This custom painted Australian Shepherd portrait was a rush order for a client who needed the painting as a gift by a certain date. As a portrait artist such orders are no problem since after years of experience, I am disciplined enough to get a quality portrait painted in a short amount of time. In my latest post, I shared how I started this commission (see here ) and today I will continue where I left off.
After the initial stages of the building up a painting certain decisions have to be made about what type of texture to use. As I had mentioned before the fur on this Australian Shepherd is long and soft. To emphasize that softness it helps when the surrounding areas are painted with more impasto strokes. I like to refer to the Ying and Yang principle. Balancing soft with more robust brush strokes makes for a more interesting painting.
On the ground and in the water, I used thicker brush strokes to balance the wispy fur of the dog. I also added lots of stray hairs that are moving in the wind for the added illusion that the fur is wispy looking.
When the dog portrait is well underway it is time to focus on the details. I consider the eyes the "Gateway to the Soul", it is the one element in portraiture that carries the most weight. It is the focal point of the portrait. If my clients can feel that their pet is looking back at them, it doesn't really matter if I got the paws right, or that the teeth are all accounted for. The eyes have to be spot on. Beginner painters have a tendency to do a line drawing of the eye. This should be avoided at all cost since there are really no lines in nature. What we perceive as a line is a series of textures and colors that when placed together read as a line. Rather than painting in the outline of the eye, the eye has to be formed my dabs of dark and light colors. I also like to wiggle the paint around to blur edges.
When you put it all together these slight wiggles and dabs of color create the illusion of an Australian Shepherd dog looking right at you.
Another thing to consider is the hierarchy in a painting. By this, I mean the order of importance as to what needs to be in focus or highly detailed. If the eyes are at the top of this hierarchy, then it is safe to assume that the nose and mouth can be next. However, when it comes to teeth, this rule goes out the window. Teeth have that strange tendency to draw attention to themselves. Why do you ask? Well for one they are usually the lightest thing in a face and have a pattern of little squares that are lined up like little soldiers. So my advice is to proceed with caution and avoid the temptation to draw them in. Now if you are painting the portrait of a baby and you want to emphasize the pearly whites, by all means, go for it, but otherwise avoid the attention grabber. In the portrait of this Australian Shepherd, the teeth are only hinted at, just enough to make sure that we know he is not toothless.
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