Portrait of Fergus -My process. Part One

In preparation for my exhibit at the https://dogloversshow.com.au/melbourne/,I need to paint examples of my work for the visitors to see what I do. I thought it might be interesting to document my painting process from start to finish.


Reference photo for RUFUS

This is my reference photo of a beautiful shaggy dog I recently met outside the local IGA supermarket. His owner gave me permission to photograph him – so I did. What a beauty! Part Irish Wolf Hound, part Bull Mastiff. Full blooded gentle giant, and so handsome in his own shaggy way. How could I resit that lovely smile? I didn’t get to know what his real name is, so I have named him FERGUS

Masking the edges

I like my paintings to have a crisp, white edge. it is just my preference because I like the way it looks on the wall. I have found that masking the edge of the canvas goes a long way in keeping the edges clean. It is effective to brush a coat of acrylic binder on first and let it dry thoroughly before putting on the tape. This acts as a barrier, and I have discovered that less paint seems to want to leak under the tape. The tape needs to be smoothed down evenly – especially on the painting edge.

Massaging the canvas

Starting a painting on a blank canvas puts me off, as the white is the lightest tone. I prefer to put a bit of paint down to give the canvas a bit more priming on top of the gesso. It also  gives me a mid tone to work with.

opal-pastro-art-blog-reference- lightened
Grid made on Ipad – lightened to see the details in darker areas

Because I’m working with likeness and photos, it works for me to use a grid system. I have a grid app on my iPad which is great. Once the composition is loaded onto the grid and saved, I can enlarge or change the lighting etc as I require during painting. It is particularly handy doing the detailed dark areas, such as eyes and nose, as I can lighten on the ipad and see the details.

Outline charcoaled in using the grid system


Next I grid up the canvas and charcoal in the outlines and contour lines. The more accurate I am here, the more time saved later on.


FERGUS Eyes, Nose and tonal values in.

Now it is time to paint. I began blocking in the values of tone with a mix of blue black and burnt sienna. This gives me a lovely rich black – dark bluey grey.

Then I like to make a start on the personal details – eyes, nose and mouth. At this stage, I’ve got these feature going OK. I’m always mindful of my light source and my edges. These two factors are vital in giving a subject volume and depth.

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