Sketchbook Pages

Leo: A Dog Portrait in Oil and Gouache

Leo is the same breed as my pup Millie, a Formosan Mountain Dog (both rescued from the streets of Taiwan), except Leo has dark brindle fur. Before starting this oil painting I did the gouache study below. I hadn’t decided yet…

Portrait of Leo, Formosan Mountain Dog, oil on panel, 8x10 in
Portrait of Leo, Formosan Mountain Dog, oil on panel, 8×10 in

Leo is the same breed as my pup Millie, a Formosan Mountain Dog (both rescued from the streets of Taiwan), except Leo has dark brindle fur which I found much more difficult to paint than Millie’s blonde fur, especially when working from a photo (at bottom of post) without much variation in light and shadow to help create dimension and volume on a surface that is already so varied and random.

Study for Leo Dog Portrait, gouache on paper, 8x10 in
Study for Leo Dog Portrait, gouache on paper, 8×10 in

Before starting the oil painting I did the above quick gouache study to send to the collector who commissioned the painting to give her a sense of what I was planning. I hadn’t decided yet whether to include their backyard.

Below are a few steps during the work in process and the original photo I worked from.

I got really interested in painting the ferns on the left in the photo but decided to simplify the background, which was attracting my eye more than the doggie. I changed Leo’s fur coloring a bit in the painting based on some additional photo references that showed the fur as being darker and warmer-colored than in this photo. I’m so glad Leo’s people are happy with the painting!

16 replies on “Leo: A Dog Portrait in Oil and Gouache”

Jana, I really liked this portrait! Especially when I compared it to the photo. The photo had many details but didn’t convey anything really to me. But my first look at your portrait, gave me such a feeling of this dog. I felt his alert, intelligent presence and immediately loved the green plant which gave me this strong tropical atmosphere. The cool grey rocks made me think of water. It made me feel this dog lives in a lush vacation type atmosphere where he is loved and valued, and he is quite grateful for his life!! I had such a happy feeling about this painting.


Thanks Chris. Your comments are always so insightful. After I posted this I decided I wasn’t quite done–still have a couple of things that are bugging me. I’ve asked the client if I can have another week to work on it a little more. I know I’m being a perfectionist but I like my work to be as good as I can make it before it goes out in the world.


Nope. I tried one many years ago but didn’t find it useful. When I need to copy a photo exactly (mostly for commissions that have to be just right) I use Saral Transfer Paper between an enlarged photo print-out and the panel I’m painting on.


Hi there. I just found your blog and love your work! Your pet portraits are especially good. This is lovely. The brindle coloring is excellent. I just started following your blog; it will be fun to see your upcoming works! 🙂


Thank you Jenna. Interestingly, I wasn’t satisfied with this painting after I posted it and have been reworking the background and will be posting the revised painting soon, along with another dog portrait I’m still finishing. I appreciate your taking the time to leave a comment.


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