Four years ago, when I had just started out with oil painting and painting full-time, the first dogs I was asked to paint were a pair of white poodles. I nearly had a breakdown over the job. It has got better with practise I am happy to say.
Here are my hard-won tips for painting fluffy white dogs (also work for fluffy white cats):
- punch up the contrast in the reference photo as much as you possibly can, so that any shadows at all in the fur are exaggerated
- Start off on a mid-toned canvas. This one is clear-primed linen. If it had been white-primed linen, I would have painted it first -and let that dry - a colour like this
- Paint the darks first. Here is where I was after first starting:
- Postpone adding white paint as long as you possibly can and if you must use white, make sure it is not tube-white: I use Michael Harding's Warm White or else mix in some of the shadow colours. The shadow colours here were Raw Umber, French Yellow Ochre and Lamp Black.
- Distinguishing between fur shadows in the light and fur shadows in the shade also seems to help. On these dogs, you can see that the shadows in the body colour of the left hand one are warmer than the shadows in the right hand one.
- If it's not looking right, make the darks darker don't immediately try to make the lights lighter.
If nothing works than wipe it off, take a break, have a large coffee and some chocolate and start again. White poodles and fluffy cats are both subjects that seem to benefit from regular breaks and chocolate.
Have a lovely weekend.