Dog portrait commision “Take One”

I recently got my first commission to paint a pet portrait, and for some reason it intimidated me a bit, to portray the character and soul of the pet in watercolor, especially when I don’t know the pupper.  I did a portrait of our Tulie dog, but this was different.

I found LOADS of other things to do of course, I can rule at procrastination without trying too hard!  but I finally determined to start and document my progress.  This is the first study.

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In preparation for the eyes, I watched two videos, one by Jake Winkle  and the other by Jean Haines .  Jake talks about making glow in the eyes (and other places) but mingling cools and warms and starting with the blue highlight of the eye (reflecting the sky) with cerulean.  Jean talks about making sure to soften the edges of the eyes, and nose for that matter, by blending out the edges with a damp brush, at least here and there, so the elements don’t look glued on top of the face.

The colors I planed to use were Quinacridone Burnt Orange and Quinacridone Burt Scarlet, Carmine, Cobalt and Indanthrone blue.  Not sure if I added others in there, but those are the mingling splotches to the right of the portrait.

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So here are the stages of progression of the portrait.  I figured I would do several studies and perhaps one would be the one the owner picks, or I may need to do more.  We’ll see how it goes.

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I don’t like the right eye, as we’re looking at it, it’s too large and doesn’t have the glow.  The other eye may be better but I’m curious to know what color the dog’s eyes are in real life, because in the photo they are blue and I’m not sure if that’s accurate.

I think as a further exercise before doing another study, I will do studies of eyes and noses randomly on a page and get the hang of the mingle of colors and the form.

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So that’s it for today’s posting.  What are you up to?  What suggestions or criticisms of the work do you have for me?  Thanks for stopping by…

26 thoughts on “Dog portrait commision “Take One”

  1. I love it! I think you have nailed it girl!!!!

    Just back from a weekend in Flagstaff for a wedding and HOPING to paint this week…June is already flying by!

    Hope to see you soon.

    Karen >


  2. I often thought of taking on pet portraits but in pastel and I know that doing portraits can be quite a trial especially trying to please the client. Sounds like you are on your way and I think that you’ll enjoy doing such a cute dog. Only thing I could offer you is perhaps softening the area where the mouth hinges (begins)? is that how you say it? lol no idea. The nose has a bit of a twist but you probably have seen that. I love the way you are handling the fur, giving it life and also “grounding”. Eyes are hard! boy, do I know that one… will be fun to see how you proceed and the final portrait. 🙂


    • Thanks for those suggestions on the softening and the nose twisting. I did see that but it’s good to be made aware of it again. I find the fur such fun! I don’t think I would want to do portraits of people, I find sketching them very difficult and I enjoy other things so much better, but dogs I don’t find quite so challenging. We’ll see how it goes…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s looking good. I’ll enjoy following your progress and seeing what steps you take to complete this commission. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from it.


  4. Congratulations on your commision, both jake winkle and Jean haines are inspirational artists. I think eyes and noses are the hardest, and a good photo I find is the most important thing to ensure these are clear, it’s like the soul of the animal, I always think if you get that right you can do what you like with the rest, I usually start with the eyes and work out, others end with the eye…..I guess it’s just a personal preference. I might sit and watch jake winkle’s video ,as I have had it for ages but never time to sit and watch.


    • Thanks Rebecca! I find them really inspirational too, well worth the watch. I love Jake Winkle’s owl especially in that dvd. I think working with the eyes first makes sense because if you don’t get them and the nose right, why continue? I kept working to try out techniques for the fur but I think a good study of noses and eyes is in order.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jake winkle lives not too far from me, he did a live demo for out local art group, gutted as I did not know till after the event, grrr, it would have been so useful, I love his work. He has done a piece of art work for our hospice auction, actually it is unlike some of his usual work, I plan to bid on it anyhow, although it is boats, which is not my fav subject.


  5. Rachel,

    Very good start. The blue in the eyes may be a reflection of the skies or what looks like the interior of a car. Having dark brownish eyes is a pretty safe bet, other than for certain kinds of malamutes or huskies. You might ask the owner what they think the eye color is or get a digital copy of the photo. Given that dogs eyes are convex and tend to move side to side in concert, the light reflection in the eyes should be fairly symmetric and usually of equal intensity.

    Jae Drummond teaches a workshop on eyes and said to do them first because they are most important to get right – especially with people. For human eyes, she wets the paper first where the color of the iris is planned, then when partially dry, drops to color in, to insure it has a soft edge, then the pupil dark is dropped in before completely dry. The sclera (“white” of eye) has a bluish tinge to look more natural.

    I actually like the dog’s left eye (right side looking at it) but brow could be softened a bit and long strands added to the medial (nose side) of the eyebrows.

    You have good spontaneity in the painting. Good luck.



  6. You’ve definitely got a happy subject and I think you’re heading in the right path by doing lots of eyes and nose studies so when you do the portrait on a full sheet, it will just flow from your brush.


    • Thanks Diane. I don’t remember having near this amount of trouble with the portrait of Tulie! probably a first time fluke… I’ve been painting a ton of them today and sketching the nose in great detail.


  7. Everything I could offer probably wouldn’t help you, as I’ve only painted one dog for another blogger here, and wasn’t really happy with it. The sparkle of the eye IMO is key, and I wouldn’t hesitate to make it larger than it appears in any picture. I’ve taken to doing that and it actually seems to enhance the likeness rather than detract. I think your colors are great and I’m seeing something off with the mouth I can’t quite place, Margaret probably picked it up, since she mentioned the hinge. Hope this is helpful. I’ll be curious to see how you go with it.


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