View Full Version : HELP! Dog Portrait & Problem with Fur Detail

09-27-2012, 09:58 AM
I am a freelance artist and commission pet portraits and have done now for about 6 months. However, I am still not quite there yet in terms of my technique and i'm struggling with something in particular. I wondered if anyone here may be able to offer me advice on how I can get around my problem which seems to be holding me back and dwindling my confidence.

My issue is with fur! I am astounded by the detail that some of you fellow artists are getting in your work with fur! I've tried and tried and tried again to perfect fur like that and I just cannot seem to fathom how to do it. I do know one important thing is to remember to observe the growth direction of the fur and follow it with the strokes of the pastel pencils. But how do you make it look like you can see every strand? Surely it is impossible to draw every strand you see from a photgraph?

I am currently trying to do a labrador dog (i've tried to attach photos of the work so far, but they wont upload - please email me and i will send them) but im really stuck on how to get this fur effect. The wet fur on his head is proving very dificult. Could anyone please suggest how I could get around this? I'm using Daler-Rowney Canford Pastel paper.

Also, the pastel pencils dont seem to be taking to the paper i'm using. Im really struggling to get the colour to stick. I layed down the lightest blue colour first where the majority of that colour was on the photograph, then attempted to fill in the gaps around it to make it stand out. But having applied one colour as a base, the other colours are not taking to the paper on top.

Help! - from one very distressed artist :)

Thank you

Dez Wilson
(Chesterfield, UK)

09-27-2012, 11:18 AM
Hi Dez, welcome to WC! There are a number of fur-painters here, and I'm sure they'll help you. While I never bother with single hairs (I do clumps of hair), I recently learned how one very good artist, Sharron, does it. Here is her tutorial, in The Pastel Scribbler Newsletter (http://pastelguild.com/Scribbler/pastel_scribbler_sep2012.pdf), on page 9 of the pdf. What I like with it is that she starts with a base coat.

Oh, yes, the paper you use matters a lot! The DR paper, is it "ordinary" paper? You may need something like Pastelmat or Fisher 400, or velour. (You can get all these in the UK.)

Ah, you need one more text-only post, and with your third you can post a picture.

09-27-2012, 11:47 AM
Welcome to the Pastel forum! It sounds like you've jumped right in to pastels, they are quite addictive.

Yes, one more text only post and you can upload your images. Remember to start a thread in the Pastel Studio and Gallery as that is where we have all the paintings.

As far as paper and materials, there is a myriad of it available, so much to choose from. Paper is quite important, and it really just depends on what your preference is. Charlie gave you some good advice about what is easily available in your part of the world. Canson is another choice, I do believe it is also available in the UK. It is not a sanded surface, it is a pastel paper that comes in a variety of colors. The smooth side is preferred by most artists. I am not familiar with the Daler Rowney paper you are using, not sure how easy it is to get the pastel to stick to it. Maybe somebody will pop in here that knows better.

Remember to work dark to light, the lighter colors go on much easer over the dark ones. It works much like oil paints. Also, try to remember to work with your harder pastels first, moving up to the softer ones as you get near the last layers. This is especially important for someone just starting out with pastels. Until you really understand the medium, sticking to that "rule" will help you to get the pastels to stick better. As you become more experienced you will learn how to "break the rules" so to speak.

There is no "secret" to painting fur, it's much like anything else, paint what you see, not what you think you see. Less is more, you'd be surprised at what you can achieve by just indicating some hair and not putting every strand in.

Again, just one more text post and you can upload your images. Start a thread over in the Gallery so we can see what you are working on!

Deborah Secor
09-27-2012, 05:21 PM
On the paper you have this may not work, but here's a tip I like to use: get a Colour Shaper! I like the firm flat kind. I'll build up layers of color and then use the edge of the shaper to flick in tiny furry strokes, particularly where areas of dark and light intersect.

Here's a demo of a dog (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=528404) I did a few years back.

Pastel pencils want more tooth than the Canford paper offers. Try Pastelmat! It's amazing stuff.

09-28-2012, 06:50 AM
I've myself have wanted to paint/draw animals for sometime now and have always had a very difficult time figuring out the fur. I have used colored pencils for just over a year, followed tutorials and played around doing my own thing and had no luck.

I recently started playing around with pastel pencil (as I was becoming frustrated with the amount of time CP work can take), wanting to paint animals of course, still couldn't figure out fur, I recently stumbled across Colin Bradley's website (link below). I've followed a few of his lessons and for the first time I'm completing pictures of dogs. You can sign up to his website for video lessons for a good price. I sure have found it extremely helpful.


09-28-2012, 01:22 PM
I think there are lots of WIPs you can study to pick up some tips...I've even done one myself (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=837032)...but you'll find lots in the WIP section of this forum.

Merethe T
09-29-2012, 03:25 PM
Hi Dez, welcome to WC! You have already been given great advice, to get more accurate tips you should post your pics in the studio. I just wanted to add a comment regarding the paper you are using...I have tried it and didn't like it. It doesn't take many layers, and feels like struggle all the way. Try a sanded paper, it would be like a whole new world! I prefer Sennelier La Carte and Colorfix, but I am sure the others suggested here would work well too. Even Canson is better....part of getting a realistic look in fur is layering, and the paper you're using now will fight you all the way... Good luck, I hope we get to see your work soon! :)