These past few weeks, I’ve been working my buns off to finish a series of mini portraits for my upcoming show. So when a nice, big portrait commission fell in my lap, I was pretty excited for the change of pace. Working on 16 sq. inches and working on 320 sq. inches are very difference experiences. Neither better nor worse…just different.

It’s been a while since I shared a painting start to finish, and this seemed like a pretty great opportunity. So, if you’ve ever been interested in how I go from photo to finished artwork, read on…

Since this painting was for a local client, I was able to do my own pre-portrait photoshoot. I love working from my own photos. Not that working from a client’s photos isn’t also super fun. It’s just a different experience when I get to control the process from the start.  Also, who doesn’t want to spend an afternoon frolicking around the park with a fluffy poodle?  I happened to catch Harpo in a perfectly lit, twilight-soaked moment, and I knew I had my winning photo.

A painting always starts with a sketch. I like to use grid lines when I’m drawing it out to make sure the proportions are just right.

Next, I use a watered down black paint to draw in the lines. That way, they don’t get lost once I start to add layers of color.

My color palette for the background in this painting involved lots of blue-tinged greens.  And yes, those are pliers.  You see, I may just have the weakest grip in the history of painters, and the pliers help me get the tubes of paint open.

Before I start in on the poodle, I like to do a quick and dirty wash of colors in the background to give the painting some context.

Once I began painting the poodle, I guess I kind of got in the zone…and I forgot to snap photos of the first couple of layers! Oops. When I’m working with curly fur, which has a lot of depth, I like to start with a wash of the darkest color, and then build up from there. The last layer is always the highlights that are catching the sun. In the end, fur will usually be about 5 layers of paint thick.

Once the bulk of the fur texture is done, I go back in to further define the form. This part of the process involves a lot of squinting and yelling to my boyfriend in the other room that I need his eyeballs to look at something. I’ve learned the hard way that looking at something for too long makes you blind to obvious trouble spots, and having his fresh set of eyes is a killer resource.

After another couple of layers on the background, the painting is finally done!

If you like seeing pictures of my paintings in progress, be sure to ‘like’ my facebook page! I’m always posting photos from my studio.