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  • Writer's pictureKevin Roeckl

Odie portrait in progress - start to finish

July 8


My next portrait is Odin (“Odie man”) for Robin B. As Robin was gathering photos and sending them to me, she kept saying, “His face melts my heart” and “His eyes melt my heart”. I can see why. They melt mine too.

Client's photos of a natural-eared red Doberman with a cute face

Robin wrote:

“You saw the picture on Facebook of his adoptaversary. I'm not sure if you could tell what a scared little boy he was. He had been dumped in a shelter and as you probably know, some dobermans just do not survive in that environment. Odin was one of them. When Dobie Ranch Rescue pulled him a week later (as soon as they were able) he had not eaten for a week while in the shelter. As soon as I heard his heartbreaking story and saw his pictures, I knew I wanted him but wasn't sure how our other male Kirby would deal. We were originally going to foster him until we could determine if he and Kirby could get along (they don't) but the Rescue was concerned about uprooting him again so I said we would just go ahead and adopt and work it out. We have been "working it out" ever since, but I haven't regretted a day with him and would do it all again. He has been a blessing.”

 

On his adoptaversary post Robin had written:

Happy 7 year adoptaversary to my special red headed mamas boy. He and I were definitely meant for each other. He is my ❤️.


 

Odie portrait in progress 2

Odie will be in a beach scene that is meaningful to Robin, 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.


1

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

2

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

3

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.


4

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


5

Peeling off the masking film....

Kevin's hands peeling off masking film from artwork


6

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

Colored pencil and watercolor portrait of Doberman, in progress

 

Odie portrait in progress 3

will also do an underpainting over Odie’s figure to darken this very pale paper and give me a base color (“red Doberman color”). But I don’t want to lose my guiding sketch lines that will then be underneath the paint. The paint will be a wash (watercolor thinned with water), more transparent in some places, more opaque in others. The lines will still be there, but very faint, unless I make them more prominent. Which is what I’m doing here. Making my pencil guidelines much heavier, and also using them to start forming some of the shading and dark areas of detail in Odie.

Detail of a colored pencil and watercolor portrait of a natural-eared Doberman, in progress

The portrait will be trimmed on all 4 sides at the end. It won’t have these messy edges on the sky.

Colored pencil and watercolor portrait of a natural-eared Doberman, in progress

 

Odie portrait in progress 4

I’ve put in an underpainting on Odie to give him a nice “red Dobe” base color to work on top of. I chose cream Canson paper for this portrait to give a nice glow to the sky, but it’s a pale color that takes a lot of coloring with colored pencils to make large dark areas. So I do an “underpainting” to give me the base colors that I’d have if I was working on chocolate-brown paper.


It looks really weird with the "white eyes". But I wanted to leave the paper untouched in the eye area so I can do the eyeball details with colored pencil. I don’t use watercolor very often so I’m a lot more confident with colored pencils than watercolor. Eyes are so important in a portrait I don’t want to take a chance they would be less than perfect.


Odie’s cute face is starting to take shape. Although very crude at this point.

Colored pencil and watercolor portrait of a natural-eared Doberman, in progress

 

Odie portrait in progress 5

I’ve been working on Odie’s eyes for the past two days. The left eye yesterday, the right eye today. Odie has such unique and special eyes, I *HAVE* to get them right.


I shot this pic with my phone when I started working in the studio this morning. I just had to take a pic of the monitor, the photos of Odie’s eyes that I was using for reference.

All those cute “Odie eyes” looking at me!

Portrait of a red Doberman, in progress in Kevin's art studio with reference photos on the monitor

 

Odie portrait in progress 6

After two days of work I finished Odie’s eyes. That took a lot of concentration. I’m happy with it so far. I think I captured his sweet eyes.

Colored pencil and watercolor portrait of a red Doberman in a beach scene, in progress

Odie’s upper head is finished, the rest of the portrait is still just underpainting. (See my previous Blog posts if you want to know about the underpainting and how it was done.)


Eyes are extremely important in any portrait, but Odie’s eyes are so unique, and such an important part of his look that it was especially critical to capture these “windows to his soul”. Below is what Robin wrote about the soul of gentle, sweet Odie....

