View Full Version : First Acrylic Animal - Commission

09-21-2005, 09:38 PM
Well I did paint a horse ACEO once 2.5x3.5" but I'm not counting that! LOL!

Got a commission for someones deceased pet and would usually approach it in soft pastel but decided to have a bash with acrylic first just to see if I could...Love a challenge! :evil:
Client is happy for me to select medium so long as it's colour.

I would have used a dark coloured support so I'm taking advantage of my black gesso again for the background, this also means I'll be incorporating the black into my actual subject...another first for me but it "feels" right with this piece.

A little nervous and very excited, hope you'll keep me company and PLEASE feel free to offer advice/crit/encouragement/coffee :evil: ...Animals are a subject I haven't painted much of at all let alone in acrylic!

Here's my ref:


To make it look like ref :D
To loosen up a little with my application, concentrating on form, tone and shape....Just a little mind! ;)

Sketched him out earlier and I'm just finishing transferring it onto my support...Taking a while, I want all those little blemishes that make Pepsi...Pepsi ...I'll be back! ;)

09-21-2005, 11:14 PM
Pulling up a chair to see what you do with this one, Anita! I'm sure it will be fabulous, as always! I hope the coffee is brewing...

09-22-2005, 03:10 AM
I can't wait to see this.


09-22-2005, 03:26 AM
Ohhh nooo, one of those dreaded 'deceased dog' commissions'! Still, with your expertise Anita, I can't see any problems looming. I'll look forward to watching this one develop. Remind me not to blink, lol!


09-22-2005, 04:40 AM
Diahn, Al and Gail....Thankyou for climbing onboard for this one and for your confidence in me....Hope it's not unfounded!
Help yourself to coffee! :)

Transferred my sketch last night with every intention of then going to bed....but the paints called. Infact, I was so in the groove I'm gutted I had to go to bed at all but I've been "in the groove" before, got carried away and woke to find so much I dislike...so it isn't always as good a groove as it feels at the time. LOL!
When the results are good though, it kindda makes me wish I'd have just stayed up and carried on, I worry I'll find that groove again, the same emotions, sight, application....

...Anyone else feel this way?...Anyone else have any idea what I'm even talking about? LOL!

Ok, enough babbling....Here's my start:


and a close-up of my application.


Daler & Rowney HP Watercolour board
Finity paints:
Burnt Sienna
Yellow Ochre
Tit. White

Liquitex Gesso:
Burnt Umber

09-22-2005, 05:12 AM
I've got my eye on you! :) I'll watch as long as I can...as I am waiting for this next hurricane to hit...argh!

Wonderful so far! You always see so many colors- you have trained your eyes well! I HOPE to be able to do that one day!!!

Are you left handed? Just curious... I have been painting the backgrounds first and working my way to the foreground usually, I sometimes work from left to right so I don't get my hand in the paint...still do though...lol

09-22-2005, 06:42 AM
The black gesso is working well for you as usual! Look forward to seeing the progression of this one! Congrats on the commission!!
I know very well what you meant re: should have stayed up and kept on with it"!!!:)

09-22-2005, 07:12 AM
You're a genius girl. What a start. You seem to be able to tackle anything - its the enthusiasm you know. Needless to say, I'll keep watching - with enthusiasm - whenever I get the chance. Where do you find the time - oh yes I forgot - you don't need sleep.

09-22-2005, 10:22 AM
Hi Krysta - Thankyou! ...Fingers crossed you'll escape the hurricane....Thinking of you!
I'm right handed ...I usually just start with a part of the painting that either attracts me most or I feel will be more complicated, here I wasn't sure I'd be able to sculpt the ear correctly so I tackled it first! Also paint dries very quickly on watercolour board, especially as I don't prime it first, so working from right to left means I can work over my painting rather than my sketch which could be easily lost.

Bertoni...Thankyou! So pleased you understood me. LOL!

Joannie...Hi! :wave: So pleased you found time to pop in before classes, thankyou for the kind comments and encouragement.
???Sleep??? :confused: LOL!

Had to go into town this morning to discuss my solo hanging, finally feel I have a plan and can relax a little. PHEW!
Picked this up again on my return and it would seem my "groove" is still with me on this one...For now anyway! ;)

Terrible photo...but I guess you are used to that by now :rolleyes: :


09-22-2005, 10:23 AM
Oh, the photo isn't bad at all actually... LOL!

