Moto and Candy portrait in progress - start to finish
As always, I start with the ears.
This will be a double head-study of Candy (black girl) and Moto (red boy) for James Barron.
Prismacolor pencil on "Flannel Grey" Canson Mi-Teintes art paper.
Moto and Candy portrait in progress 2
Working on the portrait of Candy and Moto in the studio today.
I have reference photos of Candy in front of me on the monitor while I work. The bottom photo is the one I’m working from. The others are some of the many shots sent by James, which I use to double-check the accuracy of her eyes as I’m working, because the eyes are such an important part of the portrait. Photos taken at different angles help me really understand the shape of THAT particular dog’s eye....the characteristics that make Candy look like herself.
The pencil colors I’m using are on a sheet of white paper above the part I’m working on. To the left are swatches of those colors on the same grey Canson paper, to help me grab the right pencil I need, since many of the shades are very similar. Other pieces of white paper cover up the rest of the portrait to protect it from my hand while I’m working.
This portrait is on “Flannel Grey” Canson paper.
Moto and Candy portrait in progress 3
The first eye finished.
Eyes are so important in a portrait that I spend a lot of time on each one getting it perfect. After I finished this eye today, and the forehead above it and cheekbone below it, I didn’t have much studio time left to do the other eye the same day. I don’t like stopping it half-finished, or continuing to work on it when I’m tired. I wanted to start fresh and do the second eye tomorrow. But I still had some time, I didn’t feel like quitting for the day quite yet. So I spent that time working my way down the left side of her face filling in the rust “thumbprint” on her cheek, and putting in a bit of the "transition outline" on the side of her muzzle. That was another half hour of work I won’t have to do another day.
Moto and Candy portrait in progress 4
Candy’s other eye finished.
This is how the entire double portrait looks at this point.
Candy is starting to come to life.
Moto and Candy portrait in progress 5
The progression of how I worked on Candy’s face today. Six steps.
Read the captions to see what I was doing.
This represents one day’s work in the studio.
These pics aren’t great - taken in the studio with my phone while I was working. I don’t like to stop my workflow to scan the artwork - it’s time-consuming. But I did want to share these steps with you.
What is the shape of a dog nose?
I just follow the shapes I see in the photo.
Finished filling in the black part of her face down to her nose…
Then I start on the rust portion.
Her chin goes in first.
First I had to put in the side of her neck so I could find the outside edge of her muzzle.
The left side of her muzzle (the “rust” area) finished…
Now her whole face is finished.
This is a high-quality scan I made when I finished working in the studio for the day.
You may find it interesting that Candy is a black Doberman but there is very little black in this portrait so far.
This is what my pencils look like as I’m working.
These are the colors I’m using for Candy’s face.
My trusty electric pencil-sharpener is just to the right. I use it constantly to keep those points sharp for the individual hairs on a dog's face.
Moto and Candy portrait in progress 6
Working on Candy’s neck today in the studio. Reference photos of her neck and throat on the monitor.
The main photo I'm using (the big one on the left) is actually a Photoshop composite of two different photos...the beautiful head shot James wanted to use, combined with a different neck and body, because in the head shot she was lying down with her front paws out in front of her and her neck and shoulders were all bunched up. You can see the bunched-up neck "behind" the neck and body that I added from another shot. That other shot, the "neck and body" I used, is at the far right on the monitor.
You might not be able to see it, but the neck - at the throat area - doesn't match exactly in the reference pic. So I'm also looking at the other photos to see how her throat area flows into her neck. See the next two pics to judge if I was successful....
Working in from the sides…
Those blank spots on either side will be filled in with solid black. I go back and do those when I finish up for the day.
I’m going to quit here, for today. I find a stopping point where I can pick up the next day that makes sense to me. Her neck is finished. There is no dividing line between a dog’s neck and their chest.
Sometimes I wish I could leave a portrait partly finished like this. I like the way it looks.
Moto and Candy portrait in progress 7
ART STUDIO MISHAPS!
Damn, I dropped my pencil while working on Candy today. Did you think my life is all just fun-and-games? LOL
It flipped end over end and hit sharp-point-down next to Candy’s cheek. A just-sharpened black pencil. I love it when that happens and it just happens to hit where I’m going to color in black anyway. Not this time.
It’s not easy to fix - it gouges the paper fibers. I carefully scratch it away with the tip of a sharp X-acto knife to get rid of most of the black pigment that would smear when I try to erase it. Then I erase the heck out of it. It’s “mostly” gone by then. Then I touch up with a sharp pencil that is the exact same color as the paper.
No one will ever know.
Moto and Candy portrait in progress 8
Now I’m starting on Moto.
I didn’t finish Candy’s body because their shoulders are overlapping so I want to do both of their chests at the same time to get the color tones and values (lightness/darkness) matching. Since they are done from two separate reference photos, taken at different times in different lighting, the colors (for example their rust markings) are not the same in their photos.
Moto and Candy portrait in progress 9
Today I’ve got Moto’s reference photos on the monitor. Working on Moto’s left eye.
The photo at the bottom is the main photo I'm using. The others are to help me understand the shape of his eye, and his eye color. I always put my main pic at the bottom of the screen because that's where my eye hits first when I glance up. I glance up and then back down over and over as I'm working on a portrait.
