Laugh, Kookaburra, Laugh

Kookaburras are remarkably underrated birds. A more sociable cousin of the Kingfisher, they are full-feathered and expressive – an excellent painting subject.

We met a Laughing Kookaburra at a recent visit to Marwell Zoo. He was incredibly patient and tame, sitting just a metre away from us in an open aviary. He posed for us for a good ten minutes, and we got some really beautiful shots of the Kookaburra and the leafy background in soft focus.

I knew that it would make an amazing statement piece, so I bought a 40 x 60cm canvas and set aside quite a bit of time (I estimate it took 50-60 hours of work) to create Herman the Kookaburra in acrylic paint on canvas.

Why Herman? My sister told me he was a Herman. I wasn’t convinced by the name at all.
I decided to look up the Laughing Kookaburra using the fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia.
What do you know, it was actually founded by someone called Johann Herman.

It was fate, and you can’t argue with fate.

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If you think your house would benefit from a Herman, please contact me as he is for sale.

Have you ever had a similar experience with fate? 

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Time lapse Meercats

Hello everybody!
Lots of busy and exciting things happening recently! I have just put a painting into the Society for Wildlife Art’s annual exhibition, I find out next week if it has been selected. It’s my favourite painting so far, really excited to share it with you soon!

I’ll leave you with Mossy… a painting a did a couple of months ago! I have put it into a handy time-lapse video for you, no scrolling – simples!

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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

How to paint a Golden Retriever

This guide tells you how I painted Annie the Golden Retriever for my Godmother. She is a friendly energetic dog and very much loved. I finally got to see her today to hand over my masterpiece.

You will need:

  • Paint – Dog: Flesh tint, Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, White, Mars Black, Burgandy, Violet, Rich Gold
    Grass: Sap Green, Olive Green Burgandy, Violet, Lemon Yellow, Raw Umber etc.
  • A Canvas –  I use 30cmx40cm as standard
  • Playmat – I use a big old plastic table cloth
  • Paintbrushes – a large flat one and a variety of small round ones.
  • A pot of water
  • A palette – I use foil cases from quiches.
  • A photograph to copy – I have mine up on my laptop screen with gridlines drawn on
  • A pencil
  • A ruler.

Canvas Preparation

1. 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. With this painting, I made the call that the edge of the paws could be missed out to make the rest of the dog fit onto the canvas.

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2. 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.

Painting Grass

If your background is grass, you can follow this guide for long grass, and this guide for short grass.

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Painting a Golden Retriever  

1. Paint areas of shadow on the face with a grey / Flesh Tint, Burgandy mix. The areas around the nose seem to be darker, whereas under the eyes is blonder.

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2. Use paler colours on areas of light (Flesh Tint, White, Raw Umber) and small sweeping brushstrokes with a little rounded brush to create fine hairs all over the face, concentrating on areas of light and shadow. Outline the nose in a near black, and use black to draw the gums. Use small dots of white to create hair follicles around the nose.

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3. Continue adding layers of hair and volume on the face, and rim the eye in black with a gentler grey surround.

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4. Start to paint the ear. Firstly paint a short colour wash in a mix of Raw Umber, Burgandy, Burnt Umber, with the ear becoming darker and more shadowy towards the bottom. Then when that is dry, create little curlier hairs in white, Flesh Tint and Raw Umber.

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5. Start to paint down towards the dog’s chest using your big flat paintbrush. Using Violet mixed with white creates really natural looking areas of shadow for a predominantly white chest.

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6. Lengthen areas of shadow (greys, Violet, Burgandy, Flesh Tint etc) up the dog’s back and towards her paws.

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7. Pay attention to the direction of the hairs and blanched out areas. Little curly patterns of hairs formed on the back of this photograph, so I used longer brushstrokes in a roundabout motion to capture this.

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8. Keep adding layer after layer to make the painting look really 3D and fluffy. Work over the shadow with lighter tones, using little sweeping brushstrokes.

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9. Continue the shadow down the legs using a grey based paint. Create lots of individual hairs with a watery white / Flesh Tint, going lighter and lighter towards the paws.

