Tips & Insights from James Gurney Painting Animals from Life
For this article I’m going to paint a dog and a horse from life. These domestic friends make good artists’ models, because they don’t mind if I set up my easel close by and quietly observe them. But you can’t expect any animal to hold still for long stretches of time. Dogs will stay alert for relatively short sessions. But then they go to sleep, scratch an itch or walk away. It’s a good idea to observe them for a while to identify a habitual resting pose. Horses shift their weight, and they return to grazing or dozing. If there’s a handler to hold them by a lead rope, they can at least remain in an approximate position. Why paint live animals? Of all the plein air subjects, animals sharpen my senses the most. When they inevitably move out of position, I can no longer rely solely on observation and must shift over to knowledge and memory.
Warm-up sketches, watercolor, fountain pen, and colored pencil, 5x8 in. A good way to get to know a dog’s habits is to do a half dozen sketches in various poses.