Painting Alex’s Lurcher, Isla, became an instant priority for me when I was shown a photo of the dog.  Alex is an excellent professional photographer (see his web site here), and he seems to have set up his lighting as if he was photographing a human sitter.  Somehow he got the dog to play along, and created a charming portrait which I just had to attempt in watercolor.

Firstly, apologies for the quality of these photos – they were taken to help me as I painted, not to be published – but the picture has attracted so much interest I though it would be good to explain how I painted it.

As the Lurcher’s face is so full of character, I spent a long time trying to draw it correctly.  In fact, I rubbed out my pencil drawing four times before I was finally satisfied with the outline.

A few days before I attempted to paint Isla, I had discovered, and worked through, Alison Fennell’s excellent tutorial on how to paint a Great Dane. This had worked well for me – and through it I learnt to start the painting with a wet-in-wet undercoat.  I used clear water to put a wash within the outline of the dog – excluding the eyes.  Then I was able to drop appropriate colour into different places on the dog – such as a pinky colour within the ears.  Because it was going onto wet paper, it spread out slightly and ended up  drying as  soft muted colours

Once the background wash was completely dry, I was able to add a light blue color as the first layer of Isla’s coat, using brush strokes which matched the direction of the fur.  These would end up as the highlights in the final picture.

I also added a light brown colour to the eyes, being careful to leave the white of the paper for highlights.

As many artists know, there seems to be a times in most paintings where you think “What on earth am I doing?  This is terrible” and think of scrapping the whole painting.  I reached this stage about now!

Fortunately I persevered, and started adding darker blue/grey colors to the coat and ears.  I also added a blue/black mix to the nose, making sure to have highlights around the nostrils.  Finally I began to add some hair to the side of the neck.

At last it was time to complete the eyes, and to add smaller details here and there to help the painting come to life.

For the eyes I added a dark blue/black to much of the eye, covering much of the brown that I had previously painted.  Blending the dark colour into the existing brown resulted in beautiful bright eyes.

I was careful to leave the white highlights  in the eyes, so they are the color of the original paper.