I was asked to paint Wolfie, a special boy who passed away many years ago. His human has missed him ever since though and wanted to commemorate him in a painting. The photos she had were not the best quality but the composition of this one really struck me. The photo was a little grainy but I loved the scene and could see enough detail to make it work.
I have taken absolutely loads of progress photos to show the build up of both the background, water and Wolfie himself.
Hope you enjoy his progression along with our last few days of touring Denmark.
Wolfie’s finished painting. 18″x14″ soft pastel on velour.
I also took a video of the finished piece which you can see on my Youtube channel at https://youtu.be/t7R3tAi5u_U
My first task as always is to sketch out the composition and get that transferred onto the velour. I’m using a light grey velour as a good midtone.
The first thing I need to do is block in some sky colour and then create some of the darkness. The background has a lot of depth in there and while I want to liven up those black areas in the photo, I do need to create the initial darkness. I’m using both Unisons and a few Terry Ludwig darks for extra interest in the darkest areas.
I start in the middle at the furtherest away point. I’m trying to blur the distant trees in the photo reference. I want to bring the focus more to the foreground by being a little more Impressionistic with the background. So big marks and vibrant colours.
I leave some gaps to let the dark areas shine through, but the vibrant Unison greens go on lovely over the dark areas. I use hardly any pastel pencil in this piece, especially the background. Much looser marks will give that bokeh effect.
I begin to bring out some the sunlit areas to the left. You can see how once a few of these are dotted over the dark, it already gives some depth to the tree line.
I start to bring in some of the lighter tones on the leaves next the sky. The outline of these areas creates a pretty solid line against the sky so I use some of the light blue sky to neaten these edges from the other side.
You can see how I build up light and shadow using the different colours of green. On those leaves to the left midway up the painting you can see the sunlit leaves are a zingy yellow based green. The ones that are just in shadow are a blue based green. The simple choice of colour really creates the light and shadow.In this picture you can see some of the purples and orange added to the shadow areas. I’m painting in dots mostly, dabbing them on and giving them a rub in too. As I come up the layers the marks get a little smaller but I still keep this background area loose.
I start to pick out some of the foliage on the right side of the painting. Some areas that are closer to us will be slightly more in focus than the rest of the background.
To create these branches sticking out into the sky I lay down the darkest tones of deep yellowy green and purple. Once I add the highlight dots it will start to make more sense.
Starting to work more on this branch I want more in the foreground. To create this effect I’ll use much smaller marks and dots. This will make it appear that we area seeing them in more detail because they are closer.
Here are the colours I used in the background treeline. A couple of deep navy/purple tones from Terry Ludwig and then my range of greens, purples and yellows from Unison. This palette was then used on the rest of the painting with added light tones for Wolfie and the rocks.
We’ve spent this last week still in Denmark. The weather has been great and we’ve been treated to some fantastic sunsets on the North coast beaches.
Driving around the North coast of Zealand, the island of Denmark where Copenhagen is.
A perfect parking spot at Hornbæk.
Meeting the locals on the beach at Hornbæk.
Sunset at Hornbæk Marina
Back to work on this background and I’m onto the water area where there are a lot of rocks and their reflections to deal with. I start by outlining some of the most fiddly ones towards the horizon line. These are the trickiest as they’re so small.
I use the same vibrant colours from the tree line. The rocks behind in the shadow areas are of course blue, while the rocks hit by sunlight are light oranges, yellows and white.
As with the tree line there is a lot of reflected darkness in the water. Without the real contrast there, the painting will look flat. So I spend a lot of time making sure the darkest areas are really rich and well rubbed in.
On the water as long as you keep your marks nicely horizontal you can’t go wrong. Don’t let them go too wonky or you’ll lose the effect. A little bit of movement is good though.
I’ve tried to choose the most vibrant colour choices to liven up the old photograph.
Using the same light blue from the sky I add that central light reflection. I’m using a stick that has been worn down into nice flat points at the top making it accurate to work with.
On our way back our of Denmark we stopped at the big Storebælt bridge where there was a pretty wild spot to stay over. It feels like we must be trolls as we’ve spent a lot of time living under and around bridges this past while. Our time in Denmark has come to an end and we are starting our journey Southward now for Winter. Denmark has been beautiful, hospitable and worth visiting again!
I finally make it onto Wolfie and start with those ears. There is such a good dark area behind his head which will help in making him jump out.
You can see due to the scale, I will not be going into mad detail on this one. The painting is more a scene with the dog in it, rather than a portrait. But I do hope to capture his likeness. I use the purples through his dark fur and pick out the sunlit white areas with smaller shards of Unison Grey27 which is a yellowy white I use a lot.
A little pastel pencil also comes in useful for shaping the tongue, the eyes and around the ears.
Again the vibrant yellow and greens get used as they reflect off his coat.
Using the light blue from the sky to pick out white fur in the shadow area.
As soon as I outline the legs his posture starts to take shape.
Like with all the other areas I need the darks to be really contrasted to create the depth in his coat.
Here you can see one of the light lilac colours I use for the highlights on his rump. You can see in the blurred image behind I’ve laid down lots of orange and yellow too before adding highlights. His coat reflects so much of the colours in the landscape around him.
Using smaller and smaller shards to create the details.
I use the pencil to pick out the outline of the paws and their shadow on the rock.
Making the marks always in the direction of the fur.
Using the Grey 27 to highlight the paws.
I use a lot of purple on the rock and also fill in a lot of the dark areas before adding the highlights.
Here is a little close up of a couple of areas to show you some detail and show you the contrast between the foreground and background.
I’ll leave you with a Brocci shot in her favourite people watching spot. She often sits here behind my neck while I’m working and lets out the occasional bark at a passer by.
Hope you’ve enjoyed my progress on Wolfie and our last bit of Denmark. I’m busy working on more tutorial videos and will be posting new ones very soon.