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10. Lengthen strands of grass to come over the dog’s body to join background and foreground together.

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11. The dog’s eye was a REAL challenge for me. I know it looks fairly done in the photos above but it just wasn’t quite right. I ended up painting over it entirely to try again. It put about five hours onto the end of my painting. I had to study other photographs of Annie to appreciate her nutty brown eye colour – which didn’t come across in the photo I was copying. Anyway, I am finally pleased with it.

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FINITO. I estimate this took me about 30-35 hours although I never keep proper tabs on these things.

Annie 2 ARTbyIMI

Please let me know what you think!

How to paint a Cairn Terrier

This guide tells you how I set about painting a little golden terrier for a lady at my work. A repeat customer, previous owner of a lovely lemur. It was a present to her in laws for Christmas.

With this painting, we decided together to keep the background plain, to keep the costs and painting time down. You can see here that this backfired disastrously as it took twice as long to do. No, I don’t know how either!

You will need:

  • paint: I used System 3 acrylic paint in the following colours:

Mars Black, Titanium White, Flesh Tint, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, Burnt Umber,
Velvet Purple, Cadminium Red, Burnt Sienna, Rich Gold, Magenta, etc.

  • A variety of paintbrushes
  • Masking tape
  • Water
  • Play mat
  • Easel
  • photograph or photographs of your subject
  • a canvas
    rosie photo

1. Grid up and draw out your canvas. You can read a detailed post how to do this here.
Basically, it used to involve a ruler, a photograph, a pencil and a canvas and a bit of maths.

Recently, my printer has become broken and I have become lazy, so I draw up a rather sneaky grid on my computer (an exact scale of my 30cm x 40cm canvas) and then crop and shrink my photograph to fit it on the screen.

Why did I never think of it before?!

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It does always help to have a print out though, or else your laptop will start to look a bit like mine. (Covered in paint and quite broken…)

1. Paint in the background using a large flat brush. So far I have done posts on how to do leaves and grass. This background was plain, so I mixed up some damson paint (magenta, a bit of black and a bit of violet) and painted the entire background in one matte colour.

Don’t worry too much if the background goes into your dog- that’s why you put it on first!

To paint the dog, I used my brand new posh paintbrushes that I got for my birthday, and WOW they made a difference. Such a pleasure to use them, and they made really lovely fine strokes that looked just like fine hairs. Maybe this painting was only good because of these lovely paintbushes. Who knows…

1. Start with the tail. I did the dark area of shadow first in burnt umber and black, before using raw umber, flesh tint, white etc to weave in some lighter shades.

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2. Create a wash in raw sienna over the dogs back, then extend your little brushstrokes round using a series of little sweeping brushstrokes in burnt umber, burnt sienna and raw sienna and flesh tint, gradually using lighter shades towards the dog’s main body.

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3. This type of terrier’s back has a speckle of several different colours through it- grey, golden shades and cream shades. Start by painting a wash in grey over the back, before using your little rounded paintbrush to blend and weave other colours in.

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4. The tummy was softer and longer fur, so use longer motions, still using your small round brush in shades of brown and creams to achieve this look
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6. The ears had the shortest hair, more like velvety fur. Use only tiny brush strokes in slightly more golden, darker colours to create this.

7. The paws also have quite short hair, so a very small brush should be used with small repetitive movements to achieve this look. Keep referring back to your photograph, zooming in on the screen to make sure that you have got the shape of the paws right, and the number of pads etc. An owner will always know if it’s not quite right!

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7. The face had a large variety of different colours. The hair is long again on the face, and droops downwards, so be sure to show this using downwards motions with your brush.

Around the ears, there were complex areas of shadow in the folds, and the hair goes in a variety of directions. Pay particular attention to your photograph to get this bit spot on.

The dog also had a cute fluffy pale beard, so use flesh tint, raw sienna and white to create this.

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8. The eyebrows were paler than the rest of the face, and long and droopy. Use long sweeping brushstrokes to frame the eye, then sweep them outwards like whiskers.

