Dog Cures Ornithophobia

Bird Dog painting, 18 inches by 24 inches, oil on canvas board
BIRD DOG | 18 x 24″ | Oil on Canvas Board

BIRD DOG is intended to capture the pure joy of a dog playing on the beach. If I got it right, you should smile or giggle at the scene. For those of you who love birds, rest assured no birds were harmed in the making of this painting.

I was inspired by a photo of a dog playing on a beach, but the most striking thing for me was the stylistic impact of the silhouette. There’s something compelling about the lack of details in the darkened shapes of the dog and birds, perhaps giving more to the imagination of the viewer, allowing it to be personalized. Additionally, the silhouettes lend themselves well to a sense of motion. I’m not sure why it strikes me this way, but I think it has something to do with the stark value contrasts created by the silhouettes on the colored landscape.

Broken Color Palette

My mom happened to mention her recent use of the broken color technique on one of her compositions, something I’d not heard of previously. As it turns out, the technique whih proved to be a very exciting way to add depth and vibrancy to the composition. In short, broken color is a technique often used by the Impressionists that leveraged optical color mixing to make things look less flat and murky. This article, Broken Color and Optical Color Mixing, does a great job describing and illustrating the technique.

I used this approach to re-do the reflective elements on the beach, which I must say was a huge improvement. I took a black and white photo of the color palette of the beach to ensure the values were the same, which makes the technique more effective because the various colors work as one and don’t compete with each other. I’m very excited to use this in my plein air landscapes in the coming months!

BIRD DOG is also a foray into waves, another subject relatively new to me at this level of detail. I enjoy seascapes and incorporating water into my landscapes, but most of that has been lakes and streams. Capturing the force and complexity of ocean waves is a whole different endeavor, but I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and will incorporate waves in future works.

The final decision to be made was regarding the birds. My wife, a frequent source of very helpful suggestions and insights to work in progress, suggested I pare down the array of birds. At some point, she noted, the number of birds pushes the feel of the work from playful fun on the beach to terror at the seaside. And she was right! As I added the bird silhouettes in the final stage, at 14 it felt like any more would start to slide into Hitchcock territory. Compared to the study, which had 21 birds and begged the question “who’s chasing who?”, the final composition was more playful and struck the right “dog on beach having a great time running around like it was the best day of their life” tone.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to go play with your pups!

#artbern #berntx #crashboomzip #painting #art #abplanalp #austinartists #rescuedogs #bestfriends #dogsofinstagram #dogsofinsta #dogstagram #oilpainting #fineart #petsofinstagram #contemporaryart #fosteringsaveslives #dogsofig #adoptme #takemehome #austinpetsalive #mutts #muttsofinstagram #beachdog #dogsplaying #silhouetteseries #brokencolor #birddog

Rescue Noses

WET NOSE | 18 x 24″ | Oil on Canvas

This is a follow-up piece from SNIFFER, a very similar composition of the wonderful nose of a dog. If you’re a dog parent you’ve seen this perspective before, so I hope it makes you giggle. WET NOSE came to fruition because the original SNIFFER was accepted in a show at Art for the People Gallery in Austin earlier this year, but I had promised my wife that if it went to the show I would make her a new one that could be hung in the house. 

I tend to like to move around with composition topics and challenge myself with new subjects, so I haven’t done many repeat compositions in the past. Painting SNIFFER for the second time in a few months was going to afford me a rare opportunity to learn from the first piece and see if I could make improvements on WET NOSE

The first notable benefit of the repeat performance was speed. I didn’t have to spend much time thinking through an approach, and the setup / block-in went very fast. The other time efficiency was in mixing paint colors properly on the first effort without much, if any, experimentation. This is where having a painting journal comes in handy, as I’d made notes of color mixtures for SNIFFER and only had to make some minor tweaks for the new piece. 

I would love to do more dog noses from this perspective, but switch up the mutt mixtures so there are different nose types and hair colors. It would also be interesting to really push the details further painting on a gesso board instead of canvas and see how realistic the nose could become. 

Thanks for reading and please remember to foster or adopt or BOTH. It’s a rewarding experience for everyone involved, and for those who are very breed focused, remember breeders don’t make breeds, they make bread. If you want a particular breed of dog, note that there are thousands of breeds at the shelter and rescue groups (Austin Pets Alive if you live in / around Austin area). As for me, I’m a mutt kinda guy.

