Earlier I painted the foreground grasses and even earlier on the piece I did the background. The last step is to marry the two with some grasses in between the foreground and background. To the left of the left leopard you can see I've started to add a mid-section of grasses.
There is no fast way to paint fur like this. However, I do have a brush which I think is the perfect choice. I don't want to paint every hair. Not only would it drive me crazy, but it doesn't look like fur. Fur is small clumps of individual hairs.
My go-to brush is a small flat angle sable brush. It forms a tight chiseled surface when loaded with paint. For each clump I start with the point and drag the brush across the board in the direction of the fur. Here, the lighter fur will overlap the spots. Of course there will be areas where I want single hairs to overlap but the majority of the fur is painted with this one brush.
Click on the image to see more detail.
My darks can dry overnight while my "whites" and lighter colors can take up to a week depending on the ambient humidity. So even though I have all the spots in, most of them will be repainted as I blend them into the surrounding fur.
You might well ask, "Why bother to paint them twice?" Having the spots painted with warm and cool blacks (some more brown) gives me a frame of reference for the sunlit and shadow areas, helps me to see the cats' muscle structure, and gives me an overall feeling for the painting.
With the leopards' spots now dry after the turpentine wash, I can start on them. My black base is ultramarine blue, cadmium red, and burnt umber. For areas that will be in sunshine, I am giving the spots a warmer tone.
After completing a small piece, time to switch it up with a large complicated one.
In Kenya I had the great fortune to witness a pair of mating leopards interacting. He was the amorous one always trying to get her attention.
Rather than use the Venetian Red gesso which has served me well for a couple of years, I thought this painting would benefit from a Yellow Ochre gesso. Below is my beginning.
After drawing my leopards, I used a turpentine wash of raw sienna and burnt sienna to define the spots. Playing upon complementary colors, some of the background will have hints of a blue/purple mixture (ultramarine blue, rose madder, burnt umber, and a smidgen of violet.)