The two pet portrait requests came at about the same time. But very different cats! Not just in looks, but in personality.
Calli was a sweet gentle kitty from a shelter. Cleo, who is the subject of this painting, was a cat with an attitude who chased dogs, swiped at her owners and was fiercely loyal to their son, greeting him and all the neighborhood kids as they got off the bus from school.
It's good to know these things when doing a pet portrait. One must know what one is working with. So let's see how I did this painting. To skip to the finished piece, click here.
If you've been following my painting demonstrations, you know that I usually begin with a drawing on the watercolor paper, and then a wash for the background. In this case, it will be a medium blue-gray.
Cleo was proud of her long white whiskers. I paint the background around the whiskers so they will show up. Watercolor artists normally don't use white paint. Instead they leave the white of the paper by painting around the white or masking it.
Now, here is something fun! Cleo was laying in a red cardboard box in the photo I used: the box top for Scattergories (a word game), so it had the word Scattergories on it and the logo.
I decided to leave her in the box for the portrait, but put CLEO on it instead. And for the logo, I used one of her many nicknames: bombcat. The logo is a drawing of a cat in a WWII bomber pilot's helmet:
OK, enough of fun and games, time to paint Cleo. I paint some shadows on the right side of her face and body and then begin painting some of her light brown color:
Before I get all the brown painted, I start on the gray tones and the ears. I'm easily distracted:
When most of her color is painted, I paint her facial features. Her face is pure white, so I use blue-gray tones that match the background to shape it. She has a pretty pink nose, doesn't she?
And pretty yellow eyes:
Here is the painting so far. Perhaps you will say it's done (except for the writing on the box), but I have much more to do yet. The final details, shading and shaping that make a portrait come alive take the longest time to do:
I won't bore you with all the work that is done at this stage, because it is a long process, but I'll show you a trick that I use. Once most of the details are painted, I wet the entire cat except the nose with clear water, then let it air dry.
The water makes the edges of the watercolor blend together ever so slightly to make the fur look softer:
Then I add more details taking my time to adjust colors, features, values and textures until I'm satisfied that this looks like Cleo. Once I'm finally happy, Cleo watercolor portrait is done!
Do you have a loving pet you'd like painted? Check out the details here, ZehPetPortraits.com or contact me.
I'm happy to take custom orders. Please contact me for a custom painting of your pet, home, garden, grandkids, favorite vacation spot or whatever your heart desires.
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