All week I’ve been looking forward to getting back to this project and working on the raccoon. Here’s as far as I got. But there’s still more to come.
Here’s a look – layer by layer – at my process. My notes are by no means complete, but I hope you get a sense of how the piece progressed and why.
First, I painted in what I like to call “place holder” colors. These, as the name implies, are just to establish a base to remind me of the various colored areas in her coat. For the black mask, I used Payne’s Grey. This color, depending on the brand, often has a blue or purple tint. This one is Golden Fluid Acrylics and I like it because of the bluish color. I think it makes a good base for brown or black. Later, I’d find it would have been better if I had a more even coat, but in the end it worked out alright.
Early on, I like to work on the main features of the face first, especially the eyes. But also I worked on the ears and nose.
As far as fur goes, I work whatever’s further back first and then proceed forwards. That way, the tips of the nearer fur lie over the base of those behind then. So, I worked on the chest before the face, and on the chest I worked the outer light-colored edged first, then added dark colors as I worked inwards. I have the fur radiatong from the center point just under the chin.
In the end, some of the chest will be covered by the boughs of greens she’s carrying, but I don’t know yet where they’ll be, so I just paint the entire chest, then I’ll paint the boughs on top. I’ll be able to do that by working with opaque colors for the initial layer of the branches.
Here’s a close-up of the face.
In this layer, I’ve gone quite far with the eyes. Once the eyes are in, it seems like my subject sees me and guides me! Anyway, for the eyes here, I painted three different layers. The first was burnt umber and the second was raw umber. For both, I used a small round brush and painted all around the edge of the eye, around the highlight, and filled in the top half of the eye. Then I used a brush with clean water and painted it in the space below the highlight – between the line around the lower edge of the highlight and the line around the lower edge of the eye. Then I moved the brush back and forth a bit to bring the paint from the edges into the blank area. This leaves a lighter area which looks like a secondary highlight. If I have too much paint, I blot it up with a dry brush. The third layer was black, and I only painted the iris, once again working around the highlight.
There are also rims of dark skin around the eyes which I think are the eyelids. For now, I just outlined then with a dark color then pulled a bit of that color over the light area with a brush with clear water.
I painted the nostrils a dark color, but not black yet – raw umber. Then I added a graded color around the sides and lower edge with a wide side-loaded brush. Using that same technique, I darkened the areas on either side of the bridge of the nose, This helps bring the bridge of the nose forwards.
Then on to the next layer.
I didn’t do more on the chest, as I wanted to pretty much finish it before I continued working on the face and I did that on the last layer. That’s because the lower edge of the face lies over the upper part of the chest.
You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t don’t anything with her paw yet. That’s because the paw will be wrapped around the branches of the pine and holly boughs, so I’ll paint the paw after the branches.
Here’s a closer view of that same layer on the face. I’ve used a number 2 round brush for the tiny hairs. When I load the brush, I press pretty hard to flatten the tip which creates a small chisel edge. Then I can use that chisel edge and sideways strokes to paint the little lines for the hairs. As always when I’m painting hairs, I’m careful to pull the strokes in the same direction the hair grows, and from the base to the tip. The dark color on the mask is raw umber. I used a little of that same color here and there on the forehead and also on the bridge of the nose, beginning to form the darker areas there.
Depending on the individual raccoon, the bridge of the nose might be lighter or darker. On her, I’m keeping it lighter than the black mask, but in the end it will still be pretty dark. On the fur, I’m not using any black yet. The darkest color you see on the fur is Raw Umber.
Now I add light washes of color to help build the form. On the lower body I used a light brown, and also used that same color to warm up parts of the white on the face. Then I switched to Payne’s Grey to add shadows on the white areas. I like this part because those shadows contribute to the form.
Here’s a closer look at the face.
Finally! Time for black on the mask. I also darkened the nose, the fur on the forehead, and the whiskers! This has been an absolute marathon of painting tiny lines, but I think it was work it. I also painted closer snow flakes, except over the raccoon.
She isn’t done yet, but now I can move on to the branches of holiday greens she’s carrying, then come back and add the finishing touches to our lovely, community-spirited raccoon.
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