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9. The dog had big dark eyes that looked down and were hidden by eyebrow. Firstly I painted in dark grey eyes, with neat black to rim them. I then picked out glints of white, around the bottom of the eyeballs. I then used my artistic licence to add glints of white on the round of the eyeball to give the impression that the dog was looking directly at you.

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10. Paint the nose big and grey, then frame the bottom in black paint and a little inverted u for each nostril. The dog’s fur extended into the nose at the top, so I used my little round paintbrush to put in some hairs and some glints of white.

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11. Add long pale droopy hairs and whiskers around the mouth, nose and ears, using your littlest paintbrush and watered down paint to get really smooth lines.

12. Finally draw the dogs shadow, using a very  thin wash of a dark brown or black, with no white shades in it. This will make the dog look 3D and stand out from the canvas.

Rosiepainting

How to paint a fluffy cat

Hello all,

Last month, I painted my first cat, Spike, as a Christmas commission for a man at work.

Spike is a big black and white cat with very long fluffy fur.

I hope you enjoy this guide!

You will need:

  • Paint:I used System 3 acrylic paint in the following colours:Mars Black, Titanium White, Flesh Tint, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber
    Velvet Purple, Cadminium Red, Burnt Sienna, Copper, Sap Green, Lemon Yellow…
  • A variety of paintbrushes: Big flat brush ones, and little rounded ones for detail.
  • Masking tape
  • Water
  • Play mat
  • Easel
  • Cocktail sticks
  • Photographs: a main one and secondary ones to give you different areas of detail.
  • Canvas: I used 30cm x 40cm

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  1. Grid up and draw out your canvas. You can see a guide how to do this here.
    The trick is to get your drawing at exactly the same point in the grid as the photograph.
    It is honestly easier than it seems!
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  2. Start blocking in your background, With this painting, I painted a garden background, similar to the jungle background I painted here.
    I initially did plain dark colours and then painted leaf shapes on top.
    One side of the photograph was lighter with more yellowy greens, the other darker with purpley greens.
    The darker side (left hand side) was surprisingly easy, all I needed to do was paint star shapes on a dark background in purples and dark greens, and they looked like ivy leaves.
    Background
  3. Paint in the post. For this, your masking tape will come in handy to get really clean lines and angles.
    Concentrate on areas of light and dark, going up to almost white for the flat of the post, and to burnt umbers and black in the shadows.
    Post
  4. Start on the tail. I initially painted the dark area black before adding reds, browns and pale colours into it, creating layer upon layer of paint to make the hair really realistic.
    I then created thin white hairs over the dark areas to create the effect of the tail being caught by the light.
    Tail
  5. Extend the pale area of the tail up; mix greys and creams and continue to use thick layers of paint, and your cocktail stick to create individual hairs.
  6. Start on the dark patch on the back. Paint in the patch in black using a big brush before adding detail – this ensures that no part of the canvas will remain unpainted.
    If you look closely at the photograph, there were lots of red shades in this patch, which show that it is sitting in direct sunlight.
    Use burnt sienna mixed with extra red to achieve a variety of warm browns.
    Then pick out individual hairs in white paint again to show glints of sun.
    Back
  7. Paint the face near black using a big brush, leaving a white stripe up the nose. Weave in different dark shades using a little rounded brush, and create pale tufty ear hairs using your cocktail stick.
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    The cat also had a little fluffy black beard, which I had to really refer to the photograph to get in exactly the right place and at the right angle – pet owners will always know! I then painted in the cats upper lip, where the whiskers grow from, using a pale grey with lines of white dots for the whiskers roots.
  1. Create block areas of white, cream and grey on the upper chest, then weave together using a small rounded brush and long brushstrokes. I then mixed in a bit of purple paint to make the areas of shadow more real and deep. Make the hairs fan outwards to make it look really fluffy.IMAG0736
  2. Extend the cream, white and grey fluffy hairs down the cats tummy. I also mixed in browns, as it was darker, soft fluffy hair which angled downwards towards the paws.
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  3. Paint in the paws. They are predominantly pale, with very short hair. Create the pads with shades of browns and purple, blending the shadow into the paw using a little rounded brush.
  4. Paint in the eyes. These are so important to get right because they are such distinguishing characteristics. The cat had big green eyes, so I painted in the colour, then lined the eyes in black paint. As the cat was outside, its pupils were thin slits, so a small brush and a steady hand was needed. Finally a little white glint in each eye.
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  5. For the nose, use pink, flesh tint and a bit of brown paint to create a little triangle. Put in two round nostrils, then flick this to the outside to line the nose.
  6. Finally put in long white whiskers, coming out of the eyebrows and the face. You can even use masking tape to make these lines cleaner.
    DSC_0152 - Copywm

