I finished the commission in time for Valentine's Day and the client was extremely pleased (yay!). As you can see, I spent most of my time refining the image in the last stage. That's really what you want to do at the end, just dotting your i's and crossing your t's, artistically speaking. The wrap-up should be reasonably stress-free. On that note, I hope everyone's Valentine's Day was also stress-free. :)
Attached are some more steps in the process. Keep in mind I'm not a paid professional - yet! - so my steps aren't necessarily the right way but what I felt comfortable with and still gave me a sense of organized process. In the first image, I painted out the fur, varying from high- to low-tones and not focussing on any specific one. This step put most of the image together with lots of room for refinement. For example, I noticed that the dog's face seemed a little too long so I made some adjustments that better resembled the subject. Although I didn't have a photo of the dog in the pose that you see, I used other photo references to help me place him in a similar manner. One thing I had to be careful about using references in this way is that I started taking different little bits from each photo for the dog and each photo wasn't specific to the dog but just an example of a similar breed.
In the second image, I focused on making the image more like the dog in question. At this point, the only photos I would refer to were of the dog though the poses were different than the one I was painting. I was able to focus on the more specific details about this dog and apply them to this image. Having too many references - especially disparate - can be confusing and distracting. I also took the time to make the fur more realistic. That is, I downplayed each hair and tried to make them less distinct individually and make them more distinct as a group. When we see an animal's fur in life, we don't notice each strand but rather clumps as they're arranged around their body.
In the third image, I started to block in the background. This image needs to be done by Valentine's Day so I had better get back to it!
I've been commissioned to paint a portrait of a dog so I thought I would post my progress as I've been told that I just don't post often enough. My bad, so here are the first steps in the process...the prep and also the part I dislike the most. I'm having fun painting, though. :)