Painting Cats: Step by Step Demo

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Painting Cats: Step by Step: Choosing a Reference Photo

Painting Cats
Image: © 2005 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Unless a cat is sleeping, it's practically impossible to get them to sit and pose for you -- the cat is far more likely to want to try and play with your moving paintbrush! So spend some time trying to get a good reference photo (or a collection) that you're going to use as the inspiration for your cat painting.

Put the photo up on a nearby wall, or pin it to your easel, so you can quickly and easily check something, such as exactly where a band of colour goes.

The cat in this photo is called Scruffy. When she first came to live with us from animal rescue we called her Fluffy (I know, it's hardly original), but she quickly revealed that this was too much of a ladylike name for her character, so it evolved to Scruffy. The photo was taken when she was sitting on the roof of our car.

02
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Painting Cats: Step by Step: Sketching on the Canvas

Painting Cats
Image: © 2005 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

This painting was done using acrylic paints. Starting with burnt umber, I sketched in the main shapes of the cat, then dipping the brush in water I 'colored in' the rest of the canvas. Where the paint was overly watery, I left it to run, knowing I would glaze over this later and thinking it could create interesting texture/shapes below the glazes.

03
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Painting Cats: Step by Step: Adding Black

Painting Cats
Image: © 2005 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Using bone black, I put in the dark areas of the cat, and a bit of the black into the background.

If you compare this photo to the previous one, you can see how the paint has continued to drip down the canvas on the right-hand side.

04
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Painting Cats: Step by Step: Reworking the Colour

Painting Cats
Image: © 2005 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Here I've started adding some of the orange browns (nickel azo yellow and quinacridone gold) into the fur, and extending these into the foreground/background.

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Painting Cats: Step by Step: What Next?

Painting Cats
Image: © 2005 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

I've continued adding quinacridone gold to the fur and the background, again letting it run as it wants. The more significant change is that I've extended both legs, which were looking a bit stunted. I think the one on the left (as you look at the painting) is now too long, and the angle of it a bit off.

So what will I do next with the painting? First I'll fix the legs, then I'll add the eyes, then I'll check the shadows around the head.

But I can't decide what to do with background. I'm not sure whether to run with it as an abstract 'color space', or to try and turn it into something more concrete, such as a carpet, or sofa with cushions.

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Painting Cats: Step by Step: Overworking Leads to Disaster

Painting Cats
Image: © 2005 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

The painting stayed where it had been in the previous photo for quite some time as I wasn't convinced I was certain enough what I wanted to do with it to 'fix it'. I started reworking the background, thinking of making it seem more like a carpet, but in doing so I think I lost the vibrancy it had.

The same as I try to 'correct' the ears. with regards to the reference photo. But the angle of the head being so far from the reference photo, I should have forgotten about the photo and let the painting take its own life. Trying to 'fix' it, I just overworked it.

It was time to admit I'd ruined it, scrap the painting, and start again.

07
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Painting Cats: Step by Step: Digital Watercolor

Painting Cats
Image: © 2005 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

This is a digital watercolor created from the reference photo, to remind me of where I wanted to get with the painting, but didn't. But then not every painting is going to be a masterpiece. This was a disaster if I consider only the final result, but not if I rather consider it an exercise or practise piece.

As Art and Fear says: "The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your artwork that soars."