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painting step by step : advices, tips and tricks by a professional

"Study of Whites in watercolor"
workshop by Cyrille_Jubert,

Cyrille Jubert, animal painter and pet portraitist, self taught artist started to paint in october 1996.
The Dog Museum presents his pet dog portraits painted with a very unusual realistic style in watercolor.

The artist explains here, step by step his technique, while painting a pack of 6 hunting hounds.

I paint dog portraits mostly on commission, but from time to time, I paint something for me. It allows me to change my style a bit, to test ideas and to feel free. It is in this spirit that I painted this pack of hounds.
I painted it first in 12"x16" but at its first exhibit, I got a commission to paint again this dogs portrait in 20"x28". Both paintings were very close.
No color was added in the 1/3 bottom of the sheet to show the white on white study of the paws. The strong darkgreen background on the 2/3 top of the page was chosen to show this work in a contrasted context.

The background was a mix of black indian ink, olive green acrylic ink and sap green watercolor. As these pigments don't mix themselves, it gives interesting effects. Between these two versions, I played with the ochre reflects of the light on the ears and the backs of the dogs, and the blue or violet-blue of the shadows. Globally, these paintings were rather far off my usual realistic pictures. They were searches, but the small world of art collectors loved them, so I did not keep them very long.
Last summer, I painted a new version with a golden background. It was gorgeous. So much that the other paintings did not exist beside this one. I decided to paint a new one as a demonstration for you. I took this photo (seen below) in Chambord where these british staghounds just won a beauty contest. The name of this breed is "Billy".
It would not be me, if I did not tell you a little story about it. On the left side you hardly see the huntsman, a woman. It is very unusual to have a woman to take care of a pack of staghounds. In France, the master use to give a hunting name to his whipper-in and huntsman : fern, brushwood, etc...as she had a strong character, her nickname was "bramble". I have known this master for years, his name should be "stinging nettle". Anyway, I decided to paint just the dogs.
Most of the time, I paint on Arches Paper 300g (140 lb) Hot pressed. For this piece the size is 77x58 cm. This nearly grainless paper allows subtle lines and details for very realistic drawings. If you paint wet on wet, the paper will drink too much of the pigments. As I am used to this paper and as I don't paint so much wet on wet, it does not disturb me. I usually soak my sheet of paper in a bath for a few minutes, let it hanged to drip 10 minutes before stretching it on my table.
When it is perfectly dry, I draw a very light sketch using a 6H pencil. My photo does not show the pencil, so don't search for it.

I just drew the main outlines, the eyes, ears and the noses. My palette is always very limited, even for very sophisticated paintings with a lot of different subject matters and colors. I use the same 8 tubes all the time. The eyes are so important, that I paint them first. It helps me to feel the whole painting, which gives me more assurance and pleasure.
These are basicly painted with a cadmium yellow shaded with ochre and burnt sienna. I never use black, so the line around the eyes is basically indigo, darkened with strong complementary colors, alizarin and ochre. The truffles (noses) give sense to the eyes. At the end, they will be the darkest part of the painting.
They are lightly painted and not finished, because I know I shall have to come back later when I will give volume to the truffles (noses) and bind the whole painting togeteher. For that purpose, the surroundings of the eyes and their truffles have been dampened, so there will be a light link in pigments.
My purpose in this demonstration is to paint strictly unicolor subjects, without playing with the blue and yellow reflects of the light on the dogs. For this, I tried to make a pigment mixture as neutral as possible with cadmium yellow, cobalt blue and burnt sienna. When I found the right mix I kept 9/10th of it in a bollus (bowl), putting the rest in the plate I use as palette. By keeping the rest of the mix in the bollus (bowl) it allows me to have a light and a deep shade of the same color.
I use siberian squirrel paint-brushes size 1, 2 or 3, and I often use different brushes at the same time. One just to dampen a part of the drawing, the other one to "drink" or "draw" (or dry) some parts, and one for the different density color. I start with the heads, from right to left, painting one head to the end before starting the second one.
The difficulty was to paint it wet on wet, without being delayed by details. If you look at my first head on the right, I was shy. The confidence grew while I was painting, so the dog on the left is much stronger than the first one.
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