Lovely Leo, the Cockapoo

I was asked to bring this lovely boy to life by his human, Jenni. Since this is my first post, I thought I would use this piece to walk you through my process from start to finish, giving you a little peek behind the scenes.


Jenni sent me a fantastic reference photograph to work from - so clear, so detailed and he perfectly filled the frame. (Something I talk about in my Pet Photography Tips page). I cannot stress enough how important it is to provide a high resolution reference photo; not only is it much more enjoyable to paint but it really is the difference between a mediocre painting and a piece of art.


The Reference Photo

The Beginning Stages


I started Leo as I start all of my commissions, as a very rough watercolour draft. I work very quickly in watercolour and it allows me to send a mock up to my client for approval before continuing. Although it is rough, it shows the full composition and enough detail to ensure I'm capturing a likeness.






Creating the Detail


When I created the watercolour draft, I really focussed on the undertones in Leo's coat. Looking at the reference photo, I see burnt umber, raw siena, crimson and some yellow and green hues. To create a truly realistic portrait, it is imperative to capture these undertones and build finer detail on top.


At this stage, I worked with acrylic paint (Golden Open Slow Drying). Why Acrylics? 

Acrylic mediums appear almost identical to oils, but the main advantage to using acrylics over oils is that they are somewhat more vibrant. I love the way they blend when working wet on wet. When allowed to dry, they make for wonderful layer building which is the technique I use to create realistic fur detail.


When using acrylic paint, you work from dark to light. You will see from the images above that Leo's fur gradually lightens as I go through the process. Firstly, I mapped out large areas of shadow - not really paying attention to detail at this point - but always ensuring I paint in the direction of the fur. As I progressed through the stages, I began to work on the finer fur detail and really focussed on the warm tones in his fur. (This is where the real work really begins and where patience must prevail!)


It took eight layers in total to achieve the final result. I spent a great deal of time on the fur to ensure every hair was flowing in the correct direction and overlapping as shown in the original photograph. Between each fur layer, I had to allow the paint to dry - this was most often a 24 hour period, dependant on the thickness of the paint.


Once the fur was complete (and the paint dried), I focussed in on the whiskers and stray hairs seen on the reference photo. The very fine hairs I achieved by carefully using a scalpel, and the more prominent hairs simply by using a fine paint brush and bright white paint.


The painting was once again given 24 hours to fully dry before varnishing. Varnishing ensures the painting will stay looking its best. It protects the painting from dirt and dust and evens out the painting's final appearance, making it all equally matte (or gloss if you were so inclined). Following this, I mounted the painting in museum quality mount and backing board and placed in a cellophane bag ready for personal delivery.



Leo looking very pleased with his painting!

I was very pleased with the final result and really enjoyed painting this gorgeous boy. He had so much colour in his coat so it was a wonderful challenge to capture him.


I hope this provides some insight into my process and the work involved in bringing your furry friends to life on canvas. Please feel free to leave a comment below or ask a question.


Michelle x




#dogs #canine #dogartist #petartist #animalartist #petlovers #scottishartist #miczikart #cockapoo #acrylic #doglovers

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