Sunday, April 3, 2016

How Lydia paints a cat portrait

Greetings Friends and fiends!

I thought I'd share my process on painting a cat portrait. It was done with bic pen, acrylic, and colored pencil. 

I was commissioned recently to paint a portrait of someone's beloved feline, who is unfortunately not long for this world. He requested a halo and clouds. This same awesome person has previously commissioned me for cat portraits including tentacles and non-euclidean architecture, so I added some strange flying sea jelly monsters because it fits this client and his loving pets.


 First I lay in some quick paint to represent the body of the cat. This is purely intuitive. I let me eyes and brain do a quick calculation on composition. Its ok if its not perfect, as the details will be sorted out later. I choose a mid-range color close to main body of the cat.

Next I use BIC PEN to draw the contours of the figure. I calculate in my mind as I go, being careful to about measuring elements in relation to each other. As a teacher I almost cringe at the thought of my students doing the same thing. Ha!! Any corrections can be made in the painting stage, so I don't stress if I have a few re-drawn edges. 
Adding a background really helps to solidify the figure of the cat, and covers the excess paint that was outside the edge of the drawing. 

Above I've added some darker coloring to the fur, and made the ears pink. I like to start with mid-range to darker colors, so I can add in the highlights on top, - this also creates depth in areas where I only add some light.  I also added clouds to the background. 
 Here I've completed the eyes, added some striping and some lighter areas of fur.
Now I've spent more time on the markings of the fur, and re-established the darker stripes.
My favorite stage!! I've added the COLORED PENCIL. Notice how the dark paint allows the lighter colored marks to show more boldly. I've found that ~drawing~ the fur in with colored pencil feels a lot more natural and spontaneous than trying to paint the fur.   (btw, most of the whiskers are thin strips of paint - the white colored pencil wouldn't have shown up as consistently bright white)
I also added the halo to this stage. Mainly yellow ocher - and its somewhat translucent.

And Finally! The finished piece! I added detail to the background: Some fluffy clouds up front in colored pencil, and I drew in some creatures with the bic pen - I kept them translucent to keep them in the realm of imaginary. To the halo, I added a white strip in the center, let it dry, and went over the white with bright yellow to give it that bright highlight.

Below is a closeup comparison of the face before and after colored pencil, as well as another slim layer of acrylic paint.

And there we go! I hope this helps to shed some light (and not shed fur) on my process for painting animals. This is by no means my only method of working (animals aren't even the bulk of my work!) but it is my preferred method for getting lifelike qualities in creatures.

Thank you! please feel free to share portraits you've done of animals in the thread. 

Also, if you would like me to paint your own beloved animal, please contact me though email for a quote. 
lydiaburris (at) 
Portraits start at $75 and go up. I also paint humans, manipulated faces, other animals, and plenty of other you-name-it-requests. :)