Full Great Dane Painting Video (breakdown below)
In this post, I’ll walk through what I’m doing when painting black dogs in more detail. Check out the video for a 3-minute demonstration!
As with most animal paintings, everything starts with getting the anatomy right first and—then progressing through the different values. In oils, you usually start with darks and then go lighter and lighter, and this portrait is no exception.
Learn more about Zann’s pet portraits >
Starting with the Sketch & Background for this Great Dane Painting
First, let’s take a look at the sketch of Buddy.
To start off, I’m pretty loose.
I don’t use projection or tracing to do a paint by numbers outline or anything, so you can see I’m constantly correcting where I think the edges of this Great Dane puppy are.
Next up, I’ll fill in the background. That way, our pup can be painted on top.
I like to use neutral colours for my pet portrait backgrounds— it keeps the focus on the subjects, and all dogs naturally have neutral tones in their coats. With black dogs, this means the reflective highlights in their fur is some of the most colourful areas in the whole painting!
Below, you can see what the piece looks like after this stage.
Working Dark to Light Painting Black Dogs' Fur
This part of the portrait process is easier to see in a video.
Basically I’m starting with black paint and a large brush and filling in shadows. I’m not worrying much about details because those will come later.
Finishing the Great Dane Puppy Painting with Highlights & Details
Finally, adding fine details like individual hairs makes the piece sparkle.
And for this last step, I use a smaller brush.
When painting black dogs and other dark fur, the texture and multicoloured highlights are achieved by alternating between deepening shadows and adding bright highlights. These small details draw your eye to lifelike details all around the dog’s face and eyes.
This portrait of Buddy is just over life-sized, at 24″ x 30″. As you can see, this size looks wonderful on the wall!