View Full Version : Why, oh why, am I even trying this? Painting a Black Dog

09-12-2003, 06:03 AM
Have I gone completely mad??? Quite possibly!

A good friend sent me some photos with permission to paint from them if I got the urge. Sadly I did, but it wasn't one that I would normally choose.

I loved the photo of her BLACK labrador, Sally, passing the time on a narrowboat. :eek: So I'm painting her as a present for my friend!

The photo:

And the start, pthalo blue (gs), FUB/perm. rose mixture wet in wet. Highlights masked with masquepen.

Trouble is, I can't see ANY colour in the fur. I have met Sally and she was blue/black so I'm going along that route.

Thanks for looking!


09-12-2003, 06:07 AM

I can see why you would want to paint this, the light shining on the fur is exquisite, and the pose with her paw up on the railing and looking off to the left is really nice.

Not an easy painting to do for sure, but you can make it happen I'm sure. Will be following along very happily.

09-12-2003, 06:29 AM
Wow! Great start and what a challenge! I see red/rose in the coat and a wide range of tones. I would incorporate the red/rose - but the again - i have not done figures - animals or human as yet. So I am prbably best ignored!



09-12-2003, 06:39 AM
In answer to your question......

* because you are mad
* because you like a challenge
* because you are a lovely person & want to give your friend a pressie
* because you CAN

:D :D :D

09-12-2003, 07:04 AM
Wooooooo Hooooooooooooo.......................

I am tagging along for this one :):)


09-12-2003, 07:08 AM
It's going to be really exciting watching this develop... :)


09-12-2003, 07:16 AM
Thank you Sylvia, Joel, Jaytee, JJ and Jacqueline (all those J's!!!! LOL)

Sylvia the pose was the clincher!

Jaytee, right on 2 counts anyway ;)

Joel you do?? Maybe my monitor needs fixing because I just don't :( I did spot some burnt sienna on the muzzle and paw though :D

I've concentrated on the head because if I get that wrong, there's little point doing the rest.


See anything wrong? (yes, will be adding small details later, and probably scratching back a few highlights at the end)


09-12-2003, 07:20 AM
Oh My Ruth...........!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Looking real good.....!!!!!!!!!


Crystal Owl
09-12-2003, 07:26 AM
Great start Ruth, you can do it! :clap:


09-12-2003, 07:48 AM
Ruth, this is looking terrific so far!! I must pay attention here, because he looks just like my dog!! (my Slater is also a Black Lab, and I've been meaning to paint him but never got the courage).

I can't wait to see the final piece!! :)


Sue Irish
09-12-2003, 08:06 AM
Good Morning Ruth,

The start of your lab is excellent. If I may be bold here, as a dog art gallery owner there are a few simple pointers that I might share.

I realize that you see both blue tones in the sheen of the coat and some burnt umber in the shadows along the ears. However, most dog people are very picky about the coloring of their animal. If they THINK their dog has a black coat they usually don't want to see other color tones in that coat. It can be difficult as an artist to balance between what you really see in the photo, what you sense of art tells you and what a client THINKS they see or should see in the finished painting.

As shadows take on the colors of the surrounding areas the blue casting may be from the background. Example, a thickly leafed tree will cast a slightly green shadow tone of the neighboring barn. So you blue may not be the coat but the background coloring.

This can be a real problem for dog artists, especially in the white and black coats, both of which are very reflective of the surroundings. Samoyeds are a great example. One of my first dog canvases was three sams running through a dark winter scene. Of course, as an artist, I picked up the blue gray tones of the snow and sky for some of the shadow coloring for the dog's fur. The first thing my client screamed was "MY DOG'S ARE WHITE!!!" All she could focus on was the touch of blue that I had added as she had no sense of shadowing.

So if you delete that blue backing, the blue along the porch rail you may need to add this color somewhere near your lab. Or you may need to keep the shading as close to the black as possible.

Just a thought. What you have posted so far is quite excellent!


09-12-2003, 08:14 AM
I am gob smacked impressed with your skill and your courage!!!!!!!!!!

09-12-2003, 08:14 AM
It seems that you are on your way to a beautiful watercolorpainting....:D

Little Old Lady
09-12-2003, 08:31 AM
Another J checking into to say what a great job you are doing on this.

09-12-2003, 08:35 AM
JJ thank you again! Still working.....

Irene, I appreciate your confidence in me :)

Lynn, I hope this looks like a labrador when I've finished! I think she looks a bit too rough at the moment.