Close up of colored pencil and watercolor portrait of a red Doberman in a beach scene, in progress

When I asked Robin to tell me about Odie before working on his portrait, she wrote:


So my Odie-Man,


You saw the picture on FB of his adoptaversary. I'm not sure if you could tell what a scared little boy he was. He had been dumped in a shelter and as you probably know, some dobermans just do not survive in that environment. Odin was one of them. When Dobie Ranch Rescue pulled him a week later (as soon as they were able) he had not eaten for a week while in the shelter. As soon as I heard his heartbreaking story and saw his pictures, I knew I wanted him but wasn't sure how our other male Kirby would deal. We were originally going to foster him until we could determine if he and Kirby could get along (they don't) but then Diane was concerned about uprooting him again so I said we would just go ahead and adopt and work it out. We have been "working it out" ever since, but I haven't regretted a day with him and would do it all again. He has been a blessing.


He came to us very fearful. Based on some of his responses, we believe a man had beaten him at some point. We worked on socializing him and he got progressively better (he still has fear but the responses have changed). He is a ladies man and has melted the hearts of the women at the vet as well. He gives them those big eyes and that sweet face and they swoon.


He is extremely gentle. I can play with him and he never bites down, he has never once hurt me playing…


He has toys with squeakers that he uses to communicate. Mike calls them his "communicators". He says when I am working at the office and it's time for me to get home, he will start squeaking and howling. When I get home, it turns into a happy squeak. If I am in another area of the house, he "calls" me with a different squeak (they really are distinct). We also get the happy squeak after he has gone out to the bathroom or been fed. He plays squeak games with Mike where Mike will squeak out a pattern and Odie will mimic it (not kidding - it is adorable). I have to travel for work from time to time. Mike says then he gives pitiful calls with his communicators.


He is a snuggle bug. … He also loves to give kisses, and they are not wet, sloppy kisses but soft sweet kisses. When I walk by him laying on the bed, he lifts up for a kiss and I have to "pay the toll" of a kiss to go past…. He wakes me up in the morning with a kiss then presses his head against my mouth so I can kiss his head.


He is a REALLY good boy, he listens well and knows how to tell us what he needs.


It is hard for me to believe he is 9 years old already, time has gone by so fast. He is showing that silver in the muzzle now and it both breaks and warms my heart. He is my heart.

 

Odie portrait in progress 7

Odie’s nose is finished. Today I’m working on the mouth.

The swatches show some of the pencil colors I’m using, on a scrap of the same “Ivory” Canson paper.

Colored pencil and watercolor portrait of a red Doberman in progress, with colored pencil swatches on Canson paper

Odie is starting to emerge from the scene.

Colored pencil and watercolor portrait of a red Doberman in a beach scene, in progress

A red Doberman’s nose is an interesting color. Is it grey? Mauve? Brown? Actually it’s all of those…and more. See if you can pick out some of the pencil colors I used to make Odie’s nose.

Then scroll down to the next picture to find out how good your guess was!

Close-up of dog's nose in a portrait of a red Doberman in progress.

Are you surprised?

Close-up of dog's nose in a portrait, with color swatches.

Prismacolor pencil on "ivory" Canson paper.

 

Odie portrait in progress 8

Making Odie’s pink tongue with colored pencils.

Close-up of colored pencil and watercolor portrait of a red Doberman in progress, with colored pencils

 

Odie portrait in progress 9

Odie’s body is finished. It took thousands of pencil strokes to do all the hairs of a Doberman coat on this large area of his neck, shoulder, and chest. This is the process:


1

I’m using colored pencils over the chocolate-brown underpainting which I did at the very beginning.

The front of Odie’s neck and throat, and the top of his back are finished. I’m working in from both sides toward that very large shoulder area. In this pic I've put in the dark colors on his shoulder....browns, deep burgundy, charcoal grey...many pencil strokes built up over one-another in the direction the hairs lie in his coat.

Close-up of underpainting with pencil strokes in a portrait of a red Doberman, in progress.

2

It takes thousands of pencil strokes with more than 20 different colors, including purple and blue. (Purple shown in my hand in this pic.) These are fine details that are hard to see in the small jpgs I share online, but the client sees it in the finished portrait.

Close-up of colored pencils and Kevin's hand making pencil strokes in a portrait of a red Doberman, in progress.