09-22-2005, 10:45 AM
Anita this is going to be amazing when its done...the ear and the eye already make it come alive :clap:

Lady Carol
09-22-2005, 11:37 AM
Your painting looks so much better than the reference material.

Anita....is there anything you can't paint?

09-22-2005, 12:41 PM
So intresting how you tackle subjects...I just love hearing how others do it...especially ones that are so good at it! We all know this will be a success! :) You do so well at explaining, too! So helpful and wonderful work....I highly doubt there is anything you can't paint, with the way you approach subjects...no....no way, you can do it all. I'll just sit back, watch and try to soak up every bit of information I can :) Thanks for always taking your time with us. You are helping more of us than you may know!

Mentor Badge to you... Way to go!

09-22-2005, 12:53 PM
This is looking great Anita! I will check back!

Charlie's Mum
09-22-2005, 12:53 PM
I can see the tears now! Lol - the commission-er is in for a very emotional 'reunion'. :)

09-22-2005, 01:32 PM
Already beautiful! You makes us love that dog, even though we don't know him/her.

09-22-2005, 01:37 PM
Anita - how do you do it? I mean, how do you manage to keep up with yourself girl! This is fantastic already. Are you self taught?


09-22-2005, 02:29 PM
Wonderful start Anita. I have a question, How do yopu stay up all night and then do what ever you do during the day? Bless you for being able to do that. But back to the painting.

As I said a nice sart. I was particularly interested in seeing the sketch behind it all. It appears to be very detailed. Much more than I would do.

Watching this as much as I can in the next few days.

Congrats on the commission.


09-22-2005, 03:23 PM
Hi Anita, always interesting how you do your painting and choosing colour, the dog is looking very good already.

09-22-2005, 03:31 PM
Quick question: Are you gessoing the BG as you go, or are you using black acrylic from the tube?


09-22-2005, 03:42 PM
Jan - Thankyou...I'm really pleased with the ear, I had first thought it may be my biggest challenge in this piece...Let's hope the other one goes as well!

Carol - Awww, you sweetie you!
There used to be alot of things I thought I couldn't draw/paint...So I just stopped thinking! ;) LOL!

Krysta - I love to see how others work too and I love to read their thoughts as they go...which is probably why I babble so much! LOL! I'm so chuffed to hear that my babbling is useful to you, thankyou for letting me know and for your flattering reply! :)

Barbara - Thankyou!

Maureen - LOL! Aren't we wicked! :evil:

Ann - Thankyou! I'm pleased you are seeing him as loveable, with the ref being quite dark and the artwork even darker I was worried it could look quite sinister.

Gail - LOL!
I just get soooo passionate, so motivated, so keen to face another challenge I hate when my brain goes all relaxed and calm...I thrive on the challenge of things.
I am self-taught, picked up some watercolours in 2003 and it all bloomed from there.

Chuck - Thankyou!
I drink just over 100g of coffee a week, perhaps that's what allows me to cope with just 4 hours sleep a night? LOL! I've always been the same, my body caves in much quicker than my brain does and lets me down at times..then sleep becomes a must. I've tried going to bed at "normal" times but my mind just goes on and on and on and I just lie there thinking about all the wonderful things I could be doing!
One day I'll fall into a deep sleep from which I'll never raise...Until then I'm taking full advantage of my choices. LOL! ;)

09-22-2005, 04:48 PM
Right, you'll be buying a tube of black paint next. (he,he) This is going to be something no short of fantastic. What a wonderful start!!!!!! I take mine black thank you.


09-22-2005, 05:34 PM
Nitsa - Hello back on WC after a loooong rest so glad I didn't miss this one...
You are just doing fantastic like usual!!!
Wow from flowers to dogs. Good for you!!!

I've gone from dogs to flowers lol - weird coinsidance?

09-22-2005, 06:56 PM
Thanx Dewi!

Gail - I'm using black gesso just as I would tube acrylic, as a colour rather than a primer.

Al...LOL! Actually I like what black can do in acrylic. Acrylics are so much bolder and vivid than watercolours. I love the instant depth it creates visually. Growing up I always enjoyed the darker masters works and one of my favourite paintings owned by my Father was that of a priest where the whole painting is jet black with the priests face surfacing from the canvas in a very spooky fashion. It feels rich to me in acrylic, whereas in watercolour it feels dead and almost sad, I guess because of watercolours transclucent qualities that allow us to pack a whole rainbow into a shadow.
I drink mine black too...Untainted! ;)

Hi Debbie, wondered where you had got to...Thankyou!