Susan, I really appreciate your advice! The problem with watercolour is that actual black paint is rather a dead colour, so I have to mix my "blacks" to give the fur as much life as possible. I admit that I'm inexperienced with animal portraits - this is the first living subject I've tried and as I said, I will gift it to my friend. If she doesn't like it, it will be a valuable lesson! I will use blue in the background though :)

Uschi, the word is MADNESS! lol

Jan, thank you :)

JoAnn, we cross-posted, thank you!

Latest stage:
Found a little more burnt sienna tone in her fur, worked on her body a bit.


09-12-2003, 08:39 AM
Stunning thus far, Ruth! I see some lavender tones in there...


David Brown
09-12-2003, 08:41 AM
Originally posted by Uschi
I am gob smacked impressed with your skill and your courage!!!!!!!!!!
Being from the South I can only guess at the meaning but it seems to sum it up well. GREAT JOB!:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:
Am anxiously watching and learning!

09-12-2003, 08:47 AM
Hi Ruth

Why are you?? Cause you can, and are doing a great job of it.
Keep it up I cant wait to see more.


Cathie Jones
09-12-2003, 08:48 AM
She's a beautiful dog, well worth your attention. And your painting is coming along beautifully. I don't see the burnt sienna in her coat, but that's probably because I'm such a newbie. I read on a recent thread that burnt sienna and ultramarine make a nice black - maybe that would work for this painting - but, again, what do I know??:confused:

Can't wait to see the finished product! :p


09-12-2003, 09:21 AM
This is going to be just awesome....!! Looking fantastic and it's not even done yet!! :clap:

....tagging along on this one too :D

Strawberry Wine
09-12-2003, 09:29 AM
Hi Ruth This is fantastic. I have trouble even getting a decent photo of my black labs. Leslie Pz, another WC'er painted a portrait of my old Lab Spike. He was blue black as well but Leslie brought out a lot of warm tones in his coat.

Here is the reference link if you want to take a look.


Looking forward to seeing more


09-12-2003, 09:31 AM
This is very, very good Ruth! You must be pleased..aren't you?

09-12-2003, 09:41 AM
This is looking really good Ruth. Watching & with you.

09-12-2003, 09:43 AM
This just gets better and better...
I would never even attempt to paint such a difficult subject... and yet you are making it look so easy...
all I can say is !!!WOW!!!!


09-12-2003, 10:32 AM
Thanks EVERYONE!!!

I think I'm getting close now. I painted the background VERY loosely, moving the tree so it wouldn't be growing out of her head! lol

I think I'll take the masking off now and try to soften things a little.


Gail that's a beautiful portrait of your lab :) I'm afraid of adding much warmth now in case it goes muddy.

Cathie, I used some FUB/BSienna for the darkest darks ;)

Jan I am pleased! I have never painted a dog, so just knowing that I can draw one was a boost!


09-12-2003, 10:34 AM
Oh Ruth!
If someone broblably to ask me to paint it, I would run to other side of planet to hide. It's difficult and you are doing really good job. I like the way of blue wash under to make shinning skin. I will surely look for your progress and final picture :-)

09-12-2003, 10:41 AM
by George (and Elizabeth)

I think she's got it!!!!!!!!!!!


blue black is spot on, Ruth

*handing her Belgian chox*

09-12-2003, 10:45 AM
What a surprise, Ruth! I was expecting another stage of a wash or two added, but here's our dog! Beautiful job, too.


09-12-2003, 10:59 AM
Ruth you say you've never painted dogs before? You could've fooled me! This is fantastic. I feel you did the coat perfectly!

Once your friend sees this she may recommend you to other pet owners!

09-12-2003, 11:06 AM
This is looking fabulous Ruth. Do you think taking out the white
letter on the extreme left edge of the painting might improve the composition?
It seems to me that with the dogs gaze and that white man made
object on the left there is too much pull out of the picture. Just a thought.

Felica Keech-Smith
09-12-2003, 11:08 AM
Beautiful Ruth! Hard to imagine you hadn't done this many many times!

AND..^^^what Jaytee said.. hehe


09-12-2003, 11:15 AM
:D Thanks Pam!!!!! MMMMMMMMmmmmmmm yummy chox!

Erin nearly! I think I'm done now, will take a pic and post it in a minute.

Sylvielu, that very nice of you, thank you!

Geof you could be right. Maybe I could tone it down with a wash of purple?

Felica I think we'll have to keep an eye on you! LOL Thank you :)


09-12-2003, 11:35 AM
Here ya go, all done (possible alterations to the background excepted!)


Any comments/critiques welcomed!



David Brown
09-12-2003, 11:57 AM
Encore please!:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

09-12-2003, 11:59 AM
:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:


09-12-2003, 11:59 AM
Wow, nice job Ruth. I like the puppy . She is a real cutie and let's see you say you never painted a dog before ?? :D
You sure ? Maybe you should paint some more .

