Mary Toth

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Pet Portraits and Learning Techniques for Self-Taught Artists

One of my newfound loves lately has been painting pets - I can see why some artists choose to create a living off pet portraiture alone. I’ve always loved animals and illustrating them (they are my favorite subjects) so I suppose it shouldn't come as a surprise to me that I can lose track of time (days even!) just painting away. Ironically though, it all began with one illustration that I made simply to test out some new tools that I bought, not thinking it would lead to anything. I enjoyed the process so much, however, that I kept going and have been loving drawing dogs these past few weeks. Though I've painted other breeds, the one thing I love about poodles is that their haircuts make for some interesting creative opportunities. There are so many shapes and angles and colors that I can work with when painting them. The possibilities are endless. And I even have my own poodle at home which honestly is the main reason I decided to illustrate a poodle in first place.


[To map out shapes I like to start small. I tend to get lost in detail so working small eliminates that possibility]


I find animals in general to be a great source of creative inspiration because number one they’re adorable and number two they can be so expressive at times in both body language and facial expression. I’ve discovered as well that by illustrating animals I am building skills relevant to figure drawing which is actually one of my least favorite things to draw. When I was studying education in school one of the teaching tactics that we learned was scaffolding. This essentially is a method where you start off teaching something small or fun to the class and then you increasingly move on to more complicated topics. But because you start off small or with something enjoyable it creates a bridge to the more complex topic and therefore makes learning that difficult topic more enjoyable/easy.


[Once I've mapped out the shape I then digitally enlarge the sketch and trace a more fine-tuned image that I use for the final painting.]


So if you are teaching yourself how to draw I would recommend finding a subject that you enjoy drawing that you could draw all day. Then figure out how to link it to the subject that you are having difficulties drawing. For me I plan on graduating to primates and illustrating those for a while which in turn will likely help me study human figures.



Here is a picture of my pup for your own pet portrait inspiration!



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