Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Making a Dog Portrait Drawing

Here's what's on the easel right now. Hannah, a lovely German Shepherd Dog. She is IN PROGRESS, here -- not finished, and in fact no longer looks quite like the photo below:

Hannah in progress. 14 x 11" mixed media on paper.

This photo was done after I added watercolor washes to much of Hannah's fur. I've already gone back in with my pencils and given a lot more depth and detail to the right side of her ear-base and face (the left side of the picture). But the sun has gone down and I don't like to take photos at night, for reasons you'll see in a moment.

Above, the pre-watercolor stage. At this point what I had was her basic form and some of the darkest dark areas, drawn in with a Wolff's Carbon Pencil (my favorite for detailed black line and shading).

Below, an earlier shot, done at night with a flash. THIS is why I hate taking photos at night, and incidentally, why I try to get my clients to photograph their animals in daylight and without a flash. It's the harsh light from the flash that turns everything icy blue.

Lousy color notwithstanding, if you click this photo to zoom in on it, you'll see what I was up to in the very beginning stages of this drawing. I had worked out the proportions of my image, and printed it at 9 x 7" so that I could translate it easily to 14 x 11" in the drawing. The lines I drew on the print are grid lines which I replicated, to scale (and very lightly) on my drawing paper. The grid is a centuries-old artist tool for ensuring accurate proportions, and while I don't always use it, it can really help reduce the time I spend correcting and re-correcting.

You can also see two other lines if you look closely. One goes from the left to right ear-tips, and the other down the middle of the head in front. Those are directional lines I sketch in to ensure that I'm seeing the correct angle of the head and that my ears aren't wandering off from where they ought to be. It's so easy to get caught up in the intricate details of eyes and ears, and miss seeing (until later) that their size or placement is wrong!

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