‘Jackson’ – from start to finish

A quick guide on the painting process of how I created Jackson, from start to finish.

The first step is the planning. This happens way before I pick up a paintbrush and involves choosing the subject, working out the composition and colour palette and then creating the correct Chiaroscuro style lighting.

Once I’m happy with all of those, I’ll ‘paint’ the picture in my minds eye, this means doing a mental run through of the steps I’m going to take to get the effect I want.

The next step is to draw the subject, I do this directly onto the canvas, focusing on the light and shadow areas and basic shapes (I don’t draw any fine details at this stage). The grid drawing method is a great way to make sure everything ends up in the right place.

The process

Here’s a super simplified process of the stages Jackson and I went through before he came to life (Grisaille method).

  • Chiaroscuro original oil paintings

Painting Jackson – the key steps

  1. Basic acrylic block in

    Use Acrylics to block in the entire painting using black, mid grey, light grey (never white).

  2. Refine colours and values

    My preference is to work in oils so this is the point I switch (or continue with acrylics if you prefer).
    Go over the entire painting again and this time make sure the colours are correct – I use many shades of grey this time to create the right values.
    Make sure to follow the direction of the fur.

  3. Add some texture

    Use a stipple brush to add some base texture to tufty fur

  4. Start painting the fur

    I paint each visible strand of fur individually, starting with the darkest values and gradually getting lighter

  5. Add the details

    By the now painting looks good from a distance, the light and shadows are correct, the fur is going in the right direction and is beginning to look 3 dimensional.
    This is when I add the fine details to the face. I’ll be adding more layers of fur so I want to make sure the face is accurate before adding more hairs as some strands will cover the features.

  6. Finish the fur

    Keep adding ‘fur’ in lighter shades (where the lighter areas are in real life) until it looks realistic.
    Remember to paint exactly what you see.

  7. Review and brew

    While continually assessing the painting throughout the process, I also do some key checks before deciding if it’s close to being finished.
    I check that the values are correct, e.g. are the shadows and light areas in the right place?
    Is the fur going in the right direction?
    Is the face properly contoured and detailed?
    Have I added the whiskers and stray hairs?
    I then take a photo and check that because the camera can give you a different perspective (as can a mirror).
    I have a brew and put the painting aside until the next day (I’ve learned to be more patient before declaring a painting done because I tend to go back the next day and tweak it).

  8. Add the final highlights

    Always save the brightest and whitest highlights until the absolute end and use them sparingly.

  9. Glaze colour

    I’ll write another blog about glazing and grisaille, but basically this step is about adding the colour glazes to the monochrome grisaille and this is how I added Jackson’s golden coat.


Jackson getting some light fur

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