The Dog Days of Summer.

I woke up last Monday morning and it was AUGUST. My favorite month of the year! In addition, last week’s Commentors gave me two votes for getting a DoG. Last week’s Commentors also taught me the word ensorcelled — thanks, Thea! — and informed me that a wheelbarrow will only fit one wombat  at a time  — thank you, Megan! — so I’ve had a lot to process this past week.

Now, about the DoG thing:

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Mac here (above) is, of course, a Scottish Terrier, a breed that is, as they say, an acquired taste, much like Scottish people themselves. And like your typical  Hatfield or McCoy, Scottie DoGs are proud and stubborn and manically loyal, usually to one and only one person at a time. But this Scottie here is a very rare Scottie of bifurcated doggedness having met, one day, a DoGless lady of his one person’s acquaintance and, sussing that this DoGless lady was sadly lacking a Scottie in her life, took it upon himself to make her his plus one. Some guardian angels have tiny little legs and extremely strong personalities instead of wings.

I imported this portrait of the noble Mac Scottie in the snow to my iPhoto file and brightened the contrast so I could differentiate his various hues and textures. Why?

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Because we’re going to have some DoG fun today! We’re going to paint Monsieur Mac!

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Grumbacher paints in the round, Winsor Newton in the square.


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I confess that I traced his outline from a print out of his photo, to get the proportions exact. Then I researched the woof and tweeter of Scotties’ fur, which is very particular. Plus, painting a nearly monotone black dog is very tricky — I have to take my time and think and plan ahead how I am going to use artistic license to not paint a big black puddle of black and call it “Mac”. Do I detect hints of blue and brown in M. Mac’s coat?

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I start with eye — if I don’t get the eye right I will have to throw out the whole shebang and start over, so I might as well do the most crucial bit first. It’s time saving, really, to start with the most diffy bit first.

Mac has very soulful eyes. And I think he looks very pensive in his photograph. I hope to get all that.

I start with a pale blue:

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Over which I wash a very watery brown:

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Still working wet-in-wet, I dab in deep black around the edge . . .

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I let that dry and I paint in a semi-circular pupil with a dot of white acrylic:

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I like this eye. I make a note to self to be very very very careful what I paint around this eye so that I don’t loose the oomph.

Next, I’m going to paint in the far-away shoulder area — I’ve never done this kind of painting before, so this is where I will “practice”. I’ve already decided that I can’t use a pure black color, for puddle reasons; I will mix in blue for the “shine” of this black coat. I’m also using two kinds of black paint, the powdery Grunbacher and the vivid Winsor Newtons — more about that later. So I swab in a blue outline and blend in a very watery WN black:

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I also used G[rumbacher] brown for the front ruff (barely visible int his pic below).

I have, beforehand, plotted out the areas that I am going to paint, one by one, in sequence (you can’t paint the whole DoG at once!). This is a step that I didn’t use to take when I was a beginner: the THINKING AHEAD part. But it makes life so much easier if you have a strategy.

So I proceed to the next bit, a blue/black wash on his little head:

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You’ll notice that I let the water and the paint mix itself and dry — I like the effect. I don’t mind that this watercolor portrait will look like a watercolor. And I am intentionally lightening up this part of his face to avoid the puddle thing.

Now I have to do the ears . . .

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Dang. I slopped a little drop of black paint on the paper where it doesn’t belong. I have to let it dry so I can white-out that drop when I finish the picture (I’ll use acrylic white paint). I hope you can see that I still “outline” Mac in blue. This is pure artistic license. Even if only a hair’s width of this blue remains when the ear is finished, I think its presence will add to the complexity of the black that I am layering:

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And now I begin Mac’s eyebrows:

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Note the two tones of black: Here is where you can see the difference between the paler, powdery Grunbacher black paint and the saturated Winsor Newton black paint. Using them both here adds to the complexity of “black”, don’t you think?

