How to paint a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel

You may have spotted him at the Fayre, or you may just be coming across him now. This is Bertie the King Charles Cavalier Spaniel puppy. Judging by his expression, he knows he is royalty. He has a grumpy ‘superior than thou’ expression and gangly legs. Admit it, he is absolutely adorable!

You will need:

  • A lot of time and patience
  • 30cm x 40cm canvas
  • Photograph to copy
  • Large flat paintbrush
  • Range of smaller round paintbrushes
  • Large playmat
  • Water
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Masking tape
  • Acrylic Paint:
    • White
    • Burnt Sienna
    • Burnt Umber
    • Raw Umber
    • Rich Gold
    • Mars Black
    • Cadmium Red

1. Choose your composition: I didn’t have to crop my photograph as it was already a closely cropped image. The customer asked me to keep the background exactly as it was. 
bertie

2. Mark up your canvas. For a 30 x 40 canvas it is easiest to do 5cm2 squares. If you grid out your photo on a screen, make sure that your scaled dimensions are the same. You will probably have to crop parts of your photo and expand it to fill the space.

3. Draw the outline shape of your subject onto the canvas, following the corresponding squares on your screen. For a more detailed way of doing this, see here.

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4. Paint the background: The customer wanted the background painted exactly as in the photograph. This was a pink rug and a window. To paint the rug I used various shades of pink and red, and a small round paintbrush to rub the paint in spirals into the canvas. To paint the window, I used a lot of masking tape, a steady hand, and about 50 shades of grey ;-).

5. Begin painting in the beautiful curly ears. This is using a range of rich siennas, raw and burnt umber, gold, flesh tint, etc. Use little round brushes and short curly strokes with a slightly watery paint.

Extend the shades onto the face around the eyes, leaving the nose and a stripe up the forehead in white. Concentrate on the direction of the hairs in the photograph – the top of the ears stick upwards and are paler.

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6. Rim the eyes with a near-black (black mixed with brown or blue or yellow.) Start to paint them in in shades of deep grey to bring out the spherical shape. Put glints in the eyes to bring them to life.

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7.Paint the body in grey. Once you have the grey base you can use paler greys and flesh tint to pick out lighter sections and shadows using a small round brush.

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8. Paint in the nose – make the nostrils a deep black, with a black line up the middle. The rest is a deep grey in a rounded heart shape. Pick out white glints to make it look damp.

Bring out the characteristic downturned mouth. King charles spaniels look grumpy. Really cute, but grumpy. Play on that!
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9. Paint in the collar. If you use metalic paint and a bit of nifty shading, metal rings and disks look very real!

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10. Decide that following the photograph is a bad idea after all and that limbs appear to be going everywhere! Re-paint the legs by researching other photos where dogs are sitting more nicely! *please note, forward planning and a better photo can eliminate this stage!!

Bertie ARTbyIMI

11. Sniff test of approval?

Bertie and painting

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2 thoughts on “How to paint a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel

  1. I love your how-to posts, Imi! You make it look so easy. My version would look like an alien!
    I think the real spaniel definitely approves of his immortalized version.

    I received the notecards today. They are absolutely lovely! I almost don’t want to send them out because I just want to keep them for myself. 🙂 Thank you for sending them.

    • Hi Jackie,

      I’m glad they arrived and that you like them! I know how you feel. My dad bought a whole set and I don’t think he is planning on sending them out! I love them, but I am very biased!

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