I love to travel and I love maps. They tell me where I am and show me how to get where I want to go, and they give me the secure feeling that I won't get lost and lose my way. When I first started painting animal portraits, I really did feel lost, especially in painting the face. It's not like painting a flower, where you often have discrete flower petals to paint one at a time--a face and body of a critter usually has subtle variations in shading. How was I to find my way to ensure the highlights and shadows appeared in the right place?
The answer to my dilemma was shown to me when I ran across Judy Treman's book Building Brilliant Watercolors in the library. I discovered the magic of what she calls "disappearing purple", or as others call it, underpainting. I also ran across this purple underpainting technique in Lori Andrews blog in her painting of a barrel cactus. Using purple, mixed from a blue and a rose, you first paint the darks in your subject. This then provides a roadmap for where the darker-valued local colors come in later. For a portrait of Casey, a 4-month-old laborador retriever, I first did the purple underpainting:
With that underpainting, I then have a values roadmap for when I add in my local color:
Casey is of course an exceptionally cute puppy. I have a big weakness for puppies, especially large breed puppies! When I initially tried photographing him, he was super active and in the low light of the owner's kitchen I could not get an image that was not blurred given the limitations of my Canon G9 camera. But after a time, he pooped out, and saying to myself "There we go", I set the camera on the floor and photographed his cute sleepy face.
I like to paint with a limited palette, using 3-5 colors only, and for this painting I used WN Phthalo Blue RS, WN Permanent Rose, and DS Hansa Yellow. The size of the painting is 5x7" and it's on Arches cold press paper.