March 27, 2017

Behind The Scenes Of The Jada Commission

by Corrina Thurston

I was recently asked to do a commission for a friend of their show dog, Jada, who passed away last year. Having met Jada, a black field spaniel, on a number of occasions and knowing how beautiful she was and her friendly, loving spirit, I was more than happy to take on that task!

Below is a behind-the-scenes look at how I drew this commission, including the difficulty of drawing black fur!


Line Drawing And Initial Strokes

As with every drawing I do, I began with a light line drawing in graphite. I do this in graphite so that I can easily erase the lines if I need to, to either fix a mistake or make sure they don’t show through the colored pencil layers when I draw over them.

I started with a line drawing in graphite and then sketched in the elements of the face.

After I finished the line drawing I started sketching out the elements of the face, such as the eyes, nose, and mouth. This way, even if my line drawing gets smudged or erased, I knew exactly where everything was.

I love drawing eyes, so that’s something I usually draw first in a drawing like this. Then I move on to the areas around the eyes and the rest of the face.


Initial Layers On The Face

The hardest part about this drawing is that the fur is black. Black fur is difficult because if you use too much black, it will come out looking flat and have no detail or depth. If you use too many other colors, the fur will look too light. I wanted to get the look of black, shiny fur.

Using a light under layer and grays and black on top, I started layering the face.

To get that look, I put down a layer of white in just the areas I knew had bright highlights. This included the upper and lower lips, around the eyes, part of the nose, and the eyebrows. Then I went over those areas with a medium gray.

I started layering the fur of the face with various grays and then added black on top, adding the black earlier to the darkest sections to map them out on the drawing.


Layering And Creating Highlighted Fur

As you can see below, I layered the fur from light to dark, with the darkest sections having mostly black, and the lighter sections having less black. Then I went back over some of the highlighted areas, like the bridge of her nose and eyebrows, with a light gray, keeping my strokes even with the ones underneath.

This technique blends the pencil some, and also adds that highlighted look to the fur.

As I went along, I also used a blending stump to help blend some of the color together. It can be difficult sometimes to blend black with anything else and not have it come out looking very flat, so I used the stump carefully, as though I was drawing more fur strokes with it, instead of blending them all together. With enough layers your blending stump has the potential to smear all of your strokes together and take away that detail of the fur. So I was selective where I used it and made sure to maintain those strokes.

I layered the fur from light to dark and then added light on top of the highlighted sections.


Drawing The Ears

The ears were one of the more challenging parts of this drawing. Black fur is a challenge. Long fur is a challenge. So when you add the two together, you have a double challenge!

The ear was a challenge, with the highlights and longer fur.

For the ears, I had my initial line drawing that mapped out the really distinct dark sections of them to begin with. Then I added a layer of white where there were the most highlights, so the majority of the left ear, and about half of the right ear.

After that I continued as I did on the face, layering up with grays and then adding black to the darkest areas. The only difference is that I used different strokes because it’s longer fur. So my strokes for the ears were looser, longer, and wavy.


Finishing The Drawing

The finished drawing of Jada, 11×14 inches big, in prismacolor pencils on mixed media board.

I did the same thing on the right ear as I did on the left, except that I added more highlights to the bottom half where the sun was hitting the ear, creating a shadow for the top half.

For finishing touches, I took out my handy x-acto knife and went back over the highlighted sections of fur and etched away the pencil color. This brought back the lighter under layers I had laid down there and allowed me to create fine details in the highlights. I went over the ears, the eyebrows, the lips, and around the eyes.

Then I took my light gray pencil and went back over those details to make them blend more with the rest of the drawing and added the background coloring you see above. I took a white pencil and went lightly over the eyes to create that sheen, and then took a blue pencil and added a little blue to the highlights on her face, because her fur was reflecting the sky.

The final image, matted and framed.

The client and I picked out the frame together, and now Jada has officially been delivered to her owner!


Prints and products of this piece will be available soon, so contact me if you’re interested!

2 thoughts on “Behind The Scenes Of The Jada Commission

  1. Totally fascinating to read. Of course I am a tad biased as it was my commission! Jada is forever captured in your beautiful art piece. We love it as we loved her❤️

    1. I’m so glad you love it, Sue! 🙂

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