Piecemeal Style Portrait of Two Dogs

September 10, 2018
Piecemeal style portrait of two dogs waiting intently for treats. Multiple types of paper, washi tape, watercolor, acrylic marker, and Neocolor II. The final pieces is about 20 x 25 inches.

Today’s sketch is one of my favorites of my year so far. I made it using a Sktchy muse photo for inspiration and in the photos of my working process you’ll be able to see how I pull a photo up on my iPad and position the iPad to work, whether at a drawing table (as I started for this sketch) or the easel (as I finished.)

Note: I’ve been holding off writing this post because I was hoping to get permission to show the photo inspiration from Sktchy in my images of my work set up. I haven’t heard back and I want to post about this image today so I’ve blurred the inspiration photo reference when it appears on my iPad in my process photos. If you want to see the original photo that was my reference please go to Sktchy (my profile—rozstendahl) and scroll down my sketch list to see the pups painting. Click to open it and then swipe right to reveal the photo reference that inspired my painting. (The agreement when you join Sktchy is that you can use the photo reference and do anything you want with your resultant artwork—but the image belongs to that muse so you really do have to ask permission). 

Small point—look, I had great fun sketching this. I really love it for a host of reasons. But I will tell you I have more fun drawing from life and if you’re just starting your artistic journey I want to encourage you to draw from life instead of photos so that you don’t get into bad habits. That’s all. No lecture. Except never draw from someone else’s photos without their permission.  

“Jill, Quick Distract Him With Your Forlorn Cuteness. I’ll Get The Treat Bag. We’ll Share.”

That’s the title of this painting. Jill is obviously the dog on the left, the blue dog. The go-getter and plan maker is the white dog on the right. 

If you have had the good fortune to live with more than one dog at a time you will be well aware in so many daily ways that

  1. Dogs are pack animals.
  2. Dogs work together as pack animals towards a common goal.
1. Here is my drawing table set up. It’s a bit more cluttered than usual because of the collaged nature of the papers.

Now if you have Alaskan Malamutes those goals are typically to hunt in concert with one another to catch prey animals.

Smaller dogs, unless they are ratters—well, I’m not sure what happens as far as hunting.

But in every household I’ve ever visited with small dogs there is one dominant personality who likes to plan and another dog, like “Jill” here, who is the bait to help reel in the fish. (The fish can be another dog, a cat they live with, or a person in the household, though the last is the sign of a deeply dysfunctional household. If you notice your dogs dissing a human like that you need to get a behavioralist in ASAP as you are obviously not up to handling the situation. It’s not healthy for the dogs or the humans; and depending on the size of the dog it could have serious, dangerous consequences. This is a lecture!)

Actually if you are interested in developing your skills as a confidence man having two small dogs is a great way to learn some tricks about really selling a con.

But I digress. I have no personal knowledge of the two dogs in my reference photo (you can view that on Sktchy as mentioned above), but my experience observing small dogs led me to interpret things and exaggerate those things in this fashion.

2. Here you can clearly see the piecemeal nature of this piece.

Also I don’t use black paint. I use blues and complements to make neutrals, and here I went pretty much with blue. 

In the first process photo above (process photos are numbered) you can see how I started my sketch on a 6 x 9 inch piece of paper by drawing first the head of “Jill” and then realizing that my scale was way off so I’m going to be doing piecemeal. (You can find out more about Piecemeal Style and Piecemeal Portraits by searching those two sets of keywords in my blog’s search engine.)

In that first process photo you can also see the stand I put my iPad Pro (9 x 12 inches or whatever it is) on when sketching from a photograph.

3. Here’s a closer look so you can see that after I taped the 6 x 9 inch starter sheet (which is Bee 100 percent cotton watercolor paper) down to a larger sheet of watercolor paper.

Once I realized I wasn’t going to fit even both heads on that small piece of paper I started  taping on additional pieces of paper to create a larger sheet.

In process photo 3 you can see a closer look. The 9 x 12 inch watercolor paper I taped the first 6 x 9 inch sheet to is either Hahnemühle Harmony or Expression. I forget, both were handy as I was testing them. I covered that sheet with Montana marker—a light orange that was going dry. Once the tape went down and the sheet was attached to the first sheet I continued sketching, but this time I realized I wouldn’t have room for the feet, so I first added the other sheets at the feet. Those are scrapbooking papers left over from a collage piece I’d just finished working on. Those papers actually work well to mimic a sense of carpet.