Unbridled Zeal For Life

Barks & Birds (study) | 9 x 12” | Oil on Canvas Paper

The unbridled zeal for life is hard to epitomize more than watching a big dog playing on a beach. While I don’t support a dog chasing wildlife, in the case of birds I don’t mind because in all my days I’ve never seen a dog come close to catching one. But the pure joy of exploring and running on a beach is something that brings a smile to every doggy parent out there. 

Barks & Birds is a study to figure out the technique and subtle variations in hues and values needed for a larger composition. I’ve seen photographs of dogs on the beach in silhouette, but I think a painting lends more atmosphere to the scene than most photographs I’ve seen. I made some basic mistakes with this study, having painted the silhouettes first, but I wanted to get the darks mixed properly and take a crack at the shapes, especially the dog, who I like to call Mr Happy Pants. 

The study also allowed me to mix a number of grays to capture that end-of-day post sunset atmosphere. I gambled with the underpainting, using a very saturated orange, but I love how it turned out… a happy accident indeed. I initially thought it would provide some nice highlights around the silhouettes, but as it turns out it nailed the sunset color behind the clouds. 

Lastly, the waves. I didn’t really care about this detail as part of this study, but probably because I kept my technique very loose (i.e. didn’t care how it looked) and fast, they turned out really well. I concentrated on the mix of greenish-blue, which will show better in a larger, more finished composition, but I’ll be keeping it very loose when I do the waves next time. Might need a bottle of wine for that part. 

Thanks for reading!

#artbern #berntx #crashboomzip #painting #art #abplanalp #austinartists #atxartist #atxart #pleinair #beach #beachdogs #atxlife #rescuedogs #bestfriends #dogsofinstagram #dogsofinsta #dogstagram #oilpainting #fineart #petsofinstagram #contemporaryart #fosteringsaveslives #dogsofig #austinpetsalive #mutts #muttsofinstagram #snouts #wetnoses #shephers #hugyourdog

“ABUNDANCE” Group Show at Art for the People Gallery

Art for the People Gallery in Austin Tx, is a showcase for 100 local artists.

Art for the People Gallery in Austin has included 3 of my compositions in their Summer group show “ABUNDANCE”, which runs July 2nd through August 26th, 2022. I’m thrilled to be a part of this talented group of artists! If you’re interested in original artwork by Austin artists, check out AFTPG either in person in Austin or browse their online store. 


The following paintings are part of the show (links lead to previous blog posts about these compositions):

Sniffer | 16 x 20″ | Oil on Canvas Board

Dog Tired | 16 x 12″ | Oil on Canvas Board

  Shaken | 8 x 10″ | Oil on Board

Thanks for reading!

#artbern #berntx #crashboomzip #painting #art #abplanalp #austinartists #atxartist #atxart #atxlife #sedona #pleinairaustin #artforthepeoplegallery #aftpg #rescuedogs #bestfriends #dogsofinstagram #dogsofinsta #dogstagram #petsofinstagram #contemporaryart #fosteringsaveslives #dogsofig #adoptme #takemehome #austinpetsalive #mutts #muttsofinstagram #snouts #wetnoses #blacklabs #labradorretrievers #martinigin #monkey47 #martinipainting

Art Education Slap Down

Wolfy Portrait | 9 x 12” | Oil on Canvas Board


Painting is truly a never ending learning process, which is what makes it so intriguing and rewarding, no matter one’s skill level. However, there are times when you pivot to a new thing – subject matter, tools, medium, etc – and realize the education could be a seamless experience, while there are other times when it’s more of a slap down. This portrait of one of my beloved pups, Wolfy, was indeed of the latter variety. 

I’m pretty sure I had a couple things working against me on this one, but let me know what you think in the comments. First, it’s exponentially more difficult to paint (or draw for that matter) a dog that you know really well; getting the expression just right is nearly impossible. Secondly, the reference photo I used was, well, not the best. Wolfy does not like the paparazzi and therefore a workable pose from the furry prince was hard to come by. The third and final challenge was the recognition that Wolfy’s hair and color patterns were new to me and frankly very difficult to figure out. 

You’ll notice the reference photo has a grid overlay, which helped tremendously and led to a few adjustments that were very helpful in terms of portrait accuracy. However, despite the grid and many hours of work on this piece, I feel like the final result leans cartoonish and for the life of me I can’t figure out why. I think it might be the length and width of the snout is simply off, but it might also be the plane of the forehead… or it’s his eyes. I don’t know. Thoughts? 

Despite the challenges, I had a lot of fun with this composition. And although it was a slap down learning experience, I did educate myself alot about what works and what doesn’t. Some of the “what works” highlights that will carry over into future pieces are the brushwork for long fur, the use of reds in brown haired dogs (it’s there, it’s just hard to see), and the realistic texture of a palette knife for the tongue and nose. 

