Reni has sent me this painting of her Daughter’s Bullmastiff in pastel pencils and has asked for my help and advice on how it could be improved. Reni is concerned about the nose area and has redone this several times, also advice on the background would be appreciated – “should it be lighter or darker?”
As you can see from the reference photo it is not easy to see the details of the edges where nose meets face, so what do you do in a case like this? Reni points out that I would say “do what you see” but just what does that mean?
If, as in this case, you cannot see any clear indications of the outlines of the nose and mouth, do not try to guess this, just “do what you see”. In other words copy what you are looking at in the reference picture as accurately as you can reproducing exactly what you see. Think about it, you have readily accepted the photograph why not make your picture the same.
As far as the background is concerned Reni was right not to try to copy the photograph but do her own thing. First of all there is a ‘halo’ all around the top of the head, see black arrows, this could easily be corrected by bringing the stronger background colour down to touch the dog in a couple of places. The red circle shows where I would have darkened the hair or the background as the tones are too much alike if it was not for the line these areas would merge.
Finally what I would have done here is not to have cut the body off the dog but continued this to the edge of the picture and darkened the background bottom left, see gold lines.
All in all I think Reni has done a great job and I am sure her Daughter will be over the moon with her picture.
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