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.

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Please let me know what you think!

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Every day motivation

Aside

This quote really struck a chord with me today, and I am sure it will with a lot of people.
It motivated me to do the things I have been meaning to, instead of letting life get in the way.

The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered:

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices his money in order to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he doesn’t enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and he dies having never really lived.”

Thank you to Noora for sharing that.

It motivated me to finally buy marketing materials for my business. When they arrive I will put on my wellies and my biggest smile and go out on dog walks and meet people and their lovely animals. I will be able to reach more people and let them know how much I enjoy painting and how good I am.  I will gain new custom, and maybe even new friends that I wouldn’t have got otherwise. One day, I will accomplish my dream of spending my days painting and making a comfortable living from it. One day, I will own my own dog and paint him too. 

For the meantime, its the little things I do which keep me in balance of health, calm and presence, and I have to admit, I haven’t quite managed it today. I am looking forward to this weekend, when I can pretend that one day is today and will turn:
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into:

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How to paint grass in acrylic

Once you know how to do it, its easy.
The secret lies in the range of colours you use.

You will need:

  • a photograph to copy from
  • a large flat paintbrush
  • a small rounded paintbrush
  • water
  • a palette or makeshift palette (foil quiche case!)
  • a range of green acrylic paints
    Do not use greens in the emerald spectrum.
    No Hooker Green, no Phthalo Green.It will make the grass look artificial, or like it has spent too much time hanging round a nuclear power plant!

    February 2012

    Although this is one of my better paintings, I really regret the grass
    but I hadn’t yet learnt my golden rule.
    The result is that it looks slightly artificial.
    You live and learn…

    Instead, choose Sap Green, Olive Green and others in that spectrum.

  • a range of brown acrylic paints
    I love Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Burnt Umber and my secret weapon Flesh Tint!Flesh Tint is great as it adds white tones and brown tones which blend naturally with green.I also like to use gold paint  to make the grass glint.
  • Burgandy / Deep Violet acrylic paint
    Purple blends really well with browns and greens to create areas of shadow. Next time you look shadows you will notice that they are never ever black.
  • Mars Black acrylic paint
    You can use this to mix with other paints, but try not to use it neat.
  • White acrylic paint
  • Masking tape
  1. Draw out your design on your canvas. It may be helpful to put a line of masking tape along edges to stop the colour bleeding into the wrong areas.
  2. Do a colour wash in Sap Green over the entire grass area, using a large flat paintbrush. This makes sure all areas have a layer of paint. Please paint the sides of the canvas, there is nothing less professional than leaving unpainted sides… see my previous rant!
  3. Use a small paintbrush and mix up various shades of brown and green in your palette.Be adventurous, using purples and blacks too to create lots of natural shades.
  4. Using a small repetitive motion, create lots of small strokes in varying shades across the area.
  5. Make the grass darker at the bottom of the painting – potentially to near-black, and lighter at the top with whites, greens and gold shades.

Do not worry about making it too perfect. I assume you will paint something in the foreground, which will no doubt spoil your grass background slightly.

You can neaten this up later, using the same colours and the same technique of small repetitive strokes with a small paintbrush.

But… don’t rush either. Give it attention, care and patience like you would the foreground, and you will be onto a winner.

Click here for my guide on how to paint long grass in acrylic.

Click here to find out how I finished this painting of a Greyhound!