This week begins a new demonstration series: How to draw a dog in colored pencil.
The drawing for this demonstration is a portrait of a black Bouvier. Katy was the companion of a couple from church. When she passed away, her people wanted a portrait. Since they already had a colored pencil portrait of another canine companion, they came to me with their request.
In this series, I’ll show you how I drew a black dog by layering several different colors. Because Bouviers are known for hair—a lot of it—I’ll also show you how to draw masses of thick hair.
About the Drawing
The finished drawing is 12×16. I chose Strathmore’s Artagain Art Paper in Flannel Gray because it provided an ideal background for this vignette style portrait. It also saved a lot of time because I didn’t need to do anything with the background.
Unless otherwise noted, I used Prismacolor Premier Soft Core pencils.
Preparing for Drawing
The first thing I had to do was process the digital images I used for reference. The dog is so dark and was sitting on a white table in a light colored interior, so what facial features showed through masses of hair were difficult to see and impossible to draw accurately. I reveal those details, I saved the primary reference photo with a different name, then increased the brightness of the image. This is the original reference photo cropped.
And this is the lightened version. While the colors are diluted, the eyes, nose, and mouth are much easier to see and draw.
When the drawing met with my satisfaction and had the client’s approval, I transferred it to the paper by mounting it to the back of the drawing paper and transferring it on a light box.
Beginning Color Work
Step 1: Indigo Blue
When I begin building black by layering, I almost always begin with Indigo Blue. Whether the final color is a warm black or a cool black, Indigo Blue is a good base color.
I also begin with several layers applied with light pressure. Dark shadows are built up through multiple layers. In the dark areas between the dog’s front legs and under its belly, there are as many as five or six layers of color.
I apply no color in the lightest areas in the first few layers.
In the illustration below, I’ve added color in the darkest shadows with a sharp pencil and crosshatching strokes. I put down a couple of layers with light pressure, keeping the strokes close enough together to draw an even layer of color in most of the dark shadows.
Along the edges of those shadows and over the eyes, the strokes are directional and duplicate the growth pattern of hair.
In the middle value areas, I used the sides of the pencil to lay down one or two layers with very light pressure. In the areas where middle values and light value meet, I stroked in the direction of hair growth, but in the large areas, I used whatever strokes covered the paper best.
I used small, tight strokes applied with a sharp pencil in the eyes, the nostrils, and the shadow on the tongue.
For the facial hair, I used either the side of the pencil or a blunted tip. Broken strokes also contributed to the look of masses of hair.
The detail below shows the variety of strokes in the chest and head.
In this detail (below) you can see the variety of strokes I used in the chest. Pencil strokes mimic hair growth and hair mass, as well as the contours of the legs.
Also notice the outline on the left. That’s my transferred drawing and it begins establishing the uneven edges of the dog.
The goal right from the start is to establish the shape of the dog and the nature of the surface texture. From the initial drawing and first layers of color to the last layers, the drawing should become more and more defined and refined.