Ta Da!! Stay tuned for part 2 of my how to guides, Rosie the terrier 🙂

Imi x

How to paint a greyhound

This guide shows you how I painted Frosts the greyhound. I hope you enjoy it.

You will need:

  • paint: I used System 3 acrylic paint in the following colours:

    Mars Black, Titanium White, Flesh Tint, Burnt Sienna,
    Velvet Purple, Cadminium Red, Burnt Sienna, Rich Gold, Magenta, etc.

  • a variety of paintbrushes
  • Masking tape
  • Water
  • Play mat
  • Easel
  • photograph (this is a cropped version, see below)
  • a canvas

Choose a good composition: This is so important and is so frequently overlooked (…by me…)! Play to your strengths – if you are good at painting animals, don’t chose a composition which is mainly background (that is a note to ME!) I ended up cropping the photograph was trying to replicate to just include the dog’s face and a bit of its body.

the first composition


the second composition

Mark up your canvas: You can see how to do this here. It is a very easy way of ensuring everything is in the right place and in perfect perspective.

Paint in the background: It is easier to just do a plain colour wash, using a variety of shades – creams, golds, ivory etc.
Of course… I chose to do a grassy field, an edit from the original photograph – a muddy field. Always one for the easy option, me! See how I did it here.

After you have completed the background, start painting in simple areas of light and shadow on the dogs back. Use pale colours like Flesh Tint, Burnt Sienna and White, along with blues, purples, browns, greys etc for the areas of shadow.

Use your initiative: on the photograph I used, there were unnatural areas of shadow. They just did not look right taken out of the context of the photograph, so I removed them from my painting.

The painting was then looking really patchy, so I kept working on the dogs back to blend it, to make it all look realistic.
The nose: The nose on the photograph had very clear areas of dark and shine, which I duplicated using black, white and a bit of blue paint. I then carried the shading in grey around the dogs nose.

Paint in the areas of shadow and light on the face: Dont worry if it is really exaggerated at the moment, you can blend in another colour with a small paintbrush to soften the appearance later.

Greyhounds have characteristic muscular bodies and strong cheekbones. Create an area of shadow behind the cheekbone in purples and browns,and a highlight on it to capture this essence.

Put thin colour washes over it if the dogs coat doesn’t seem to be the right shade: These are made from a small amount of paint and mainly water. They can easily be blended in with fingers or a large paintbrush.

Paint the dark areas on the ear: Dark paint should always go down first when using acrylic. Really pay attention to your photograph, keep referring to it to make sure you are getting the colour matches right. Blend areas with your fingers to create a more even and natural finish.

Outline the shape of the eye using near-black paint: black with a bit of blue or brown in it. I put a thin line on top of the eye to create an eye lid too. Then you can use grey to create a spherical shape to the eye. Add a big white glint to make it come alive.

Create light areas on the ear: using flesh tint and white and burnt sienna. Use a small paintbrush and a repetitive motion. I like the liken the motion to plucking your eyebrows – quick, confident motions in the same area in a variety of similar shades. You can then start to add other colours like purple using the same motion. Dogs ears are tricky, so don’t lose confidence if it doesn’t look quite right, you can work over it again and again – that’s the beauty of acrylic!