09-22-2005, 09:01 PM
Another dose of caffeine and I've jogged on with the background colours, mainly because I have changed from black to a slightly lighter grey on the left side and I wanted to get the same grey throughout.

I painted right down Pepsi's body on the right and didn't like the visual finish it gave me so I have cut him off at a point I felt was visually attractive...Does it work for you too?
His right ear causes the whole to be slightly off centre, which I quite like.

Also began working the top of the head and underneath the chin area, some finishing touches will be required at the end but right now I'm just looking for the likeness and a solid image that I can tune up later.


09-22-2005, 09:51 PM
IN AWE...watching attentively! I like the cropping point. Wish we could all see the expression of the person who asked to have this done! They are going to be sooooo overjoyed!!! Looks like you are capturing the 'spirit' that is shown in the photo as well as an exceptional likeness.

09-22-2005, 09:54 PM
Lookin' good so far. Nice start.

09-22-2005, 10:04 PM
Krysta, thankyou! Glad you like the crop, I guess you have to stop somewhere right?...It's just working out where that's the problem. :rolleyes:
So pleased his "spirit" is coming across. :)

HOWARD! I was just thinking of you yesterday and here you are...Thanx for popping in! ;)

Just been trying to work out my next piece :D while I drank my coffee and noticed the clock...Time to hit the sack for me :( ...'til tomorrow...Sweet dreams!

09-22-2005, 10:28 PM
Wow Anita! I think the person who asked you to do this definitely chose the right person for the job! Everything you do has so much life to it. I'll definitely be keeping an eye on this one. I appreciate you posting your WIP's because I always learn so much! Good Luck!!

09-23-2005, 04:24 AM
Thankyou Winterose...Glad you find my WIP's useful!

09-23-2005, 04:42 AM
I love the black. I know a lot of artists won't touch it. This is coming along just great!

Gail (eagerly waiting for annother update!) :D

09-23-2005, 06:50 AM
What a lovely painting you are doing! The reference photo isn't that great and you are really finding such beauty in it. I don't think you have anything to be worried about at all. In fact I know what you mean about getting the art bug and just having to paint. I painted a painting (oil pastel) last night and started another acrylic painting immediately after that should be finished by today. No sleep here but I love these painting "highs" I get occassionally. Sounds like you get them too. I look forward to seeing your painting progress.

09-23-2005, 12:19 PM
Thanx Gail. I would tend to agree with those other artists in most mediums but I must say, I love the depth it can add to certain pieces in acrylic....I would imagine it's as useful in oils too.

Amber...YES, that's what they are..."painting highs"...aren't they fantastic! :D

09-23-2005, 12:28 PM
Yep, that is strange about acrylics. Black never looks as flat or as dead as it does in watercolour. Of course, I've not really had much opportunity to use it yet, but my canvas's have just arrived (yippeeee!) so you never know what I might be spewing out now, lol!


09-23-2005, 03:32 PM
Oooooh gail, how exciting! What will you paint first????
How about christening your new delivery with a nice WIP for us all, so we can share in your excitement along the way? Hmmm? What d'ya say? :D

09-23-2005, 05:11 PM
This afternoons efforts:


09-23-2005, 07:19 PM
Lol...A wip? ME? Anita, behave yourself! I don't think I'm quite up to standard for that challenge yet, but thanks for the suggestion. I'll be having nightmares again tonight just wondering what to paint first... :D


09-24-2005, 02:00 AM
Hello. I am thinking of doing another acrylic painting again and love black so this was a great thread to glance through. I do have a question though, this is the only work of yours I am familiar with and I know it is not finished, but aren't you worried about getting a 'paint by number' look? I ask because this is MY problem with acrylics, and always has been, that craggy, dorky, 'impressionistic' look. After you are done will you do a second layer? Does the black gesso make the painting too dark? Will you varnish? Any problems you have had with acrylics that you have solutions for?

