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  • Writer's pictureKaaren Poole

Finishing the Raccoon

Well, I thought I’d finished Miss Marcia the raccoon, but now that I look at this photo, I think her expressions is a little sad, so I’ll try to correct it. The first thing I thought of changing was the mouth, but how can that be the problem when you can’t even see it? So, what about the eyes? When I cover the mouth, I can see that the sadness is in her eyes. I’ll work on it then report back at the end of the post. Meanwhile, the branches!


The woody branches define their forms of the bunch of greenery, so that’s where I started, using mostly a dark brown but adding lighter accents here and there. At this point, I didn’t know if those accents would show in the end, but if they did, they’d add interest.

I was careful to place the branches in her paw. Also, I wanted most of the ‘foliage’ to be over her chest, but with a little bit moving upwards and covering a very small part of her face. I thought that would help integrate the branches and the raccoon.

To begin the pine needles, I pulled strokes of dark green along either side of each stem—except for the one reaching upwards over part of her cheek. That one would be a holly branch. I didn’t go over the brown parts of the branch so the highlights I put there would still show. For the dark green, I used a side-loaded large, flat brush and kept the edge of the brush with the most paint against the outer edges of the branches.

Here’s what it looked like with all the dark green in. This would will be the base for the pine needles. This base gives nice fullness to the branches without having to paint every little pine needle. Plus, I think it looks better because you wouldn’t see that level of detail—every little pine needle—anyway.

Next, I added the individual pine needles. For this, I used three greens: the same dark as I used before, a medium, and a light, bluish green for highlights. For the needles, I used a liner brush and pulled each stroke from the tip to the base at the brown branch. I also got brave and painted the little mouse in the branches, but I didn’t want to call much attention to her, as I thought including here was a bit much.

I also worked on her paw, just adding a light brown and then shading lightly with dark brown.

Unfortunately, the phone rang and I was chatting away after that last photo. As a result, although I did fine paying attention to the painting, I forgot to take photos along the way. But here’s a recap of what I did.

I deepened parts of the pine branches with thin washes of indigo. I also shaded under her paw and increased the dark brown shading on her paw itself.

For the holly, I based the berries with white so that I could put red over it and the red wouldn’t be muddy with what was underneath.

Then I painted the leaves an even medium green and shaded them on the lower edges and center vein with the dark green. With a liner, I added a lighter warm green along some of the edges, then painted highlights with that same color. For the highlights, I painted a stroke with a small, round brush then quickly smeared it by rubbing my finger across it, rubbing along the length of the stroke. In a few of the leaves, I added a tiny bit of white in the center of the light green highlights, smudging the white as well.

In addition to painting the leaves and berries on the branch curving upwards, I also tucked a few in amongst the pine boughs.

Finally, I dotted snowflakes over the raccoon and branches.

To finish the berries, I painted over them with a medium red, shaded with a darker red, then shaded again with the dark brown. I added white highlight dots in a few of them.


So, I did do a little more work on her face to try to make her expression not look sad. Here she is:

Here’s what I did.  

Although I determined that what I mostly wanted to fix was the eyes, I saw I could improve the muzzle also. I added dark brown along the center of her upper lip, and also a very light wash of the same color over most of the white muzzle fur. I want the muzzle to come forward and it was. ut I thought I needed to take it back a little bit.

As for the eyes, I decided that the light-colored rings which nearly encircled each eye were a problem. They were supposed to represent light reflecting off the skin of the eyelids, but the light would not reflect all the way around and they made the eyes come forward rather than look inset. Also, especially on her right eye, they made the eye too round. I fixed this by obscuring parts of the light rings with very dark brown.

This was a fun piece to paint, and I'm glad I didn't do a lot of planning or detailed drawing ahead of time. I just ler her come out the way she wanted to. Maybe that gave me lower expectations which resulted in lower stress. And, then the surprise. I'm very happy with the way she worked out.


I publish a weekly newsletter, An Artful Path. It contains little articles about animals, art, life in general, and sometimes writing. If you're interested, you can subscribe on the home page of my website, and as a thank you, you'll get access to an art instruction video. And while you're on the website, you might enjoy a look around!

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