It’s been a while since I blogged. Making videos for Youtube and Patreon has taken over a bit this past few months so I really must get back to updating my blog with all my progress images.
This past week or so I’ve been working on a beautiful Golden Retriever called Bilbo who is a beautiful example of the breed. The photo reference was a stunner but I knew it would be a challenge with all that splashing water. And I was right…it was!
I hope you enjoy my progression…Bilbo the Retriever's PortraitThe finished painting 18″ x 14″ soft pastel

With my line sketch on the velour I didn’t bother with much other than the dog himself. I figured I would deal with those droplets when I got there. I’ve used the light grey velour pastel paper for this.

I spent the first day blocking in some water but really wasn’t sure about the colours I was using and decided to move onto Bilbo so I could get a feel for the contrast between him and the background. I quickly realised I needed to go a little darker in the water for him to really pop. I don’t mind working backgrounds after the main subject as long as I have around the edges behind the dog blocked in so that his hair sits on top.

It’s a fiddly job working on the face at this scale. I do use some pastel pencil but I find I can’t get the same strength of colour as with the soft pastels. So my tiny shards of pastel were most useful. I can always find an edge.

It’s starting to take shape now but still a lot of work to do on the top half of the water. I’m trying to simplify it a little and really bring our attention to the foreground.

Starting to block in some of the colours on Bilbo’s coat. The tail catches the light beautifully but his whole side is in shadow with lots of blue violets and brown earths. Not what you expect on a light coloured dog, but this is often the case with shadows. They are deceiving!

With his chest hair in, the lighting effect starts to work. Saving the brightest tints for the sunlit areas and using very little to no white at all. White can be very stark so I use light yellow tints as my brightest colour.

Finally onto the water droplets and I start to add them around the top of the dog. I’ve added a bit more definition and highlighting to the water behind too, but without making it too busy.

It takes a full day of studying this splash to get the effect I wanted. Because his shadow is also cast in the splash it made it tricky to figure out what colours to use. Also because some of those tiny bubbles are so small, I’m using the tiniest pieces of pastel and a little pencil to neaten them up.

Starting to come together and I know when I get the foreground ripples in the water is going to look good. There is also a small collection of pebbles just to the left which will be my next task.

Pebbles worked and using all the colours that are within the piece. By keeping your palette consistent throughout a painting, it should all work harmoniously.

Sharing a little close up of some of those bubbles.

Hope you enjoyed this piece. I had great fun painting him, but I’m guessing not as much fun as Bilbo has jumping through waves!
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