Recently as part of improving my technique I decided to paint a Jaguar portrait. Firstly it is important to share with all that I was influenced to replicate the quality of work produced by renown Wildlife Artists, such as the late Simon Combes, now his son Guy Combes, fellow Zimbabwean Craig Bone and English wildlife artist and art instructor Jason Morgan. I have learnt quite a few tips from books and videos published by Jason Morgan, so to them I owe much humble gratitude.
To start drawing the Jaguar onto the canvas from my reference picture I scale a grid onto the canvas to help identify where all the details go and transfer the image as accurate as possible onto the Canvas. For this process I use regular 2B graphite pencil.
Then I start to paint a tonal under paint with Acrylic paint, this because acrylic dries very quickly. I use a thinned out mix of Raw Sienna with some water, paint over the complete canvas using a one inch flat brush. Before the paint dries out I wipe away the lighter areas of my subject with paper towel, setting the tones to make me aware of where the light is coming from onto the subject and where the lighter colors have to be painted as in the reference photograph.
I start painting in the Jaguar’s eyes and nose, so that the subject gets an expression, this motivates me to continue onto the all-important Blocking In stage. To block in the Jaguar’s under coat of fur, I use a medium flat brush, precision here is not important as this is the primary layer of oil paint. I follow the direction of the fur as I see it in the reference picture. On this blocking in stage it is important to go dark on the colors as the hairs and several layers of fur will be painted over this layer once it is completely dry, to give the image depth. When I am painting "Big Cats", especially those with spots, be aware of the spots, so I usually go over the spots again with a mixture of Black, Burnt Umber and some Ultra Marine Blue. I never use pure Black, it will make everything look flat and artificial.
Next I will start painting in the fur, hair by hair paying attention to the light and dark areas. You have to be patient; painting wildlife is all about expression and getting your subject to look as natural as possible. When I paint a Lion portrait I always include the scars, the ragged hair, after all it has to look wild, not like it has just left the grooming parlor. Because I am using regular oils, I will have to wait several days to a week or so before I carry on. If I use Alkyd Oils I would let it dry overnight and carry on the next day, but as of now I cannot get my hands on Alkyd Oil paints.
This post will be continued at a later stage.
After some time working on other paintings I have continued to work on the Jaguar. Firstly I use a number 4 round brush and load it with slightly thinned paint, whilst loading it I form a chisel edge on the brush, allows me to paint the individual hairs that make up the fur. This can also be done using a rigger brush. Always paying attention to the reference photo I paint the fur in the direction of the growth, just like in real life, after one or two layers of fur the big cat will start to come alive. Paint the fur unevenly so as to make the animal look wild, pay attention to detail.