Meet Bella, a sweet cavalier who is now 12 years old. Her owner, Kim, wanted a classic style formal portrait of Bella, portraying her when she was younger. She gave me an example of what she wanted and a pile of photos.
My first challenge was the photos she provided. We can’t go back and take pictures of the young Bella, so I had to work with what I had. The best pose was in a photo where Bella was 3/8” tall! I scanned it and blew it up, but it still was only a little over an inch tall to work from. ACK!
I was amazed at how much detail I was able to get. Other photos showed me markings that were covered up by Jerry’s (Kim’s husband) hand. And the little red spot on her head didn’t show in most pictures, but I felt it needed to be included in order for it to truly look like Bella.
The hardest part is to start. I always do a wash of the basic colors just to get something on the paper. Once that is done, I can methodically start working. At some point, not too far into the painting, I have to sit back and be sure nothing is out of whack. In this one, one eye was too small, and one ear was too short. She looked totally out of balance. Those are major changes.
I love working in watercolor because you can lift the paint. I love pencil because you can erase it, and I love acrylic because you permanently cover up your mistakes! So it helps my confidence to know nothing is “unfixable”. My work is truly mixed media.
I used photos of other cavaliers to figure out the white curls on her chest, and I had Kim take a photo of Bella straight on so I could see her curls too.
When it was all done, I wondered if it truly looked like Bella, since I had only know her as an old dog. Kim said yes, definitely. And she loved the little “lozenge” on the top of her head.
The goal of any artist is to improve over the years. I have painted several cavaliers, and I think this one is probably the best one I have done. To see more of my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel paintings, visit their page on my website.