with detail and soft eyes. Hint at what the subject is and tell a story with your brushstrokes.
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