Well now you can. I’m going to show you what I did on my most recent commission; Yogi, the happiest dog in cartoon land. I’ll post a few photos I took and what I look for in a photo and then how I get started to the very end.

First, here is the painting on my easel, just before I put my signature on it. I did put a glaze of gloss medium on the nose, eyes and tongue. Kind of has the effect of a spot varnish in printing.

Here is the finished painting

Here is the finished painting

I looked at this and decided his nose looked a little crooked. Straightened that up to.

Okay, let’s start with the scrap (that’s painter talk for the photos we work from)

Photo of Yogi

Cute, huh? I actually took perhaps 100 pictures of Yogi. I set my camera on high speed burst.  I worked mainly from this one.

yogi eyes

Now why this photo? I needed a picture where I could see the color of yogi’s eyes.

I also do random searches online looking for things I need. I was looking at other retriever’s noses and ears for clues.

Every painting I learn something. There are golden retrievers with really wide foreheads, for example.

Important Tip: 

Look at that top photo of Yogi: I chose that picture because there is light and shadow on his face, especially important on the nose so I can get a sense of 3 dimensions. I get down low, eye level with the dog. This creates intimacy.

Yogi-first pass

This was the first pass. I put in big sloppy shapes of color. Important? The tilt of the head, those two big shadows on either side of the head. The black blobs that indicate the eyes, nose and lips.

Yogi: end of day one

At this point I’ve got a little more definition. I put the background in early. I need to know how the colors on the subject are going to look next to the background. Every color is relating to what surrounds it. At the end of this day I knew I had to study tongues before beginning the next day’s work. I like to add surprising colors into brown.  His fur has violet, alizarin, cadmium red light, cerulean, green, white, naples yellow.



I always think in shape. Start with big shapes of shadow or light and then work to smaller and smaller shapes. Look for a beautiful curve (like the line showing the right side of the head). Make your viewer work a little. It’s more fun to look at a painting if your eye completes the thing.

I simplified the nose. Realized I had gotten fussy with it.