World, meet Brodie. He’s a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and he’s a great little guy.

Brodie is a handsome young man, isn’t he? My sister commissioned a portrait of him to hang in the home that they’ve been working really hard to restore for the better part of 2010. I finished the painting in October, but wanted to get pictures of it in its new home, and with Brodie, before I shared this project with you. You might think that the portrait is somewhat cartoonish. It’s not! This is probably the most realistic painting I’ve ever done- Brodie just happens to be a cartoon dog! His head is REALLY BIG when you compare it to his body. See?

I started off the project by taking a bunch of pictures of Brodie. He’s a good subject, but he does move a lot. And he likes to lick his lips. I wanted to get his fancy brindled coat as accurate as possible, since he lives in the home that the painting was to hang in- I can’t imagine how annoyed I’d be when I went to visit and some of his spots were off. My sister and her husband had a favorite (phone) picture of him that they wanted me to use for his facial expression though, so I used the photos that I took for his posture and the picture on my phone for his face, to work out a sketch.

Originally we talked about a solid yellow or orange background, but I had a really hard time with the artificial Tang/Mac-n-Cheeze orange feeling that the chosen orange gave me. Here’s my sketch transferred onto the canvas using a loose grid technique. It can be really hard to keep the proportions the same from a sketch that you’re happy with to the larger finished product, so my advice is to take it slow, be patient, and step back from your work often to check it out. I devoted an evening to getting the sketch on to the canvas, and could have taken more time! Here’s the sketch on the canvas, with two layers of that horrendous color (note the blobs of color on the sketch above where I tested various mixtures of the acrylic paint to get the perfect shade…) See how loose the sketch is, and how many revisions I made? Erasing would mess with the texture of the canvas, so don’t do that! Keep it light and loose at first, and then build up the pencil lines on the lines as they fall into the right places:

I have an art degree, but I didn’t do much painting in school. I did a lot of printmaking, so I tend to work in layers when I paint. I have a strong feeling that it’s probably not the best technique, but it works for me. I didn’t take photos of my process, because while working in layers, things don’t tend to look very good until the end. Also, I needed to focus! My sister was coming to visit, and I wanted to have the portrait ready for her to take home.
Once I decided that the awful color in the background just wouldn’t do, I used a sponge to put smudgy wet layers of charcoal and brown paint down, to complement his coat, as well as the color of the wall that the painting was going to hang on. After the background was done, I alternated white, white-pink, and gray layers on Brodie’s tummy, while alternating black, black-brown, and grey layers on his dark spots and nose, with a final shot of white, caramel (in the brindling of his coat), and black for that one warty whisker at the end:

I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. I was really excited when my sister and I decided that a stuffy, regal portrait style would be really funny with his goofy face. I am hoping that they’ll get a really ornate frame for it, but we’ll see. I’ll let you know. But here’s the painting in its home, waiting to be placed on the wall. I hope that the painting offers their little family much joy for years to come.