Wednesday, 1 July 2015

A little Cavalier

Oil painting of a cavalier king charles spaniel, a dog painting by Karen
Here is a painting of a dear little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. There were a number of things to think about when I painted this: mixing the fur colour, achieving length and depth to the fur whilst still completing the work in one session, modelling the form under his white fur and ensuring that the dark background did not accidentally mix into his red/orange fur and create mud.
I started with his eyes, as I usually do:
dog oil painting of a spaniel in progress

and found myself beginning to work outwards from the eyes - because the colour of the surrounding fur contributes to forming the distinctive eye shape. However, I quickly realised this was a daft idea with a size 0 sable brush and switched to his nose:
dog oil painting of a spaniel in progress
Despite the large number of dogs I have painted over the last 2 years - about 300 I think - I still find this fur colour difficult to mix. Here are some colour charts I have made for "orange" dogs - or teddy bears -
For this dog, I used Rembrandt Transparent Oxide Red, Cad Yellow Medium, W&N Yellow Ochre and Transparent Oxide Brown for the shadows. What I find tricky is judging whether the dog's fur has a yellow undertone or a red one. Usually it is yellow, but not always (like this one) and then it is important, in the lighter values, to avoid sliding into something that is too pink. 
On this WIP shot you can see me still struggling to find the balance between red or yellow dominant:
Finally, painting long-haired dogs is more difficult than smooth coated ones as a general rule, especially if you are trying to do it in one session. 
For commissions, I don't: I decide on 3 or 4 layers of fur and work from the skin up allowing each layer to dry. For daily paintings, I benefit from remembering that bristle brushes are as good at taking paint off as they are at putting paint on. Putting the flicks of orange fur over the top of his (wet) white fur was not achieved first time. Or second. Or third. Each time I wasn't gentle enough with the brush work or "flick-y" enough,  the red and white paint merged into a mess. So I took it off with a brush or a cotton bud and repainted.
For a long time, I thought painting "alla prima" meant that literally every brush stroke had to be right first time. This is nonsense, of course. The day it dawned on me I should stop trying to correct mistakes and simply remove them instead and do it again was a revelation.