View Full Version : Help on Terrier Painting

05-05-2009, 04:29 PM
This is (trying to be) my 2nd acrylic. Here's what I had as a first pass/underpainting as of this morning.


The real problem started when I tried to add details of fur to the dog's body. I am ultimately striving for some realism so didn't want to leave it totally suggested. However, even using a very small brush, I wound up making her look like an old-fashioned floor mop! Big, klunky, and unnatural. (Incidentally, if this were charcoal, this is where I would go in with a very sharp eraser and pick out individual hairs. For some reason trying the same thing with paint on a brush just did not work for me!)

I've read a bunch of fur tutorials but this is such short fine hair they don't seem to help much. Anyone have ideas? Since I took the image above, I wound having to overpaint her entire body in white now so am back to square one there without even any shadow areas indicated. Many other areas need lots of work, of course, but right now I'm focused on the fur texture.

Thanks for looking!

05-05-2009, 05:02 PM
I've not done a LOT of animals, but I used an old beat up coarse brush with some pretty scary looking bristles, and just lightly brushed with fairly thin paint. A few layers of that, and the individuals start to appear. Before I came upon the trick of using an especially hairy brush, I used the tip of a fan brush with thin layers to create the look of individual hairs.

That said, there are MANY more experienced wildlife artists lurking out there in acrylicland that can answer better than I, surely someone else has some ideas?

05-05-2009, 05:03 PM
Try using steel wool. It makes an interesting texture that I use for grasses but should work equally as well for fur.

05-05-2009, 09:49 PM
Louis, I tend to use a toothpick...to drag out the colors....depending on what you are trying to do. I find the look changes depending on whether the paint is thin or thick. I use thinner paint for a softer look, and thicker if you want a deeper, furrier look. Of course that is just me.

05-06-2009, 12:32 AM
Hi Louis! :wave:

I would make your shadows just a tad darker. Then put your lighter/whiter hairs in, using fairly short strokes. I don't make all the hairs the same colors.

What works best for me is to use an "el cheapo" round hog bristle (#4) and then splay the bristles out by mashing the brush straight down on a hard surface until its good and splayed out.

With white fur I'd mix white and a little Payne's gray...and then have another dab of white beside it. Just barely swirl the two together...so that you pick up the various shades at once. Pick up just a little bit of paint at a time...don't load a lot on the brush.

Then starting at the back of the dog, lightly paint the fur (short strokes for a short-haired critter)....all the way up to the nose. You need to pay close attention to the direction that the hairs lay (and length) & make your strokes accordingly.

After that has dried, tweak it a little with a fine detail or rigger brush. Keep your strokes even shorter than before. You don't want to make some of the hairs look overly long. There may be areas that you want to lighten or darken just a bit.

05-06-2009, 12:40 PM
Thanks all! Here's an update. Still having lots of trouble with the fine details!!!


George Servais
05-06-2009, 01:37 PM
Painting white on white is kind of an exercise in futility. Whenever i paint white i normally us an under painting that is a gray color with a hint of mauve. If i really want realism to a high degree I will use a Rake brush, preferably a Filbert rake. Now comes the fun part. Using the under painting color add 1/4 as much white to part of the mix and thin to the point where it will coat the hairs and allow the paint to flow onto the surface leaving the individual hair marks behind. When using the Rake set the brush into the paint at a 45 degree angle and press and twist to splay the hairs slightly. On a properly loaded brush you should be able to see the brush hairs.
As you progress through the painting keep adding white to the mixture and build up the light areas until you reach where you want to be. The shadowed areas are just fur painted with the darker mixtures. This may take several layers, maybe as many as seven in different areas or as few as three in darker areas.
If the paint won't flow add a touch more water (little bits at a time, bring it up slowly). If it is too thin just remix.

05-06-2009, 08:41 PM
Thanks George- great suggestion.
Unfortunately this one is now a lost cause I think and is going deep in some closet (or perhaps the trash). Getting overworked and muddy-- and I think the best thing is just to move on. Ah well, a learning experience. Dogs are harder to paint than eggs!
Here's the last version-- which may be worse than where I started!


05-07-2009, 01:23 PM
Looks pretty good to me.

05-07-2009, 05:54 PM
Thanks! I still don't like it but appreciate the comment!
Since I was going to chuck it out anyway, I decided I might as well throw caution to the wind and just toss some more paint at it. I think it livened it up at least, although I did manage to mess up part of the drawing of her head on the right side of the canvas. In some ways it's easier to paint when you've decided you've already given up on a piece!



05-07-2009, 06:27 PM

Its just paint! :D

Putting too much pressure on yourself isn't always the best approach. Just keep in mind that this is supposed to be enjoyable, and the worst thing that can happen is that you'll "throw paint at it" and call it an abstract...or gesso over everything and start over.

Personally, I like to save some of my "dismal failures" so that I can remember them & see my progress. :smug:

This being your 2nd acrylic is really not bad at all...I think you're being too hard on yourself.

George Servais
05-07-2009, 09:43 PM
No need to be so hard on yourself. Painting is a lifetime of learning and those of us who are serious will take it right to the grave. The only problem i see is that you have not learned how to under paint. So big deal. This attempt shows a lot of promise. Take a win on the eyes my friend they are captivating.
Acrylics can be tricky. Moisture control and blending can be challenging. Get some good instructional materials and practice. The biggest mistake I see that many novices fall into is being in too much of a hurry to do full paintings. Relax, find out how and practice parts of a painting then put all the learned pieces together and viola! you will have a masterpiece.
For every painting I do i may practice different parts i am having problems with for hours.
Right now I am struggling with certain cloud formations and have been trying different techniques for a few days now. I have a composition in mind and will persist until i get it right and when I do I know it will be fantastic.
I have many canvases which I just gessoed over and began a new painting on (saves me money). hang in there, give yourself a pat on the back (those eyes are great).

05-08-2009, 01:32 PM
Thank you Dee and George for the extensive comments! I do think a lot of my problem is patience! I'll take some deep breaths and try again! Practicing parts is excellent advice-- I must force myself to do it!

05-12-2009, 09:51 AM
I think this picture has a lot of character.The worst I think you could do is to try to do all the little details and hairs. All it need is a bit darker shadows on the body to define the 3-d effect of the the dog. Using a brush as big as you dare, and some bluish, purplish or brownish shade. (not pure grey)
After you are happy with the big stuff (squint, helps to see if the shadows are dark enough) you can add a few details, but overdoing that may take from the great connection to the eyes.