Thanks for reading!

#artbern #berntx #crashboomzip #painting #art #abplanalp #bernabplanalp #austinartists #atxartist #atxart #atxlife #rescuedogs #bestfriends #dogsofinstagram #dogsofinsta #dogstagram #oilpainting #fineart #petsofinstagram #contemporaryart #fosteringsaveslives #dogsofig #austinpetsalive #mutts #muttsofinstagram #snouts #wetnoses #shephers #hugyourdog

Soulful Eyes

Vedder | 8 x 6” | Graphite on Paper

This is a friend’s dog, Vedder, who I’ve never met… the dog, not the friend. I only know about this adorable black lab (I’m guessing… looks like a black lab, hoping he’s a rescue dog, too) because I occasionally check Facebook and he manages to take a lot of really good photos of his dog. As a doggy dad myself, I know how hard it is to get a good pic of your dog, especially a black one. 

I’ve been spending a lot more time this year working on dog portraits and other dog related compositions. Many of them have fallen short of anything resembling artwork, thus the lack of posts on this topic. However, some things have started to click lately and I believe it’s because I’ve returned to the core exercise of drawing instead of painting dogs. I’ll bounce back to painting them very soon, but sometimes my brain needs a reset in terms of how it translates between my eyes and the canvas. 

Vedder was all about getting the face, especially those soulful eyes, just right. I’m pretty happy with the outcome, especially since the initial drawing block-in required very little adjustment. In other words, the proportions of the face and related features was accurate from the outset, something I hadn’t been getting right with the brush and canvas. 

Drawing dogs is very tedious, but it’s offset by very rewarding outcomes. The process of drawing hair via thousands of “strokes” is a test of patience, which artists really need, but oftentimes it can be elusive as you’re excited to get a composition done. Vedder is an older pup, how old I’m not sure, so he has features such as white hairs and a well-used dog nose. These are very tricky to get onto the paper with graphite only. As you can tell from this composition I missed the mark on that front, but the rest of the details I hope capture the personality of Vedder. I’ll have to cross post this on Facebook to see if my friend has an opinion. 

On the technical front, I used 3 pencils – HB, 2B, and 4B. The paper is very basic, no idea what it actually is because it’s a sketchbook that I usually tote around on trips when I want to get some sketching done to capture the place for posterity. Very convenient, but the paper has no teeth which makes it hard to layer hair strokes with value shading.

Thanks for reading… and GO HUG YOUR DOG!

#artbern #berntx #crashboomzip #painting #art #abplanalp #bernabplanalp #austinartists #rescuedogs #bestfriends #dogsofinstagram #dogsofinsta #dogstagram #oilpainting #fineart #petsofinstagram #contemporaryart #fosteringsaveslives #dogsofig #adoptme #takemehome #austinpetsalive #mutts #muttsofinstagram #snouts #wetnoses #blacklabs #hugyourdog

Play Hard, Sleep Hard

Dangling Paws 2 | 16 x 12″ | Oil on Canvas Board

There are many great facets of our canine companionships, not the least of which is the bond built through play sessions, especially the kind that simply wear them out! Dangling Paws 2 conveys the perspective of the doggy parent watching their pup sleep (but not in a creepy way) after a long session of fetch, most likely with that tennis ball in the background. 

The paw is the focal point of the composition, but ensuring it didn’t dominate the entire painting required a lot of finesse and patience, of which I have an abundance of neither. I liken it to going to a nice restaurant only to have the night ruined by a loud table who invariably has some douchebag who can’t handle his alcohol screaming at the top of his lungs all night to tell story after boring, nonsensical story. Yeah, that guy… I didn’t want the dog paw to turn into a painting version of that guy.

The trick for me was to make the head bereft of details, focus on basic forms and emphasize the anatomy that really matters with a dog’s head – nose, eyes and ears. It was also very important to make it slightly cooler in temperature, which would push it back and allow the paw to stand out, but not too much. 

I had a number of re-do sessions before I got the blue hues just right, namely not too blue and cool, otherwise the paw became too dominant, i.e. douchebag paw! To get it to work, there were two things I had to meter properly. First, the cool blues were tempered by light orange to knock down the saturation, but also mixing in a tad of ivory black. Second, the paw fur needed to be a lot darker without much blue. I might cringe re-reading this post in the future when I learn a more “proper” way to solve this problem, but I opted to create two foundational blacks. One was a mix of Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue (UB), Cadmium Yellow Medium, and Indian Red; the second mixture was primarily Ivory Black and UB with a splash of Indian Red. 

