Watercolour portrait of ‘Freeman’ the black retriever

BlogPublished June 3, 2014 at 10:48 No Comments

From time to time when I am painting portraits I like to take the extra time to take photos to show how I paint, and how paintings develop. I wanted to show the lovely dog Freeman being painted. I have painted many paintings now for this lovely family, and two of the animal portraits have gone over to Canada too, which is very special.
Freeman here was a very well behaved dog, and very photogenic with a lovely glossy coat which gave a  lovely contrast between light and dark, and he was fond growling for his stick lol. I go through the photos at the time to confirm which one is the best angle to use with my clients, and in this case this photo was the one chose, although with a non growling mouth. I used several of the other photos to make his mouth normal.



freeman black retriever watercolour animal portrait reference-sue hutchings


freeman complete copy righted small


I always start a painting with a detailed drawing of my dog or cat, and include where my light and shadow areas are, and any requested alterations, in this case, the mouth chance. I then transfer this drawing onto my watercolour surface, using graphite on the back of the drawing and pressing it through carefully with pencil, but not too hard to score the underlying paper. My main reason for doing this, is that the watercolour paper surface is so delicate, that to rub out on it means that the painting suffers as a result.
Once I have pressed out my drawing, I cover the whole area with a large piece of paper and remove the area aperture to paint through. I have in my early years discovered that you only need a small blob of paint on your hand to ruin a painting you have spent an age on. It is a practical life saver to small splashes and marks that can happen while painting. I then use several pieces of paper under my hand to directly lean on to stop any grease on my hands transferring to the watercolour paper also.

freeman-watercolour animal portrait-sue hutchings_dorset studio-1



I like to begin by painting in some of the light tonal values to give me some shape, before then going onto the eyes.


freeman-watercolour animal portrait-sue hutchings_dorset studio-2



For me it is the eyes that give a painting it’s life, and I like to get those started first. I work into great detail into the eyes, and often include the owner in the reflections. See the last photo for a close up of this.


freeman-watercolour animal portrait-sue hutchings_dorset studio-3



I paint as much as I feel I can to know I am happy before moving onto the detail surrounding the eyes, giving them tonal value and working in layers at building in the depth. at a later time, I go back to the eyes and complete the shadows that I need the surrounding tones to balance them with. Too much too fast can kill a painting using this medium.


freeman-watercolour animal portrait-sue hutchings_dorset studio-4



I then move to the nose, and get most of the tones in and the textures in. while painting I find it important to take lots of small breaks away from the work, so that i can keep coming back to it with ‘new eyes’. It was one of the things I remember very well from my early years, labouring lovingly on something and being so engrossed to even skip meals, only to find that something was not quiet right, and I would have to remove a great deal of the work to get back to an earlier point again, or start a new. Taking some time, especially with the starting point of the base drawing is so important, and it does pay off later.


freeman-watercolour animal portrait-sue hutchings_dorset studio-5



Now it is just drawing out the detail in layers and layers of thin washed, and lots of negative painting.


freeman-watercolour animal portrait-sue hutchings_dorset studio-6



My brushes vary from a large but pointed no 12 brush for starting the paintings washes, using wet in wet techniques, to then using no 0 – 3 sable brushes, sometimes a sable/synthetic mix. My main reason for using a no 3 brush in a Pro Arte range is that it holds enough paint to complete the strokes I need especially when building up long fur strokes, especially here between the ear and mouth areas, but retains a lovely point. Some of the smaller brushes you are forever dipping into paint between strokes, and you can get broken lines which is not an effect I am after. The smoother the paper, the less line breakage you get. I like to use a not texture paper as it has a little amount of tooth and comes through on the painting.


freeman-watercolour animal portrait-sue hutchings_dorset studio-7



I then moved onto the mouth and downwards towards his tag. I like to leave the collars and tags till last, so that I have the right tonal values surrounding them to fill them in.


freeman-watercolour animal portrait-sue hutchings_dorset studio-8



More work on the ears and more detailed layers all over add more dept, before completing the chest fur to a nice point, and then painting in the whiskers, and other small details that need to be added last


freeman-watercolour animal portrait-sue hutchings_dorset studio-9



And here is the finished painting.


freeman-watercolour animal portrait-sue hutchings_dorset studio-10


Lastly,  close up of the eye detail including Tracey :-)


freeman dog watercolour portrait - Sue Hutchings




Here is the testimonial that Tracey has sent me after receiving the painting:


“Well Sue did it again. This is the fourth family pet portrait we have commissioned and she has truly captured Freeman’s character and regal looks. Two portraits sit pride of place in Edmonton, Canada of my brothers feline family. The two my parents commissioned for us of our 25 year old cat, Scooby and Freeman the Flatcoat have pride of place on our wall in Dorchester. The process from photography to final art is seamless and to see how he was created on the blog is fabulous. We loved the fact that through Freeman’s eyes my image was reflected and found this a realistic and great touch. Thanks Sue we look forward to you being commissioned for Freeman’s brother or sister…”

Water colour poppies demonstration

BlogPublished April 27, 2013 at 14:42 3 Comments

I have been asked if I can demonstrate my watercolour poppies for the lighthouse art group in June, and thought I would post up a previous poppies in the making as an example of what it will look like to those watching, although it is likely to be less watery as this one, because it will be on an easel, and is going to run! it’s not a topic you can paint flat as the 40 or so members won’t be able to see! I am really looking forward to it.

Click here to see the full set of piccies

Watercolour class, part one

BlogPublished March 4, 2013 at 18:13 No Comments

Well, what a wonderful start to the lessons. It was a joy to meet my 3 ladies today and help them on their way to getting knowledgeable about watercolours papers and colours. not to mention the chatting and the coffee (with jaffa cakes too) :-) I am really looking forward to seeing them again next week, where we will continue the colour chart before moving on to having some fun with different brushes on different papers :-)

It is fascinating to me that some things I completely take for granted like having 2 pots for painting water, one for the dirty brushes and then one to get clean water from, or using salt to get a nice pattern when watercolour is setting, have come as a useful knowledge  to share. Next weeks effects should be very interesting



Dorset Studio ready for art lessons

Watercolour Classes

BlogPublished February 27, 2013 at 16:16 No Comments

watercolour classes sue hutchings_dorset studio

My new watercolour classes commence at Dorset studio in the garden from Monday 4th March! I am running a series of 6 sessions for beginners watercolours, and I am really excited. Looking forward to meeting these lovely ladies again who signed up last year during Dorset Art Weeks. All the prep is done, the only thing that needs doing is to get some chocolate biscuits in :-)