4. I started doing some watercolor shading.

In process photo 4 you can see that I’ve gone in with watercolor to do some shading in the faces and in the cast shadows at the feet.

At this point I’m faced with a decision. Am I only going to finish a portion of this piece and leave a lot unpainted? Or am I going to bring things up to some sort of finish throughout?

Sometimes when I paint I really only want to work on a certain aspect of the image and the rest is left unpainted much to the confusion of the audience. For me I’ve finished the bits that interested me and I’m emotionally and pictorially finished.

5. Deciding to push the painting to more finish throughout meant that I needed to make the washi tape receptive to coverage.

In process photo 5 you’ll see that I have gone over the washi tape used to attach the papers together with a heavier application of the same orange acrylic marker I used earlier.

I do this because I need to “fix” the brush pen ink that crosses the slick surface of the washi tape (otherwise it will bleed into watercolor or gouache because it doesn’t dry on the slick surface of the tape).

Additionally I need to change the texture of the tape so that it is more receptive to the paint that will cover it eventually. I have a lot of methods for creating texture here, and encourage you to experiment.

Your approach will need to take into account how much you want the design of the washi tape to show through. Sometimes, you can get away with simple straight coverage of the maker on the tape. It really depends on the next media you intend to layer down. You might want to do some test cards to see how best to use the acrylic marker to get a surface useable for the next media you want to add. The great thing about acrylic markers is that they dry quickly. If you don’t get a useable surface for your intended project you can try a second application that is thicker, thinner, or texturized in some way by use of paper towels, sponges, brushes, etc.

Once you cover the maker with paint lines you have to realize that you’re all in. If you don’t create coverage over the entire piece you’ve now got some glaring “partitions” and breaks in the image. 

6. I have a different holder that can position my iPad Pro at either side of my easel. The height is also adjustable. I used that holder at this point.

This is the point at which I put the entire piece up on the easel. If I’m going to really cover everything I don’t want to be working on the table. I want to be able to get back from the work and look at it, and to take broad strokes, if desired, over large portions of the background. It will be easier to do that standing up. Placing it on the easel also locks it place. I would have had to clear the drawing table off to do that flat, and then not had the long view I felt I needed.

In process photo 6 you can see the piece up on the easel. I’ve begun the under coat on the blue dog. This is important because the way the blue dog turns out will determine how I want to proceed with the white dog for values and which color family I’m going to stay with.

At this point that I decided I wanted to SCRIBBLE. So I got out the Caran D’Ache Neocolor IIs which are water-soluble wax pastels.

This is also the point at which I was so intent on working that I stopped remembering to take process shots and just worked all the way to the end in one shot. (Some day I’ll remember to set up a camera to take automatic shots.)

Detail of the white dog shows the blending of white gouache with the other water-soluble paint and stick material, as well as dry brush effects, show through tape texture, and some scribbling that’s left to stand.

Basically, if you read any of my posts on water-soluble wax pastels like the Neocolor II or the Stabilotone now known as the Woody you’ll know that my next steps are a succession of dry layers that I wet, scribble over, wet, repeat, or at any point create a final layer that is a dry layer smoothed with some finger blending.

At the very end of the process I go in with white gouache to create some colors or effects I can’t get with just the stick material. You’ll see that on the white dog.






Note: I’m sorry I can’t recommend a brand of stand for your iPad. I have three stands: the two you see in this post’s photos, and another with a very long extension arm that I use in the TV room. None of them are made any longer. If you want a stand go to Amazon and search for iPad Pro stands and pick one with the features you like. Each of mine are from different companies bought because I liked the earlier one, needed another, and found the previous one was discontinued, and had to hunt again. I’ve had three great choices just by following my own advice. It’s a growing market and I know you’ll find something you like. Think about how you need it to attach to something as one of your criteria. 



    • Faith McLellan
    • September 10, 2018

    Roz, this is great. I’d love to take a class from you sometime that goes through all of this mixed-media technique. I don’t use markers but would love to experiment with them now, and adding all those other bits on top. Or maybe you teach this already?!

