bulldog painting process

Posted on by Wess Foreman

This is a commission I painted a few months ago. I took photos along the way and thought I'd share a bit of my painting process for you here.

First off, the reference photo. Here's the photo I was working with. Ideally, the photo should encapsulate the basic layout of the painting itself. Photography after all is an artistic pursuit in its own right. This photo was taken in landscape but I want a portrait-oriented canvas---not so bad as this was the only major change I needed to make.

I usually don't make a drawing before starting in with the paint. Here my main goal is to cover the canvas with paint---I am trying to capture the placement of the subject but only roughly [and knowing I will be changing and perfecting anything I paint at this stage].


Once the shapes are roughed out and the canvas is covered with paint, I start the process of reshaping the form into something more akin to the photo. The client wanted a nondescript background with vibrant reds and yellows, so I laid it on thick, adding dramatic lighting by suggesting shadows on the ground [notice, there are actually little if any indications of a light source on the dog's body itself---if I wanted a more realistic representation, I would definitely address this issue perhaps by retaking reference photos with a light source coming from the left].

I usually do not like to leave dead spots in my paintings---places where there is a single unvaried color---notice how the white of the chest and the tan of the back are both mottled with gray, indicating fur and making those areas more interesting. And of course, the background is a mishmash of undulating color.

I am pleased with the final painting, though it took a bit of time toward the final stages getting the details right. I focus most of my attention in the later stages on the face, since this is the focal point of the painting and the focal point is where most of the details should reside. Other important parts of the painting---the carefully attenuated feet and the dramatic shadows beneath those feet---make the entire surface of the painting important to the viewer. The eye moves from the focal point to the interesting background, to the feet and shadows, then return to the features of the face.

Bulldog Commission, 30x24"