I get a lot of questions about how I make my pet portraits. This pet portrait video might help explain the process.
When I tell people I create their pet portrait digitally they sometimes think I plug-in a photo and the computer takes over. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
In reality, I approach each painting the same way now as I did before I ever used computers. The process is pretty simple:
- I create a rough but accurate sketch of the subject
- Create blocked in shapes (usually dark tones)
- Using large brushes, I work to model the major planes of the pet
- I work from dark to light
- I work from large brushes to small brushes
That’s a standard workflow for just about any portrait artist. In addition, that’s how I would work if I didn’t use a computer.
I DO use a computer, however, so to prove to those of you who remain skeptical that I really am painting a dog portrait, here’s a video of me painting my dog, Beorn with a view of my whole screen. The application is my favorite painting program, Corel Painter 2019. It shows the reference photo on the left and the portrait in the large area in the center. You can also see the palette where I keep my favorite brush styles to the right, with a layers palette set below.
The video is compressed down to about two and a half minutes. The painting itself took just over two hours.
Here’s the pet portrait video:
Please feel free to leave comments and/or questions below in the comment section. I’d love to hear what you think.
A couple notes:
- Early on, you can see a grid pattern on the photo and a matching pattern on the “canvas” or working area. This is a technique for transferring proportions and positions from a reference image to a drawing. It’s used by many artists when accuracy is important. For a pet portrait, it’s vital that the subject end up LOOKING like the subject, and a grid pattern helps to accomplish that. Just about half-way through you can see I drop the grid, but in truth, I could have dropped it much sooner. It didn’t occur to me until then as I get wrapped up in the process of painting and forget to turn it off.
- You can see early on that I dropped a bunch of bright red into the painting but covered it up later. I knew it wouldn’t be so dominant in the final image, but wanted it to peek through in places, which would add visual interest and “sparkle” to the final image. This is a common technique of mine because I’ve found it helps make even typically non-interesting parts of the portrait a bit more striking.
- You can see me fiddling a little with the hair under Beorn’s chin. In the photo he’s got a bunch of hair from his neck that looks like a little beard. I was trying to include that but eventually realized it wasn’t necessary and in fact wasn’t helpful to an accurate portrayal.