Thank You

09-24-2005, 05:50 AM
Gail...Yes you! No standard required, no one knows exactly how a painting will turn out when they start, if it goes well we will all learn something, if it falls flat on it's face....we will all learn something! ;)
What to paint first?...Hmmmm...That's the one I struggle with most. :rolleyes:

Diskworldjunkie ...Hi!
Here is another piece of mine using black gesso - "Oriental" (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=296289) and something a little looser - "First Light" (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=293587) My style is not the loosest style partly because I am a control/detail freak and partly probably due to my inexperience with paint...I have been painting for 2 years.
Paint by number look - Right now he is looking quite "set" but my intention is to go over him and and the finer hairs and details that will hopefully blend him together a little. He is looking a little dark right now but again, the highlights will be bumped up when the base is down. The photographs are also a little darker than IRL. The final will probably be darker than the ref and I'm happy with that, I feel it introduces a little added drama to the piece and the lighting. I think that's what the black does best...add drama, not suitable for everything but can be really effective in some pieces. I think it works very well in my "Oriental" piece.
I probably won't varnish him, he is painted on watercolour board so he'll be mounted and framed.

This is an experiment, I would usually carry an animal portrait out in soft pastels but felt I wanted to give it a try in acrylics simply because ..I hadn't yet! Soft pastels produce a nice soft flowing look and are perfect for animals and fur but if we always stick to what we know works for us, we'll never venture out - Right?
If I'm not happy with the result, I'll simply re-paint in pastels for my client but so far, I'm quite happy with the results.

Problems with acrylics and solutions?...Hmmm....BIG question, could you be more specific?

I'm editing here just to add to the later question...Supports make a huge difference, here I used watercolour board, acrylics are well known for drying quickly but on watercolour board with now primer they dry INSTANTLY. This is probably another reason for the "set" look we are seeing here. On canvas I would be able to blend and work each area a little, here I am having to lay down the base as well as I can and then I will have to go back in with a very small brush and add individual acents that will allow the painting to appear blended to some degree.
Does that make sense?

I also used watercolour board and acrylic for this piece "Iced Reflections". (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=252248) I think this also has a "set" appearance about it. I created the blacks in this piece.

09-24-2005, 07:15 AM
Thank You for your reply. About what you said about acrylics drying instantly, that is my main problem. I don't want a Van Gogh type of work and so I water down the acrylics until they are ink. They don't cover well and dry the instant I put them on the canvas. I used Fredrix canvas panel. I am now experimenting with painting on Strathmore 400 drawing paper glued to a canvas panel for a smoother 'panel' to paint on. Donato uses this technique and he is a professional. Thought I would wet the paper with Liquitex's slow drying medium. I don't want too much blending time or a water color effect. Have you ever tried anything similar? Do you use any mediums?


Lady Carol
09-24-2005, 10:00 AM
Love the way he is just popping out of the page. Beautiful already Anita.

Charlie's Mum
09-24-2005, 01:18 PM
Thank You for your reply. About what you said about acrylics drying instantly, that is my main problem. I don't want a Van Gogh type of work and so I water down the acrylics until they are ink. They don't cover well and dry the instant I put them on the canvas. I used Fredrix canvas panel. I am now experimenting with painting on Strathmore 400 drawing paper glued to a canvas panel for a smoother 'panel' to paint on. Donato uses this technique and he is a professional. Thought I would wet the paper with Liquitex's slow drying medium. I don't want too much blending time or a water color effect. Have you ever tried anything similar? Do you use any mediums?
To avoid hi-jacking Anita's thread, have PM'd you. :D

09-26-2005, 08:15 AM
Thankyou Carol!

Maureen ;)

Picked this up again today, feeling much more able to concentrate today since I slept most of yesterday! :eek: LOL!


Leslie Pz
09-26-2005, 09:59 AM
Amazing! Coming along well, especially for such a poor ref photo.

Think it's so neat to see other's style... working on an area until completed until moving to the next! Wow!!!

09-26-2005, 10:09 AM
Thanx Leslie...I like to see how others work too. ;)

09-26-2005, 10:23 AM
HI...I just dropped by. I usually hang out in digital, but I want to get back and do more painting in acrylics. I have not done much at all...This is beautiful and I love his eyes....

09-26-2005, 10:25 AM
This is fantastic! It's funny that paint-by-numbers was mentioned because that's what popped into my head when I saw this. It's only because of the drawing and the way you're adding color, not the quality...and of course there aren't any numbers! The progress pics make it look like magic. I've seen oil painters work this way too. It's fascinating to watch.

Anita Murphy
09-26-2005, 10:49 AM
Anita - Is there anything you can't paint???????????????????
The eyes are wonderful!