It's interesting when just the eyes and the area around the eyes are finished, but the rest is still just a sketch:
You can see all the colors that are in a red Dobe’s coat on the highlighted parts of his head. Mauves, varying shades of mushroom grey, blue grey. And of course browns - chestnut brown, rust brown, dark blue-brown.
When I stopped work in the studio for the day and sent James these pics, he wrote back:
“They look absolutely fantastic.
Moto truly brings a tear to my eye.
Thank you Kevin.”
Moto and Candy portrait in progress 10
Now all of the “red” areas of Moto’s head (red and rust Doberman) are finished, and I have worked my way down and around the left side of his muzzle/upper lip.
Nose and chin finished, and I’m working my way around to the right side of his muzzle. The lip and muzzle on that side are outlined and I’m now putting in those shaded areas of his upper jaw area on the right cheek.
I dread muzzles because those rows of little dimples where the whiskers come out are tricky…easy to overdo and make them ugly. But they have to be there because a totally smooth muzzle would look weird. A balancing act.
Working in the studio today. Candy and Moto are starting to look out of the portrait at me.
This is how the whole portrait looks now:
Moto and Candy portrait in progress 11
Today’s progress. Moto’s neck down to his collar.
Chain collars are not the most fun thing to do. But it went pretty quickly.
Moto and Candy portrait in progress 12
Working in the studio with the reference photos on the monitor.
I put Candy and Moto together (from two separate photos) and create the fade-out on the bottom of their bodies with Photoshop, so I can see how I want that fade-out to look on the artwork.
In this pic I've been putting in the black areas of Candy's chest, and I'm working my way down to the fade-out on the bottom. I'm just about to do her rust markings on her chest.
Today’s work in the studio completed for the day. Candy’s body is finished. Moto’s tomorrow.
Moto and Candy portrait in progress 13
What do you see in all the complex shapes on Moto’s shoulder and chest in this reference photo? How do you capture the form and musculature of the dog’s shoulder… it’s all just abstract shapes!
I start by filling in the dark (shadowed) shapes of the forms with my darkest brown (almost black) pencil. I just copy the darkest abstract shapes that I see in the photo on the monitor…just follow what I see there in the photo. I also understand canine anatomy, so I can make sense mentally of what I’m looking at: bone structure, muscle.
Once I get those dark areas in for guidance, I start filling in the areas between them… just following what I see in the photo. Here I’m filling in the warm browns at the top of his shoulder. The pencils show the greys and browns I’m using.
Then I just keep working my way along. Filling in the gaps, following the lights and darks of the abstract shapes on the monitor.
The lightest forms in those abstract shapes require a different set of pencil colors. In the next picture, I’ve started laying in the lightest places on those abstract shapes - the front of Moto’s chest where the light is hitting….with beige and pale greys. (Did you think there was beige and pale grey in a red Doberman’s coat?)
The pencils I’m using are on the sheet of white paper. The ones I’m using at that moment are pulled from the right, I’m right-handed so that’s where they are quickest to grab. The ones toward the left - the golds and oranges - will be used for the rust markings on Moto’s chest tomorrow. So all those colors on the right half of the sheet are going into the “red” part of Moto’s coat on his chest.
This is what it looks like as I’m working. Pencil sharpener to the right. Drafting brush for brushing off loose pencil dust almost out of the picture on the left. Computer mouse and keyboard if I need to move the photo around on the monitor or zoom in/out.
This is where I’m going to quit for the day. I thought I might finish Moto’s entire chest in one day, but to do it justice I’ll start fresh tomorrow. All that’s left to do is the front of his chest and rust markings, fading out toward the bottom of the portrait. And one little patch to fill in on his side. The quick repetitious movement of doing hundreds of hairs with pencil dashes and blending them into a smooth Doberman coat, is tiring on my hand and wrist after a couple of hours.
A close-up of the actual artwork, scanned. You can some of the many shades of brown and grey that go into making up Moto’s coat color. And you can see how I fade his body out to the grey paper on the lower right, with progressively lighter and grayer (not brown) pencils.
Moto and Candy portrait finished!
Finished the double head-study portrait of Moto and Candy for James Barron.
GCHB. Marienburg's Arm Candy
GCH. Caryola's Major Dickason
This portrait was done from reference photos by Rita Kay Adams.
After seeing jpgs of the final portrait, James wrote:
“Kevin, I think Moto and Candy look absolutely fantastic.
Thank you so very much.”
I email high-resolution jpgs of a portrait to the client for approval when it’s finished. There were a couple of things that jumped out at me when I made the jpg to send to James, that didn’t bother me looking at the finished portrait in my studio. The last step in my process is to tape the finished portrait up on the wall and stand back like you would see it hanging on the wall of your home, and do final touch-ups until I’m completely satisfied with it. Which I was. But a couple areas when I made the jpg bothered me. So I’ll look at the portrait again in the studio in good light. No matter how I adjust jpgs for accuracy, they never look as good as the artwork in real life. So probably it’s fine just as is. If so, I’ll start the mounting and varnishing process. If something still bothers me about a portrait after the client has already approved the final jpgs, I’ll ask their opinion before I do any changes. Long ago I learned not to present a finished portrait to a client by saying, “Do you think the left widget should be darker? Or that horizontal line looks funny?” because they will ALWAYS respond, “Oh yeah. That left widget needs to be darker. And that horizontal line looks funny.” LOL