Working from a photograph, pet portrait

Looking at a photograph I took of my pet, I worked side by side – sketching without tracing. The initial sketch needed a few adjustments, and I erased and reworked as needed.


What I love about painting subjects I am intimately familiar with is I have a confidence of “knowing.” Instead of guessing or trying to recreate something from a photo of a place I’ve never been to or imagine something I’ve never seen, when I work from life and a subject I know intimately, I can be bolder in my expression. I don’t consider myself a great draftsman or sketcher, however, I think a good watercolor requires a good sketch. So I’m practicing. My goal is to try to master at least one element in the composition or exercise each day that expresses something I know.

Today’s piece was a sketch of my dog. I know that face, those eyes, that nose so well. I want to capture it with the tender feelings I possess. Pleased with what I put down on paper initially, I proceed to apply frisket to the sketch. It was my first time using liquid frisket, and so I made my first mistake (shaking the bottle and creating bubbles – something one is advised not to do because it introduces air into the bottle which can cause the latex frisket to congeal). I used a nib to apply the frisket, but I have seen artists use a paintbrush coated with dish detergent first (to protect the bristles) and plan to do that next time as I feel it will give me more control.


WP_20150226_026Next, I painted the first layer of paint in the background using a tube of magenta. While the paint was wet, I shook table salt onto the background to crate texture, and let that dry, while I began to shade the body of the main subject and work on the detail of the face. To me, rendering the face in a pleasant manner true to my pet’s image was crucial to the success of this exercise in my watercolor journal. Satisfied with how things were going, I then removed the salt, the frisket (using my fingers to remove both), and then added more texture and mood into the background sticking with shades of magenta, red, and blue.

WP_20150226_027Here’s the finished piece with additional effects added to the background to give it depth and substance. For this portrait, the eyes and face had to be spot-on. I feel good about how this came out. I surprised myself, and that’s always a joy.



2 thoughts on “Working from a photograph, pet portrait

  1. I’ve recently been trying to draw my sister’s cat (no blog posts as of yet), but you’re right, one false move around the face and it simply isn’t the same pet! Your result looks great and really captures the photo!


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