Wokingham Art Society
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Jon Davies
Dog portrait in oils, 21 May 2019

Email him at jondavies1941@gmail.com

As a young teenager Jon enjoyed art at school. This taught him the traditional approach to painting: drawing, perspective, composition, colour mixing etc.

He had no further formal training until he happened to meet Ken Paine, who taught him how to do "quick sketches" and set him on his way to becoming a professional painter. He has completed some 30,000 such sketches in cities all over the world.

Now he concentrates more on commissioned human and animal portraits. He had brought with him a few examples of his dog portraits. Here are three of them.
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Jon had prepared a fairly detailed tonal drawing of a dog's head in brown Conté pastel on white Arches oils paper. Alongside it was the painting he was going to copy from. He had already put quite some effort into an eye. Asked about using photographs he said it's very difficult to get a dog to stay still so he preferred photography to using the sometimes lethal anaesthesia that some of the old masters did.

For today's painting he would be using Winsor and Newton Griffin Alkyd oils and Liquin thinner. His palette was burnt umber, burnt sienna, raw sienna and yellow ochre, with ultramarine (to make blacks). Liquin can even reconstitute touch dry oils - very useful. He goes for Rosemary brushes.

He started painting with quite a big brush, blocking in first the darks and then, as the brush began to run out of paint, some mid tones. These were almost scrubbed in, with little attempt at precision. After all, one of the advantages of oils is that you can always correct mistakes.

He kept changing colour but since he was working over still-wet paint the result was more "subtle blending" than obvious change.
He tended to work until little paint was left in the brush, so he did nor see any reason to wash it very often, even when he was picking up white (to make a light brown). Jon was thoroughly enjoying himself, although he did seem to find it difficult to talk and paint at the same time (I don't know how some demonstrators seem to be able to do this). As he got into more detail, particularly around the eye, he got out his mahl stick and changed to a half-inch filbert or a small round, both of which he held right up close to the bristles.

He continued to use this fairly dry, dabbing it to cover areas rather than spreading paint with deliberate strokes. I got the impression that he made some marks only as guides for the future, intending to paint them over much of them. In fact he definitely said not to get bogged down in detail: to make marks and then refine them; to draw lines and then soften them; to remove unwanted marks with Liquin. By this time he took to cleaning his brush more. Diall brush cleaner (from B&Q) is very much cheaper than what you get from art suppliers - and is odourless).
We have all heard the advice to avoid using pure white paint but to mix a little yellow to it. Jon went even further, claiming that to lighten any colour with pure white deadened it - that even there you should have a touch of lemon yellow with the white. He reminded us that "The nearest light is the lightest light and the nearest dark is the darkest dark." He very rarely uses black, There is no such thing as black fur, only very dark brown, but for the very tip of the dog's nose he did use black. " Asked how long it would take him to paint a commissioned dog portrait he guessed "about a working day with allowance for a decent lunch".

You need to experiment to find what media etc. suit you. If you are not sure about something new, just try it. Before he had finished the dog's head he started to add some background with a flat hog brush. This defined the edges well but they were "lost edges": slightly out of focus, exactly what you want once you are away from the main centre of interest.


As so often happens, the demo ended with the addition of many small touches of paint. Thank you Jon for an entertaining and informative evening.
End of demo

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