When I make custom animal art, I’m often asked how I go from reference photo to painting on canvas. So I’ve created an ongoing series documenting my pet painting process. This weeks dog art feature is a memorial for a spirited chihuahua named Lulu.
Before bringing canvas into it, I spend some time with the reference photos, looking for the best lighting, angle and crop to make a composition.
In this case, we were using a photo of Lulu and her friend as the primary image for the painting, but focusing in on Lulu herself. I sent over a digital mock-up to my client when I had a crop that looked good.
From there, I started getting the dog on canvas!
To complement her fur and make the painting pop, we chose pink as the background colour. I filled that in before getting too far with my canine subject’s colours because I want the tips of the fur to extend over the background, creating the illusion of depth,
Now that the sketch and background are complete, I can get into the fun phase of painting a pet portrait in oil: blocking in colours. As I work, I’m looking for big shapes, and blending as I go.
Painting in this way lets the larger brush impart as much detail as possible, before I go in with a small brush to augment finer hairs and add highlights.
With the final highlights in her eye, she’s all done!