Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tabby cat painting, plus step by step photos


On the Veranda  ©2016 Karen Mathison Schmidt
6 x 6 inches • oil on ⅛" Ampersand Museum Series (archival) GessobordTM

private collection • Shreveport, Louisiana

Our Bailey, sometimes grumpy, but always as beautiful as a southern belle. Really she’s hanging out on the back porch, but I imagine she would refer to it as “lounging on the veranda.”

Always a joy to paint her, with all her interesting markings. Here are the progress photos:

First I transferred my drawing to my panel with graphite transfer paper. A hint to keep the drawing from smudging and graying my paint: I paint over the entire drawing with a mixture of titanium white acrylic and acrylic glazing medium. The medium makes the white transparent so I can still see my drawing, and after it dries, that pesky graphite is sealed in place under a layer of paint. 

Next I blocked the painting in, using only ultramarine. One of my very favorite compositional elements is a lost edge. Bailey’s markings and whiskers gave me plenty to play with!

After the first layer is dry, I add a glaze of the ultramarine on Bailey and a glaze of cobalt turquoise over the flowerpot in the background. (Currently I’m using Liquitex acrylic Gloss Medium & Varnish mixed with the paint to make my glazes.) With a damp paper towel, I gently "lift" some of the color from what will be the lightest areas of the painting.

Next, I added an Indian yellow glaze in those lightest areas. I wanted the glaze to be nice and yellow, so I mixed only a tiny amount of the medium to the paint.

Now things are starting to get FUN! I added a very transparent glaze of pyrrole red over the turquoise of the background flowerpot, giving me a nice warm stone color; another layer of ultramarine glaze and then quinacridone fuchsia glaze to the dark areas of Bailey; and the pyrrole red glaze to those light areas, making them a beautiful sunset orange.

Usually at this point I stop and eat lunch, or work on another painting, or fold some clean laundry or take a little walk for thirty minutes or so, to make sure the acrylic underpainting is good and dry before I start with the oils!

I knew I wanted to leave some of the underpainting showing in the darkest areas of the finished painting, so I at this stage I painted the light areas of her face in first, to give me an idea of where I could leave that vivid underpainting uncovered and still achieve the overall look I wanted.

Notice how the lights are not all the same, some are warm (cadmium orange or red mixed with white) and some are cool (blues or greens mixed with the white

At this point I’m really getting a sense of what the finished look will be. I start adding some of the background colors to help me make color decisions for Bailey’s coat. For example, after I added the green leaves near the top of the painting, I decided to echo that in oh-so-selective places in her fur, near the bottom of the picture. Also, to make her a little less grumpy, I added the light-colored downward stroke at the outside top of each eye, which look kind of like an eyelashes or a little eye whisker. You can also see by comparing the finished photo below with this one that I changed the shape of the top edge of her right eye (her right, not ours) ever so subtly – I took out the little dip right above the pupil. This has the effect of very slightly softening her expression.

Note: I hardly ever use black on my palette these days; those dark areas in the background are a mixture of Caribbean blue, quinacridone rose and veridian green.

Comparing this photo with the one above, you can see that I made her eyes a bit lighter and glassier (remember that eyes are very reflective, and so will have a lot of different colors which reflect the surroundings). 

I also noticed that her mouth wasn’t quite right. (Actually, it was my sister the former veterinary tech and animal artist herself who brought this to my attention. I sent her this progress pic and she texted back that it looked like Bailey was pursing her lips.) After studying my reference photo for a few seconds I saw that the little line under the tip of Bailey’s nose was a smidge too long. Easy correction!

When the painting is finished, I use a plastic mechanical pencil with the lead screwed all the way down inside the tip, as a stylus to scratch my signature in the paint.

And heeeeeere’s Bailey! 


Vicky Christensen said...

I love your work Karen. Thanks so much for showing your process!

Anonymous said...

Love your work, Your colours are just delightful, My favorite is the dogs on the couch, I am just in love with that painting. Thank you also for showing your progress. It is great to see how artist achieve their Art works and it inspires me to keep looking and trialing new things.

Jenna Star Friedman said...

Thank you so much for this step by step demo. Your use of color is wonderful. I appreciate your notes about ways to use things like color temperature as well as pointing out how getting certain lines just right can capture the expression of your kitty's personality. Love your work!

Karen M Schmidt said...

Thanks so much, everyone! I always enjoy seeing other artists' process, and I'm glad you enjoy seeing mine. Happy painting!