The closer that I get to the eye, the more nervous I get. One slip of the brush and poof! All is lost!

I’m showing you this photo (below) because you can see how I am layering in some brown on Mac’s nose, and also you can see that I got his foreground eyebrow wrong:

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So I erased half of it, by dabbing a brush soaked in clean water over the area:

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I am careful to leave the tiniest line of unpainted paper surface around Mac’s eye in order to make it the visual center point of this portrait. I’m painting his nose a mix of G blue and G black:

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Now for the fun bit! I love mixing brown and black!

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I have to work quickly here and it’s nerve-wracking — I have to work wet-in-wet with G black and WN brown and black, and make the brush strokes go in the right (whiskery) direction.

For this portrait, I have turned Mac’s body sideways to paint him in profile (he’s actually photographed in 3/4 mode), so this is all hypothetical to me! And can’t over-do this face; it has to look effortless, assured, and correct — which means that I can’t get away with erasing anything here. I t has to be right the first time:

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I forgot to photo my day’s work here, because I then put it away. I like to sleep on such an important painting. So the next day I came back and made a few tweaks and then the Noble Monsieur Mac was finished:

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You might notice that on Day Two I corrected his eyebrows so that they would be all lined up, neat and trim as in his photo. I also changed his eye, from this:

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To this:

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My first (and probably only) Scottie DoG portrait (for Beth):

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If I had thought of it earlier I would have Googled watercolor scottie dogs, to see what I could steal. Now that it’s too late for me to pilfer from the professionals, I trolled the inter webs  anyway and found a U.K. watercolor artist by the name of Patch Wheatley, who paints quite a lot of Scottie DoGs and it is interesting to me to compare:

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See? I thought I was ever so clever in mixing blue and brown in my two black paints. Ha! We don’t ever think of anything new on our own, do  we? No, we just bump our heads against the good ideas that hang in the ether forever.

Have a terrier weekend, my Wonder Ones!

16 Comments, RSS

  1. ann August 5, 2016 @ 4:19 am

    Wow! What a great picture! I just love your choice of shadows on your beautiful Mr. Mac. I like his eye and wonder what he is thinking about.

    Thank you sharing.

  2. Anonymous August 5, 2016 @ 7:55 am

    I think your terriers are….terri..fic!

  3. Monique August 5, 2016 @ 7:56 am

    Oh that was me above..Monique:)

  4. Deb Mattin August 5, 2016 @ 10:16 am

    WOW! The picture of the pencil sketch with the painted eye is beautiful ! Funny how just that bit of color brings the sketch to life.

    I love the finished dog and the bit of blue in his eye is perfect. Again, I can’t paint at all, yet remain mesmerized by every stroke you document.

  5. Marg-o August 5, 2016 @ 12:23 pm

    I was thinking the exact thing — WOW how a perfectly painted eye makes a piece of paper come alive! I almost wanted the portrait to stop there but I also love watching you paint.

    Kisses to Mac.

  6. Patricia August 5, 2016 @ 4:05 pm

    If I were painting this … well I wouldn’t. I’d give up before I started, trying to paint a black dog is nearly impossible. Of course you proved me wrong beautifully. I love his eye, both finished and before. Frankly yours was the very best black Scottie painting.

  7. Vicki A. August 5, 2016 @ 6:09 pm

    Okay, I MUST ask…why do you write DoG like that?

  8. Becky August 5, 2016 @ 8:07 pm

    Wow!! What a beautiful job. I love your version much better than the examples you found. You gave Mac such character……you should consider painting more dogs. Kitties would forgive you…maybe.

  9. Kirra August 5, 2016 @ 8:37 pm

    Another wow! I love this painting, what a cute dog. Smaller dogs are my favourite type. It is always fascinating watching the stages of your painting, but also the research and planning.

    I like the thought that good ideas are hanging in the ether. Enjoy August!!