3

Odie’s body is finished. Many pencil strokes make the texture of a Doberman coat, and the lights and darks of his muscles.

Close-up of a portrait of a red Doberman, in progress.

Here is the whole artwork with Odie finished.

Coming into the homestretch now. All I have to do is the beach grass and the path. I'll be creating beach-grass with pencil strokes over the green underpainting the same way I made Doberman hair over the brown underpainting on Odie.

Colored pencil and watercolor portrait of a red Doberman, in progress, showing raw paper edges.

Here is the same scan of the portrait, cropped with Photoshop to 16 x 20, as Robin and Mike will see it on their wall when it’s finished. Now you can start to really see how the finished portrait will look.


Colored pencil and watercolor portrait of a red Doberman, in progress, cropped to it's final size.

"Portrait of Odie" in progress, for Robin B.

Prismacolor pencil and watercolor on Canson paper.


 

Odie portrait in progress 10

I’m coming into the homestretch now. All that’s left to do is the beach grass and the path.


Yesterday I shared a post showing how I made the hairs of Odie’s coat with thousands of colored-pencil strokes over a brown underpainting. I’m doing the same thing to make beach-grass and plants with colored pencils over green underpainting. I’ve finished the part above the path. Below the path is what the underpainting looks like, no colored pencil applied over it yet.

Close-up of beach dunes in a portrait of a red Doberman, in progress.

When we were designing the portrait and thinking about the background, Robin told me she and Mike rent a beach house every year and take Odie. Dogs are not allowed on the beach so they sit together and watch the sunset from the dunes...then after the sun goes down and the people have left they take Odie down the path to run on the beach. That setting and those fun beach memories are meaningful to Robin. This is the exact scene they see from the dune where they watch the sunsets, with the path of packed “white sugar sand” to the beach.


A close-up of the pencil work on the dunes:

A close-up of the pencil work in a portrait of a red Doberman, in progress.

 

Odie portrait in progress 11

Beach-grass and path finished. When we were designing the portrait and thinking about the background, Robin told me that she and her husband rent a beach house every year and take Odie. Dogs are not allowed on the beach so they sit together and watch the sunset from the dunes...then after the sun goes down they take Odie down this path to run on the beach.

Robin wrote:

“Odie is so good just enjoying sitting there with me as people walk up and down the beach path by the house. Once the sun has set and the people have left, we walk down to the beach so he can run and splash in the tide. He loves this. He likes to grab his leash and pull me along.”


Beach dunes in a portrait of a red Doberman, in progress.

After Robin told me about those special beach visits (and I saw the dunes in some of her photos of Odie) I suggested the beach scene and a sunset would be the perfect setting for Odie. That setting and those fun beach memories are very meaningful to Robin. The background in this portrait is the exact scene they see from the dune where they sit together to watch the sunsets, and the path of packed white sugar sand to the beach. It’s copied accurately from Robin’s photos.

 

Odie portrait finished

When Robin was sharing photos of Odie with me for the portrait, she kept saying, “His eyes melt me” and “His face melts my heart”. I could see why. They melted mine too.

Colored pencil and watercolor portrait of a red Doberman in a beach scene with sunset sky

"Ode to Odin" by Robin


I love you more than I can say

You are my baby in every way


As the years quickly melt away

I love you more everyday


You are my sun you are my shine

You make my world more than fine


Your kisses given sweet and freely

Make my day when you are near me


You need me, I need you

With your love I am never blue


If this time should ever end

Know you’ll always be my best friend.


Close-up of the Doberman's head in a portrait of a red Doberman

 

Odie arrived today!

The portrait of Odie arrived safely in Florida today. I always feel a wave of relief when a portrait I've worked on for weeks crosses that final hurdle, gets to the client's home safely, and they are happy with it. Robin posted this photo on Facebook and wrote:


"Odin's portrait has arrived. It is even more amazing in person. Kevin Roeckl has such a talent for remarkably lifelike portraits where you feel like you could reach out and touch the fur. We are thrilled beyond belief with the end product."

Client's husband holding the finished portrait of a red Doberman in a beach scene.

Portrait of Odie

Prismacolor pencil and watercolor on Canson paper

16 x 20 inches

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