09-12-2003, 12:12 PM
Well who are you trying to kid?? You knew how to do it all along.:D This is a BEAUTIFUL painting of this dog. AND a beautiful dog he(she) is. Where's that green jealous smiley when you need him? ;)

09-12-2003, 12:19 PM
Very nice Ruth, not only the dog done well but interesting shapes and color variations.......


lyn lynch
09-12-2003, 12:29 PM
Big stretch, Maddie, looks wonderful, excellent drawing.

As for color, Susan's advice is spot on for Black in any painting--in fact, imo, her advice is the ballgame--you don't want the other colors to show in the black, just reflect from the surroundings to give the impression of color. It's difficult to accomplish, takes much thinking cap.

09-12-2003, 12:58 PM
Originally posted by geof
:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:


Now, Geof. That's


(that's dogese for, "Great job, Ruth!")


09-12-2003, 01:02 PM
Woof Woof, Roof.... Woof Woof Woof Woof Woof Woof Woof!
(Great Finish, Ruth... Now you know why you tried this!)

Joni St. Martin
09-12-2003, 01:22 PM

Fantastic job on the dog!



Kate Mc
09-12-2003, 02:39 PM
Oh, Ruth. I almost missed this.

This is fabulous! You captured the lovely expression that the dog has, and you kept the fur looking real. Incredible job...what a wonderful surprise!!


09-12-2003, 02:49 PM
Right.......... so Fred is fighting Ginger for the privilege of being your next animal portrait.......Percy has spat and hissed at them both 'cos he said you could paint black and white for him, Baba is quite sure she'll stun you so much youll start by painting her and Sukis purring and dribbling as usual..................

HOW long did you say you were coming for tomorrow ? :evil: :evil

09-12-2003, 02:58 PM
Looking great Ruth... Keep on going...

09-12-2003, 03:06 PM
This has definitely the PROFESSIONAL look !

09-12-2003, 03:28 PM
Great job.

Strawberry Wine
09-12-2003, 04:08 PM
Wow Ruth:

She is just beautiful. You have her patient expressive eyes "spot on". Great job on her blue/black coat.

One little nit, and not the dog, that portion of (I think it is a letter ) white on the left hand side. I put my index finger over it on the computer screen and IMO it really could go.

Not a biggie, just not needed.

:clap: :clap: :clap: on Ruth's first of many dog portraits.



09-12-2003, 05:03 PM
I'm overwhelmed!

You're all SO kind!!!

David, Geof, Jim, Darla, Al, Auntie, Erin, Marvin, Joni, Kate, JT, Eamon, Gilberte, Cheryl and Gail (phew!!!!!) thank you!

LOL @ Erin and Marvin! :D

Auntie I agree - one day I might be able to do just that! lol

JT ROFLMAO! Well tomorrow I think I might be busy talking! ;) Katy will have a wonderful time with 2 dogs and 3 cats to play with, might have to leave her with you while I look round the show! :evil:

Gail, I think I'll wash it back so it doesn't draw attention so much. Thank you!

More animals? Yeah, I think I just might! :D


09-12-2003, 05:20 PM
Ruth... http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/12-Sep-2003/20514-23460-wowred302.gifhttp://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/12-Sep-2003/20514-23460-wowred302.gifhttp://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/12-Sep-2003/20514-23460-wowred302.gif

I missed ALL the fun... darn job... BUT, it's pretty safe to say the you have been elevated to "Ruth Who Can Paint Anything" status... Beautiful portrait!

09-12-2003, 05:31 PM
This is wonderful Ruth. Of course you could do it, you silly ! The expression is terrific. I'll be sending you pictures of my dog tomorrow. :evil: Great job.



09-12-2003, 05:33 PM
Hi Ruth,
You know what I like most about this is the wonderful expression you have caught on the dog's face. It really is a painting full of character.

09-12-2003, 05:34 PM
Wow you are so fast and good! She is going to love this. Makes me want to tackle my little yorkie - LOL who am I kidding - I don't think so - You make it look easy, but I know better! Nicely done.

09-12-2003, 07:08 PM
Wow and double wow! I like this a great deal. You certainly caught those expressive eyes.:)

Anytime you want beagle pictures to paint, pm me... I'd be happy to take your rejects.:D:evil:

SAM of DE.
09-12-2003, 07:08 PM
Glad I didn't miss this entirely, the problem with this site is that things go so fast , unless you have 3-4 hours in the day just to look, you may miss a real delight!:) What a great job on this big puppy:D she is beautiful and beautifully done'

09-12-2003, 08:32 PM
Ruth I am blown away............

Your dog is just beautiful...........

