This is a demo dog watercolor painting of the wonderful spaniel Leo. I’m working with someone who wants to do a series of 3 paintings of Leo and this is the first. It’s great fun and I’m especially pleased with that bow tie.
Dog Paintings are Rare for me
I don’t do a lot of dog paintings. If I owned a dog I would probably do more but I don’t. This means I’m pretty reliant on other people’s reference photos. Of course I could paint dogs from life but I’m not sure I’m quick enough for that kind of thing. I leave that to the pros like James Gurney who, if you don’t already know about him, does a lot of fabulous work of all kinds.
Pet Photos can Vary in Quality
So if I’m reliant on other people’s photos that is usually a problem unless they’ve got a really good eye. You need really good lighting and a good pose to make a decent painting. And a lot of phone snaps (and I include myself in this) aren’t taken in great conditions. A lot of photos of pets are taken from above by a person standing. The lens distortion results in the poor dog’s nose looking 5 times as big as it is in real life which can be quite disconcerting. This is so common that some painters make a whole series of these paintings. They can be quite striking but it’s not for me. My advice if you’re going to do a pet portrait is to try and take some photos yourself. They don’t have to be fantastic but you’ll have more control over the viewpoint, lighting and angle and that can make all the difference.
But Leo Looks Wonderful Here
But the photo for this dog watercolor painting was wonderful. Leo belongs to a student of mine and she wanted to paint him in all his finery. As luck would have it he has wonderful fur to paint. I dread painting a black dog in low light. No form! No shadows! This photo was great and he has a combination of black and white fur which is always a good combination. In fact one of my favorite dog watercolor paintings of mine is this basset hound. It has the same pattern of fur and some decent lighting.