    1. Reply

      Faith, I’m glad you enjoyed this post. I really love these two dogs and when I look at the piece it actually makes me smile and even giggle a bit, remembering all the fun I had slapping the color down.

      I don’t teach a class in piecemeal style. I have written about it on my blog. (See the categories I mentioned in the post.)

      I do hope in the fall to actually set the camera up to go through the whole process because I don’t think people get that it’s just changing your mind as you go a long. Like everything I do it comes out of play and experimentation. And I love getting into the weeds. (So for instance the sketch of the white dog is really sort of amorphous to start with but I don’t let that bother me. You can’t erase ink, but you can cover it up with opaque paint and materials like water-soluble wax crayons!

      Get some paper out and start sketching with your favorite materials and see where that takes you. You can use washes of acrylic paint instead of acrylic markers. With either you’ll have to learn how to vary the moisture you use and allow to stay on the surface, but that’s all simply practice and experimentation. And you’d have to do it on your own if you took an online class anyway, since I would n’t be in the room with you. YOu’ll know when something is too wet! it will buckle and pull away.

      So have a go! You’ll have fun. Even the “failed” experiments are fun. I put that in quotation marks because I don’t think there are failures, there’s just a lot of fun and things you learn and things that you then want to incorporate into something else.

      • Kathy Wedl
      • September 10, 2018

      I too would love to take a mixed media class or anything with you. Reading your posts is an overwhelming endeavor.

      1. Reply

        Kathy, can you write to me more in the comment section, or use the contact me feature on the blog (see the top right of the blog page, second line in the navigation menu)?

        I would love to know what you mean by reading my posts “is an overwhelming endeavor.”

        If you mean what I think you mean than I am afraid you wouldn’t enjoy my classes at all and most students tell me they are the most detailed and involved classes they have ever had.

        So I’m wondering what it is that is overwhelming. And if you can let me know than I will have a better understanding.

        Thanks so much.

    • Paul
    • September 10, 2018

    LOVE this portrait of these co-conspirators. For me it’s all in the eyes and ears, priceless! I bookmarked this post for further study of your mixed media approach and layering of colours, brilliant! I also, love the rich variety of strokes and textures here. There is much to be gleaned by further study of this image. Also think I need to get that small set of Neocolor II crayons, that have been lingering on a shelf, out for a test drive! Thanks for continuing to share and inspire, it’s much appreciated.

    1. Reply

      Hey Paul, I’m glad you enjoyed these too. I love the surface texture too and all the stuff on top of the tape! You really do n need to play with that set of Neocolor IIs! I look forward to seeing what you come up with. (Also it’s very hard to be too detailed and precise with the Neocolor IIs—you can, but it’s more fun to work fast and not bother.)

    • sandra p mac diarmid
    • September 10, 2018

    as always, Roz your posts are fabulous!.. but this one really touched me.. it a class in itself and helps take away boundaries and lets one try to be fearless.. regardless of how long or ‘experienced’ anyone is.. you continue to be so giving to your public.. the time and thought you put into your posts, its overwhelming.. I know of no other artist who is so sharing.. these dogs?.. inspirational and made me smile and the dialog was perfect..your dog-lover side shines thru.. animals, all animals.. its because of you I continue to draw my Luc as often as I can..filling only LucSketchbooks.. he is 14 now and my companion in the to have him change position.. I have now, what seems like hundreds of napping Lucs…dog love…anyway, thanks for all you continue to do and share…just one of your adoring public…sandra

    1. Reply

      Thanks so much Sandra for your kind comments about the blog and this piece. (I have had a really fun 10-year run with the blog—coming up on the anniversary in October.) I’m sure this spoke to you because of the dog-subject matter. I am so glad that you are painting Luc regularly and have dedicated sketch books for those sketches. They are a wonderful memory of time spent together.

      I love drawing sleeping dogs because I love watching them while they dream. But if you really want to change positions think about putting more rugs or dog beds around in the studio so Luc has a choice. And then even if you don’t do that, sometimes stand on a step-stool (if safe for you to do so) ao sit on the floor. Just that little change of view has a huge impact on the angles we get down on paper.

      Most important just keep sketching Luc! Thanks for reading the blog.

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