In the studio: Quincy

“How long does it take to do a painting?”

I get this question all the time, and I never really know how to answer it. A typical piece takes 10–20 hours on average, but there are so many factors that affect the time it takes, including the quality of the photo, the texture of the fur (curly dogs take longer), and the detail of the background.

So I thought I’d show you a little bit of the process so you can see for yourself!

Quincy

Quincy was described as “the sweetest, happiest, most laid-back dog ever!” This photo embodied all of that, and I was enamored with the dreamy background.

Isn’t she gorgeous?

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Each portrait starts with a sketch. I use a grid method to ensure that the proportions are accurate. (I used to think this was “cheating” or something until I learned that some of my favorite realist artists, like Chuck Close, used it too!)

If I’m using a less opaque background color, I’ll lighten the gridlines with a kneaded eraser. (Note: the image is a little crooked because I had to use my nose to take the photo on the iPad.)

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If I’m doing a scene, I’ll usually lay down some background color first. The challenge with this particular background is that it’s out of focus, and requires a soft, blended effect. Acrylic paint dries really quickly, which makes it difficult to blend.

Enter my new favorite medium: Acrylic Glazing Liquid (thanks, Susan!). It keeps the paint open and workable, which allows me to blend. I wish I had known about this earlier!

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Next, I’ll start painting the focus of the painting: Quincy! I wanted to bring out the lovely sheen in her coat, as well as the dramatic light shining behind her and catching her whiskers. The blue and purple hues offset the warmer background colors. (I forgot to take a process photo for this phase, but look how beautiful this palette is!)

Finally, I’ll add detail to the foreground, considering where I want the focal point to be. Usually, this will be the eyes, but I was actually drawn to Quincy’s nose, so I gave it a stronger highlight.

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The biggest challenge in this piece was achieving the soft focus look using a new (to me) medium. While I’m happy with the final result, in retrospect, I’d probably have been more generous with the glazing medium and blended the background colors even more to make the main subject stand out.

What I loved about this piece was capturing the mood — calm, relaxed, and content. Quincy looks like basking in the sunlight is all she has ever wanted to do, and it just fills me with joy.