Do paint more, you will enjoy and we surely will :D

Love your wips.....



09-12-2003, 08:42 PM
I'm impressed, what a wonderful job you did with a difficult subject (black dog).......but you did a great job of it.......:clap: :clap: :clap:

09-12-2003, 09:07 PM
BRAVO Ruth!!!!!! This turned out soooooo well, your friend will be just thrilled, I know I would be!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

09-12-2003, 09:55 PM
well, yes, what everyone said, Ruth! What a splendid, splendid painting!! I'm sure your friend will be thrilled!!! I am a sucker for animals, they just steal my heart at first glance... you did a great job on this one...
and the two barkers, Erin and Marvin... have me LOLOL!!!!


09-13-2003, 09:30 AM

I apo0logize for my tardiness (but I have been watching this develop from your first post).

Congratulations! Bravely begun and beautifully completed

07-09-2006, 09:09 PM
Ruth, this is lovely and you are very clever! I have a black labrador and would love to paint him however I can't even take a photo of him without it looking like a black blob - I cannot see any definition or contrast. Your painting looks tremendous with lots of contrast!

07-10-2006, 12:31 PM
Hi Ruth this is fantastic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I can see dark green highlights on the top of the head with violet tones nearest to me but then again I always did see colours differently!!!!!

Great work !!!!!!!!!


07-11-2006, 10:43 AM
Congratulations on successfully stepping outside your comfort zone!

Marni :wave:

07-19-2006, 06:52 PM
Ruth I didn't see this in 2003 and I sure am glad it made it's way back to the top!!!!!!! This is a SUPER dog portrait that shows his personality. Is this your pup Erin? I bet he's a great dog now!!

07-21-2006, 12:57 PM
Your lab reminds me of a childhood freind!!! Great job.

07-21-2006, 05:08 PM
:confused: :o Where did this pop up from?

I see I didn't reply to a few people at the time, so I'll say thank you all now!

Artylady, thank you! I was surprised to see this thread re-surface after 3 years, but it was nice :D You really need a good photo initially to paint a black animal, I was lucky enough to have this reference given to me :) Lighting is key to a good photo, outside and bright sunshine is best (but you need a good camera).

Thank you Jean :heart: this painting has been with Sally's family for quite a long time now, they love her :) It's interesting how we see colours differently!

Marni, I think I might be less scared if presented with a similar challenge now, 3 years later! Thanks :)

Thanks Amelia, this is Sally, who belongs to friends of mine. She's a very big, excitable dog now and so sweet!

Thank you Loralee :)


01-11-2008, 10:56 AM
:clap: :clap: :clap: Very lovely animal with loads of personality! Great pose and composition! This is really coming along well! You have made great progress from the beginning of this thread! I'd say it is worth now, going in to darken your darkest darks to slightly more black. Don't overdo the black, but do make a more definite darker dark.
Love it!:heart:
Keep us posted on your progress! I'm looking forward to seeing the next step and the finished painting!

01-14-2008, 05:31 PM
Its really very good, but i would watch it is not going to much near the blue, tone too much, but it is excellent,

01-16-2008, 08:03 PM
This painting was done four years ago! (9-12-03 start)

It is a really nice painting---but people are posting now like it was done recently or is still ongoing. I seem to recall in the WC Newsletter, something about 'old lessons' being revived. That is all well and good, but it would be nice if when these threads reach a certain age, if their origin date could somehow be made bolder and more obvious in the Title on the thread list.....

rue d'oak
01-18-2008, 11:31 AM
:thumbsup: I've put REVIVED in the title...this is an oldie but goodie...delighted to see it back yet again. Started in 2003...made a comeback in 2006....and now 2008. Now THAT's longevity in art, eh? :p


Selahs art
01-18-2008, 02:53 PM
Yes that is and it still is stunning.


01-21-2008, 11:08 AM
This a wonderful job and i admire your attempt at a difficult subject! I know a furperson named EmilyMyDarling and this so reminds me of her! Susie

05-09-2011, 03:57 PM
I took a picture of my daughter's Black lab but after seeing how you were able to do what you did, I know it is possible. You just have to keep at it and realize it's not just one color. You did a beautiful job, and should be commended for your talent.

05-09-2011, 10:51 PM
I'm glad this post popped back up after several years! I love seeing the progression of a painting.

You did an amazing job, and I think you were on the right track with the colors. I pasted the photo into an editing program and added some saturation to see what colors would emerge and this is what I got.

I used to do a lot of photo editing and it always helped to play with the saturation if the highlights were too bright or the photo overexposed.


Prairie chicken
11-17-2013, 03:36 PM
I love your Black Lab. I am trying my Chocolate Lab puppy but it is not working.