Pick out individual hairs: As greyhounds have short hair, its difficult to really pick out individual hairs, so make sure you pick these out on areas around the nose and eyebrows. You can use watered down paint to do this to create really defined hairs.

Make a start on the mouth: I left this until near to last as it uses vibrant colours that I didn’t want to bleed into the rest of my palette. I started by painting the black gums and shadow in the mouth.

The tongue: this was tricky as it was folded over creating lots of different shades of red in the mouth. Really pay attention to the photo, using magenta, red, white and Flesh Tint.

The teeth: get the shape right and use greys, Flesh tint and white to create shadow and a glint on the teeth. Teeth are never white. Nor should they be, it is unnatural, especially for a dog.

The collar: This was metal, which was tricky. I really need to invest in some silver paint. I love metallic paint, it is so useful! Even for painting animals!

You have to be really blunt with areas of white, black and grey. Use a really little paintbrush to create shadow around the edges of each loop and a glint in white. I then created each hoop in white and shaded around each one. I made sure that I counted the loops on the photograph and put the exact same number on my painting. It just wont look right if you cut corners, tempting as it seems.

And there we have it, please tell me what you think!

How to… mark up a canvas

You will need:

  • A print out of your photograph
  • A canvas with similar dimensions
  • A ruler
  • A calculator
  • A sharp pencil
  • Space to spread out!
  1. Choose your canvas:The size I use is typically 30x40cm, and I manage to buy them quite cheaply. Check to see if there are any deals on, but you should be able to get one of this size under £5. For me they are a perfect size as I can get in the right amount of detail to do a painting justice.

    I use these canvases which are very affordable.

  2. Measure your photograph: Ideally I try to print the photo at about 21x26cm, as it is simply 2/3 the size of the canvas, meaning no complicated calculations to scale it up. Every 2cm squared of photo results in 3cm squared of painting.
    A bit of fiddling around with a calculator (or in your head if you are good with numbers) will help with this stage.

    If possible, try to keep your scaling to a whole or .5 of a number.
    It’s all very well knowing that your canvas is 2.63x larger than your photo, but try marking it up with a regular ruler!

  3. Edit the photo if it is not a suitable size: If the photograph is not initially at a suitable size on one or both dimensions, which this one wasn’t, try cutting the photograph smaller or extending the background. I also chose to grid up a smaller area on the canvas, and scaled up to 30x39cm (instead of 30x40cm) choosing to extend the background by 1cm at the top.

    Important point: although it may sound obvious, make sure that you are scaling up both height and width by the same amount, ie 1.5x larger in both directions. Otherwise you will end up with a very squashed or stretched painting… Unless that is your intention of course.

    Here you can see that I have trimmed the photo at the top and bottom to make it easier to scale up.

  4. Grid up: Once you have worked out how much you need to scale up your photograph by, work out a suitable measurement to draw in your grid. I don’t like pencilling in smaller than 2cm squares on my photographs as I find you can lose the detail a bit. So for every 2cm square on your photo draw out a 3cm (or 4cm if scaling up by 2x) square on your canvas. This will result in exactly the same numbers of squares on canvas and photo.

    Here you can see how I have drawn a 3cm squared grid on my canvas and a 2cm squared grid on my photograph.

  5. Draw out the outlines using your grid: You can now use your grid as a reference for the exact point on the page various features will be. Start with the vague outlines, and make sure you are drawing into the corresponding box – I have made the mistake before and ended up rubbing out my whole drawing.
    For my picture, I pencilled in the tree trunk and the outline of the lemur first.

    Here you can see just a vague outline taking place, following my grid to get it accurate.

  6. Draw in some of the detail: At this stage it doesn’t matter if things aren’t perfect. As long as they are in the right place. I had to move the lemur’s hand from where I had originally put it, by smudging and drawing on top.

    Here you can see I have marked out all the main parts of the image – with less focus on the background at this point.

    Now the canvas is ready for the background to be painted in, which I will do on Sunday and write a post about.

    Hope you are all well and happy! I am this week 🙂

    Stay tuned!