  10. Judy Jennings August 5, 2016 @ 10:30 pm

    Oh, Vivian. Oh, Vivian. You made me cry. Mac was the most wonderful person ever and you TOTALLY captured him. Pooh on Patch Wheatley, you are AMAZING.

  11. Beth August 5, 2016 @ 11:15 pm

    Vivian, you got him! If your picture was in a Scottie line-up, I’d say, “That’s my Mac!” It’s just perfect.

    Your blog came at a perfect time. Last week, I burst into tears when I passed a Scottie who had a similar jaunt to his step and yesterday I saw one with Mac’s dignified demeanor waiting for the #49 bus downtown and I wanted to rub my face in its fur. He was the best boy and you’ve captured all of his best-ness. (I just wish you could have seen him playing hide-n-go-seek or do his puzzle or race outdoors to restore order to his yard whenever I’d say, “Monkeys!”)

    Thank you for capturing him!

  12. Beth August 5, 2016 @ 11:19 pm

    P.S. I don’t know what your dog breed of choice is but should you feel terrier inclined, DO NOT believe the “experts” who say Scotties and cats don’t get along. Mac personally ignored (as in he pretended not to see) them but his predecessors loved the family feline.

  13. Thea August 5, 2016 @ 11:24 pm

    You have caught essence of DoG, all in a soulful eye. Noble Mac Scottie! Here’s the thing: both photo and enchanting watercolor reflect a scottie; indeed, the worthy Mac Scottie. But! with just a added fillip of tan, you have captured Petey, our house Dandy Dinmont (a difficult dog to catch, she said, finger-waggling a cigar and with eyebrows jumping). You have an artistic gift for DoG.

    Thank you for your good wishes. Around here, all our weekends are terrier.

  14. Megan August 6, 2016 @ 9:39 am

    Great Scotty dog painting. Love the wombat, he looks a happy fellow, how nice to be chauffeured about.

  15. Deborah Hatt August 7, 2016 @ 5:26 pm

    There are some creatures, including some people I know, who, by nature, look so much like cartoon characters, it hardly seems they can be living and breathing – Scotties fall under this category. They can manage to look so dadgum cute, yet so totally serious, all at the same time. And, may I say, dear Vivian … You Nailed It! Mac looks absolutely perfect! Bravo!

    Scotties are fierce little bundles, to be sure. They help put the “terror” in the word “terriers.” And they are protective of their folk. Nice to have their sort around these days. We have owned airedales over the years, who are the largest terrier breed, and they made every day a fun adventure. You just gotta love those square faces!

    Thanks for the “painting Mac” tutorial. As always, it’s been a treat. After experiencing a roller-coaster kind of week, of first, sweet highs, and then ending up with some tearful woes, it was restful to take-in your painting process, step-by-step. And your end result … Simply Delightful, my dear.

    Happy Trails, as you sashay through this coming week with Top Cat, and all your furry troop, reaping blessings along the way – not to mention, blue jay feathers and orange balloons named Sputnik.

  16. jeanie August 9, 2016 @ 4:22 pm

    I can’t tell you how much better reading this post made me feel. I always feel like I’m cheating a bit when I do the trace-the-outlines/key parts thing but it’s the only way I can seem to get animals right. Well, OK, get anything right. I remind myself that Vivian has a light box and my graphic trace is just a different version of that. Sort of. And that the teacher who did my pet painting class did that. But no matter how good my painting comes out (and they aren’t that good for the most part!) I still feel guilty. But seeing you do this too made me feel better. And you’ve been doing this for ages and I’ve only been doing it a few months. So I will try to stop the bad self-talk!

    Yes, the eyes must be done first. They’re so hard. Sometimes I just draw eyes. I always try to find the hard part first because life is too short!

    Well, all this leads up to yet another wow, another batch of superlatives. This painting of Mac truly does capture his heart and soul — and yes, the eyes have it! This is indeed a treasure. The tutorial, so well explained and giving me courage to mix a little more! Thanks, Vivian! Again!

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