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Monday, December 02, 2013

Painting Cats and Dogs in Pastel

8x0      pastel on LacCarte pastel card               ©Karen Margulis
It was a good day to stay inside.  Rainy, cold and dreary with no errands to run and nothing else to do but paint.  So I took advantage of this opportunity and worked on some pet portrait commissions.  I have a totally different way of working when I paint animals in pastel so I though I would share some of the things I do.  Pet portraits make great gifts so if you paint....perhaps consider painting a favorite pet for a gift!  Here is my list of 10 things I do when painting animals.

my current pet portrait commissions all 8x10

  1. I usually sit down to paint animals. Because I tend to work small (8x10 or less) and I use more detail than my landscapes, it is easier to sit. I use a tabletop easel and tape my paper to a piece of foamcore.
  2. My favorite paper for animals is Sennelier LaCarte. I like all of the colors and I usually choose a paper color that will also be a part of the animal.
  3. My favorite pastels are Terry Ludwig. I don't use hard pastels exception below.  I LOVE Diane Townsend lights for the lighter fur colors.
  4. I never use pastel pencils for detail. I may use the sharp tip of a Nupastel for whiskers.
  5. I never use pure white. For white fur I use the lightest light that has some color....pale pale values of yellow and peach are great.
  6. I always paint a background. I am too sloppy to just let the paper show!
  7. I work on the background as I work on the animal....I never wait until the end.
  8. Background colors are intuitive.....basically what works with the animal. I may change it several times as the painting develops.
  9. I don't try to get a photorealistic portrait....My goal is to capture the animal's personality.
  10. I work from photos on my iPad. It is very challenging to work from distorted photos or photos with bad color and light.....but it does lead to a more expressive portrait.
This gives you an idea of the things I think about when painting an animal. I have a very definite order to the way I lay in and build the painting. It is all about the value and not the local color. I have a digital download demo with all the details and lots of photos. The demo is available in my Etsy shop for $6. You can follow along online or print it out and make a booklet.

If you are interested in commissioning a pet portrait I offer a custom order option in my etsy store. pastel portraits start at $100 for 5x7. For more information: https://www.etsy.com/listing/163134031/original-pastel-pet-portrait-custom?

1 comment:

robertsloan2art said...

Cat!!! PURR!!! Thank you for posting this entry! The lesson is great!

I love the background you used for the cat, that rich deep red shading off into blue is gorgeous and sumptuous. Very regal and it pushes her forward beautifully. I'm surprised you don't use white at all though, I would think white whiskers show up with a bit of more sparkle that way - but I can see other ways to do it too, like using the pale-pale complement of what it's against to make it more intense.

You also do something wonderful that took me a long time to learn. Shading the shadows on white and light fur enough to give natural depth. The toughest thing to learn is how bright the highlights on black fur get and how dark the shadows on white fur get.

I did a mostly white cat under lamp light from one side and daylight from the other that was a fun interplay of peach and blue pale tones. I didn't even go near white on that one because of the orange and blue lighting. Yet he reads as white! He was a Rex so his fur was curly and gave these interesting little on-and-off shapes between the color areas rounding him. I had pink and yellow in on the light side, violet and green coming in on the cool side, he was almost a full spectrum kitty.

Your dogs are great too, all of them show a lot of character. But I confess, I'm among the cat-obsessed here. I've loved them all my life and love painting their portraits. Your tips include cool things to try - and next time I'll dare to keep the white accents completely out of even the lightest areas and see what happens using hue contrast instead.