I've been interested in doing a simple step-by-step guide into my painting method for a while now. I get a lot of questions into the materials and process the I use, and I love seeing (and showing) all of the work that goes into a painting. So here it is: A simple step-by-step tutorial on how I paint. I'm going to be painting a red wolf, which is kinda a nice change for me.
I paint with gouache, which is a opaque watercolor. It allows for vibrant, rich colors that finish to a matte finish and intense detail. You can also paint on almost anything with gouache. My favorites are wood, paper and aquabord, which is a special type of panel made especially for water mediums. They are also made by a local Austin company, Ampersand. They have a variety of panels for whatever your purpose and medium. For this, I chose to use aquabord.
This is the first step that I do. Color is a very interesting thing. By playing with warms and cools, you can really achieve depth in your painting. By doing a 'warm' wash before I lay the 'cool' blue will make the background color 'pop' more, and also create an interesting feeling of depth. I'm painting a red wolf, and so the background needed to be 'cool.' Neutral colors will read 'warm' on a 'cool' background, and visa versa.
Next I lightly sketch out the figure in pencil and start figuring out what will be the darks and the lights. I usually figure out the darkest parts first, and then work up to painting the lighter areas.
One of the things that I found out that I love about painting wolves is that their fur varies in color. Red wolves have ginger, grey and white fur on different areas of their body. I used warmer colors where I knew that I wanted redder fur, and more neutral colors where I wanted the grey fur.
This is where I start painting the fur (sorry for the weird angle and shadow.) I use a pretty small brush, and just follow the direction of the hair. I like to use a lighter color so that you can see the different strokes.
Ok, here's a better angle! I do an off white next, and start filling in the lighter fur areas. I also start lightly laying it over the darker areas as well. Using thin layers of paint allows for the previous layers to show through. The white paint then becomes light grey, light brown or tan depending on the colors beneath it. Layering white on top of the blueish background makes it look as if the shadows have already been painted.
This has the off-white fur painted all over now, using thinner and lighter pressure where the darker parts are. I also went ahead and started painting the eyes and added some more details in the mouth and ears.
Now it's about adding the darkest darks and the lightest lights. I added more depth to the eyes, and lightly layered darker paint to create shadows. This step is really about just taking the time and making sure that the shadows are the correct shade and hue.
And that is basically that. I wanted to keep the background simple to allow all of the detail in the wolf to stand out. To see it full size you can go over here.
Thank you! Let me know if you have any questions that I can answer regarding my process.
Kelsey Jenkinson is a 27 year old artist in currently living and working in Austin, Texas.