09-26-2005, 02:54 PM
Looking good! Are you using lots of glazing to build up the colours in the face area?


09-26-2005, 07:38 PM
TX...Thanx for dropping in and leaving your kind comment. Look fwd to seeing you on the boards here in acrylics more often in the near future! ;)

Maverick...Paint by numbers!!!...If only it was that simple eh? :rolleyes: LOL! Thankyou! ;)

When you gonna get your brushes wet again???..Missing you over here!

I hardly used any glazing at all on this piece, I wanted to experiment jumping in more loosely and being braver with my strokes...I thought the black base would encourage me in that direction being so bold in itself...I was right, I haven't fussed around half as much as I usually would.

09-26-2005, 08:17 PM
Enjoying seeing the progress!! Just love the eyes, and the grey in the background. Eagerly awaiting the finish (no pressure!! LOL)

09-26-2005, 08:53 PM
LOL..Thanx Jan....Your eager wait is over ;) .....


...Unless you can see anything?.....I'm done!

09-26-2005, 09:43 PM
Wow, Anita! It's absolutely GORGEOUS!! :clap: It looks like I could reach out and pet it. The person who commissioned this is gonna cry with joy, I can see it now! :wink2:

09-26-2005, 09:53 PM
That was fun to watch. What a beautiful result!

09-26-2005, 11:57 PM
Well done!

09-27-2005, 03:01 AM
Beautiful Anita - just stunning! The eyes are paticularly good - not something I imagine is easy to achieve?


09-27-2005, 04:57 AM
Hi Anita......... :clap: :clap: :clap:

Great painting......really marvelous......congrats.

09-27-2005, 09:03 AM
:clap: Just beautiful!! :clap: Did you add some warm tones to the background?? Looks like it, very nice pulling together of all elements here. My favorite parts are the way the subject is placed slightly off center, the dramatic background, and the excellent treatment of the ears and eyes. You are going to have some VERY HAPPY customers!!

09-27-2005, 12:29 PM
Oh Anita! this is a wonderful work. Certainly one of the best things you have done, and you have done a lot of great things. I also love the background. It is probably even richer IRL than it appears in the photo considering how resizing squeezes the very juices out of paintings

your client will do handsprings over this painting.

:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:


09-27-2005, 01:34 PM
Hi Nitsa-

Amazing job. I am a pet portrait artist by day so I know what it is like to work with less than stellar photos of deceased pets!

Really, such a great job from a "so-so" photo.


09-27-2005, 08:54 PM
Rosalie - Thankyou! My client has seen the first 2 WIP shots and is thrilled so far. ;)

Thanx Maverick!

Thankyou Soakley!

Gail - Thankyou...I love to paint eyes, it's all in those essential highlights! ;)

Thankyou Caroline!

Jan - Thanx! :) I was particularly pleased with the ears seeing as those were the parts that I felt would be most challenging.

Chuck - Bless you! So nice to hear you say it's one of my best, especially as it's my first bash at acrylic pet portraits...Infact, this is my first pet commission.
Thankyou! :D

Aimee...Thankyou, quite a compliment coming from a professional pet artist!
Glad you feel I improved on the photograph. :)

Lady Carol
09-28-2005, 12:21 PM
Stellar finish Anita. The face is just stunning.

09-28-2005, 12:33 PM
Thanx Carol!

09-29-2005, 02:24 AM
WOW! Absolutely wonderful! SOrry I missed out on the wip...hurricane Rita kept me out of power for a bit, then I went NORTH...still in Kentucky visiting my parents but will be back home in La. next week :) Can't wait to see what you come up with next!!!

orchid black
09-29-2005, 03:15 AM
Absolutely wonderful work! There's not much I can add to what has already been said, but I just had to chime in and say, "Bravo!"

09-29-2005, 03:10 PM
You do it all don't ya girl. This is a real winner! Congrats!!!!


Charlie's Mum
09-29-2005, 03:27 PM
Just caught up with this Anita - superb job - beautifully soft fur to his ears and lovely light in his eyes .......... MmmmmmHmmmmm, tears will be shed, definitely!
Well done you! :D

09-29-2005, 05:57 PM
Hi Krysta...Glad to see you're ok I've been thinking of you. Thankyou for popping in and for your kind comments.

Orchid....Thankyou for chiming in! ;)

LOL...Thanx Al! Have you started your next painting yet then???

Thanx Maureen! :)