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  • Writer's pictureKevin Roeckl

Odie portrait in progress 2 - watercolor techniques

Odie will be in a beach scene that is meaningful to clients Robin and Mike, a favorite vacation spot. He is not allowed on the beach so they wait until sunset and then take him to the beach to run. A path to the beach through the dunes at sunset is a special and beloved scene to Robin.


I’m doing this portrait on cream-colored Canson paper.

Odie is masked out with clear adhesive film, cut carefully around the edge of his figure with an x-acto knife. I protect the figure so I can do nice flowing strokes with watercolor without having to paint carefully around the edges of the figure. Canson paper is a pastel paper, not made to be wet. It absorbs water quickly. I have to work fast to keep the paper wet so the paint flows into the wetness making soft feathery edges on the clouds. I can’t stop to slowly paint around the complex shapes of Odie’s face. But I don’t want the sunset colors to go across Odie’s face: that will be “Doberman colored”.

Masking off a Doberman portrait in Kevin's art studio


First I put in a pale blue wash across the top half of the sky, to make the bright sky background behind the clouds. After that dries then I put in the clouds with a darker blue. I do that with the paper wet so when I make brush strokes of blue paint on the wet, the edges of the clouds “bleed”, they spread out all feathery like real clouds.

I have to get the wet paper just the right amount of wetness — too wet and the blue paint will just puddle up…too dry and it will have hard edges instead of soft fuzzy edges. I wet the paper with a sponge, wrung out to just the right amount — not soppy wet.

Watercolor sky background  in a Doberman portrait in Kevin's art studio with art materials


Putting in the sunset colors - pinks and lavender - on the lower half of the sky.

The pinks and purple are mixed up in that tray to the right. They look like dark reds and purples but they are actually thinned a LOT with water so they are pale pastels when they spread on the wet paper. The swatches just above the paint tray show where I was testing out the colors on a scrap of paper to see how much I needed to thin with water.

Watercolor sunset background  in a Doberman portrait in Kevin's art studio with art materials

The layout I created in Photoshop from Robin’s photos is on the monitor to guide me as I work.


The sky is finished.

I also added a stroke of purple-blue for the distant ocean, the horizon line where sea meets sky, barely visible beyond the dunes.

Then I put in the underpainting for the dunes and the path of packed white “sugar sand”. The beach grass on the dunes doesn’t look like much yet, I’ll add the grass blades with pencil strokes over this underpainting later. The dunes were done with more “wet in wet” (that’s a watercolor term) where I wet the paper and let the dune-grass colors bleed and flow into one-another, like I did with the clouds.

Beach dunes and path underpainting  in a Doberman portrait in Kevin's art studio


Peeling off the masking film....

Kevin's hands peeling off masking film from artwork


Now I have nice clean paper to do the figure of Odie.

Colored pencil and watercolor portrait of Doberman, in progress

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