Going off photo when the photo is… off

Caution: the following includes an artist with a serious case of “a bad workman blames his tools” syndrome.

As an artist who strives to get animals as accurate as I possibly can,
going off-photo goes against all my principals. 

Funnily enough, it is only when I perceive the photograph to be “wrong” that painting stops being a lovely relaxing experience that comes naturally to me.

Instead, it can instantly become stressful, and I can be heard muttering “hate this stupid dog / eye / leg / insert anything here”.

It’s at that point that I know that a quick fix is not possible. The photograph looks all wrong, and to avoid my painting looking all wrong, I have to go off book, or find a new bit of photograph to copy.

Exhibit A… the loveliest little King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, Bertie.
bertie

Look at his lovely face, fluffy ears and glinty eyes.
Awww. That makes for a lovely relaxing painting session, with a hint of a challenge.

Now scroll back up and look at those legs.
What the heck is going on there???
They are all over the place!

Paws are conveniently cropped out of the image, so I can’t really even work out what is back leg and front leg, what is body and what is tail.

I am left stumped as to what is going on and to how on earth I will paint this random assortment of white limbs.

So I painted it as per the photograph.

And as expected, it looked all wrong.

My own mother gave herself the role of “Quality Control” and told me I needed to change it.

Grumble Grumble.

I love painting, but I don’t love repainting a painting that I thought was a finished painting.

 Back to the drawing board!!

How to paint long grass in acrylic

I have already written a How to paint grass guide here.
It may surprise you to know that this is my most popular post ever, so I thought I would write another focussing on long grass. It is a different technique and a new skill to learn after all.

You will need:

  • Paint for Grass: Sap Green, Olive Green, Burgandy, Violet, Lemon Yellow, Raw Umber, burnt umber, black, 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.

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 Long Grass

1. Create a colour wash over the grass area in a watered down sap green using a large flat brush.

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Here you can see the watery wash over the background

2. Start to pick out areas of light and dark with a small rounded paintbrush. Use gentle dabbing with your paintbrush in a watery white to create little soft focus flowers.

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In the right hand corner you can see the beginnings of flowers

3. Pay attention to the direction of the grass, and use a variety of watery shades and a quick sweeping  movement to get that feeling of motion.

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Here you can see the grass being blown around through the directions of my brushstrokes

4. Make glints of sunlight with a Rich Gold paint, and break up dark shadow with longer strands of grass in paler colours 

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Have a look at part 2 – Finishing the Golden Retriever. 
I haven’t yet given her to her owner so can’t ruin the surprise on here!!