Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Studying The Texture of Fur

I have recently been studying the texture of fur while working on a commissioned painting of two dogs.  This post describes how I approached representing the texture of fur.  My thought process for modeling fur was greatly enhanced by Scott Waddell's Still Life Demonstration video on representing fur and Doug Flynt's advice to focus on considering the texture of fur in terms of planes.

The Process I Used
I will describe the process that I used through an example of a small section of the painting.

 I began with a thin underpainting, thinned with turpentine, to get a quick sense of the large planes of form.  This underpainting was applied to the entire painting as well.  The underpainting also assisted in making sure the light color of the canvas did not show through while applying paint during the next step.

Large Planes
I then painted in a few distinct planes of form.  I painted one plane at a time and while placing in adjacent planes I focused on how much each plane was facing towards or away from the light source.  I started with the plane most facing the light and attempted to gain a feeling of each new plane bending away from the preceding plane.


 Then I tried my best to model a sculptural representation of the form.  This process was focused on bending the large planes into each other to create a more subtle curve of form.  I intended to model the form smoothly during this stage, as if the form was made of plastic, to make it easier to focus on the sculptural quality of the form.

Setting up the Fray

 I set up the fray from the fur on the neck into the shoulder.  Since the shoulder was darker than the neck I made a thin band of a color that was a bit darker than the neck and placed it next to the right edge of the neck.  I let the edges of this band fray into the darker color of the shoulder.  Since the paint was wet while I was working on this form it was easier to blend the edges of the band of fray into the shoulder.

Examining Fray

 This diagram shows a simplified version of the fray of fur.  The image on the left shows a microscopic image of distinct strands of fur fraying into the gray background.   As the fur frays into the background less of a solid area of fur is seen and the color behind it shows through.  While this distinction is very apparent upon a close view, the small image on the right shows how the interaction between the fray and the background influences the color and soft edge of the fray at a normal viewing distance.  Because the area of the fray shows both the fur color and background color seen together that area is a bit darker than the solid area of fur.  That darker band of fray is what I focused on representing when setting up the fray of fur in my painting.

Adding Fray

 Adding the more distinct areas of fray was focused on distinguishing the areas of fur form that were most opposed.  The more opposed the planes of fur are, the more distinct the edges of fur are perceived.  I focused on adding more distinct fur where I perceived that opposition most clearly and let the other areas remain closer together in value.  

I found it helpful to consider this opposition of planes of form in relation to the distinction of blades of grass.  In the image below, the top leaves of grass are most distinct where the grass below it is grouped together as it is turned more away from the light.
Grass image from Nicolas Raymond
Direction of Strokes

 While applying the strokes of fur I focused on making the direction of my marks in the direction that the fur was emitting from the form.  I found it helpful to use a more thick amount of paint and a worn brush tip at the edges of the fray to attempt to mimic fraying strands of fur.

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