Bird & Sunrise photo

Bird & Sunrise photo
Because "someday" is today!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

A Little ShihTzu for Christmas

The last week of November, I received a request for a pet portrait to be given as a Christmas gift. It's really fun to be a part of a Christmas surprise, but I also feel the anxiety of getting a special gift like that just right and ready on time! My strategy; make a detailed list of every step required and when it needed to be completed. It really helped my inner 'fraidy cat to get all that information on paper and out of my head! Here's the final portrait and the journey of how I got there.

"Sophie" 8"x 8"in., oil on gessobord, ©2017 Tina M.Welter  Portrait, Miniature Imperial Shih Tzu dog
"Sophie" 8"x 8"in., oil on gessobord, ©2017

Meet Sophie, a miniature Imperial ShihTzu and beloved work buddy of her owner. Isn't she cute? Out of the five photos that I received, I thought this one expressed her personality the best and featured a soulful expression in her eyes.

"Sophie" photo by Julie Merrill - miniature Imperial Shih Tzu

The portrait size requested was an 8x8 inch square. First step, order the best substrate for the job. I went with Ampersand's gessobord, a cradled hardboard on birch wood that has a smooth surface, already primed and ready to paint. When I work this small, I don't like the texture of canvas interfering with the details.

Next, I adjusted the color tones on the photo, then cropped it down to a square and created a grid to guide me in my drawing.

"Sophie" photo cropped and 8x8 inch grid added in one inch squares.

I forgot to take a photo of my first pencil sketch, lol, but here are the acrylic paint sketches made over that drawing on paper. This is where I worked out the color palette and composition problems.

"Sophie" portrait, 8x8 inch acrylic paint on paper, Sketch test 1 ©2017 Tina M.Welter
"Sophie" portrait, 8x8 inch acrylic paint  on paper, Sketch test 2 ©2017 Tina M.Welter

The  acrylic sketches helped me to decide to change the shadow color I started with and crop the image even tighter.

"Sophie" portrait, 8x8 inch graphite pencil drawing on tracing paper ©2017 Tina M.Welter

Because I changed the composition, I needed to make another detailed pencil drawing. In this photo, I am transferring it to the gessobord using graphite paper.

"Sophie" 8"x 8"in., oil on gessobord, ©2017 Tina M.Welter  Miniature Imperial ShihTzu dog portrait in process

 Finally, I get to the joy of actual painting! I begin working back to front so the layers of painted fur will look like they overlap each other. 

"Sophie" 8"x 8"in., oil on gessobord, ©2017 Tina M.Welter Detail,  Miniature Imperial Shih Tzu dog portrait

The water soluble oil paint I use dries faster than traditional oils, but it stays wet long enough to blend the paint layers with a soft brush and get that nice fur-like texture.

"Sophie" 8"x 8"in., oil on gessobord, ©2017 Tina M.Welter  Miniature Imperial Shih Tzu dog portrait

After finishing the painting, I stained the birch wood sides with a wood stain to match the sienna background and let the whole thing dry for several days before spraying it with Kamar varnish. The painting was delivered on December 23rd and best of all, was hearing the happy exclamations and thank you's I received when they saw Sophie's portrait. Definitely made the season bright for me.

Happy creating to all, and to all, success!


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