Building up the texture of the hair along the leg was a lot of trial and error. I thought about switching the dog’s hair color to brown so it would be easier to adjust values, but ultimately I stumbled onto a lucky suggestion. I was re-watching a painting video by Johanne Mangi, who does great dog portraiture, and she mentioned, almost in passing, that she used Venetian Red to make the most black-of-black fur colors. She said it was counterintuitive to add red of any kind to darken blacks, but she insisted it worked. Next thing you know I’m slapping a skeptical stroke of Indian Red straight from the tube onto the paw… and I’ll be damned if it didn’t work! 

I thought about using a palette knife for the paw pads, similar to what was done in Dangling Paws 1, but I liked the results from the brushwork a lot, so opted to leave well enough alone. I purposefully excluded longer hairs between the pads because I like to reserve that effect for older dogs, which in my experience all seem to get shaggy paw pads as they age. I’ll tee that up for Dangling Paws 3 or 4. 

The gallery below is done in chronological order so you can see the roller coaster ride of the process. Sometimes a piece just paints itself – I know a lot of artists out there will disagree with that and say that never happens – but we can all agree sometimes they fight you on the easel, but you have to stick with it and remember it’s part of the creative process.  

Thanks for reading and if you have a dog, go play!

#artbern #berntx #crashboomzip #painting #art #abplanalp #austinartists #rescuedogs #bestfriends #dogsofinstagram #dogsofinsta #dogstagram #oilpainting #fineart #petsofinstagram #contemporaryart #fosteringsaveslives #dogsofig #adoptme #takemehome #austinpetsalive #mutts #muttsofinstagram #snouts #wetnoses #blacklabs

The Nose Knows

Dog nose painting
Sniffer | 16 x 20″ | Oil on Canvas Board

Those of you with nosy dogs might want to call this “hey, whatcha eatin’?” Either way, the nose of a dog is without question one of the most amazing features of any creature on the planet. I’ve read a couple of books that extol the power of the almighty wet nose, which has been helpful in understanding how my furballs perceive and investigate the world around them. It also led my wife and I to play games with our pups that essentially exercise their noses, which turns out is very effective in wearing them out.

Dog nose reference photo

The perspective for this composition is from an unusual angle, namely underneath the head, but somehow looking up at the nose. It was a bit of self-inflicted mental torment because I kept pausing the work to make sure this is what a dog’s nose looks like when they go poking it up in the air. Every time I was sure the reference photo was somehow wrong, I would go check out my dog’s nose and sure enough, that’s what it looked like.

As a larger piece, I had some key decisions to make regarding how to render the fur and random hair structure under the mouth. I opted for size 4 and 6 brushes, mostly rounds and flats, to balance the realism of hair while not committing to individual strands throughout. The key with this kind of structure is to ensure disciplined layers that start dark and eventually work light. I also found it useful to do a fair amount of wet-on-wet to get a homogenous look / texture to the hair.

Studio view of dog nose painting

There was a lot of stepping back from this piece to get proper perspective. My plan (always have a plan!) was to view this painting from at least 10 feet, which would allow the observer to really get a sense of the whole snout and see the nose as the focal point. I know this will sound silly, but I kept likening it to an ice cream sundae with a bourbon cherry on top. To draw people to the nose, the texture was critical. This was largely accomplished through a variation of dark mixes, mind you no pure blacks, but warm blues, cool dark reds, and warm yellows to mute the saturation.

Lastly, from a technique perspective, I used a couple of really beat to shit brushes to create that classic dog nose texture. I did some scumbling I suppose, but most of what I was doing didn’t have a painting term – I was basically just smashing and tapping these old brushes loaded with paint all over the nose, creating various transitions in planes and values until it looked right.

I really enjoyed doing this piece and I’m ecstatic that my wife loves it, too. This particular piece is going on our walls once it’s dry, but it will not be the last time I paint a beloved dog sniffer.

Thanks for reading!

#artbern #berntx #crashboomzip #painting #art #abplanalp #austinartists #rescuedogs #bestfriends #dogsofinstagram #dogsofinsta #dogstagram #oilpainting #fineart #petsofinstagram #contemporaryart #fosteringsaveslives #dogsofig #adoptme #takemehome #austinpetsalive #mutts #muttsofinstagram #snouts #wetnoses

Puppy Butts!

Puppy Butts!  | 6” x 8” | Oil on Canvas Board

The inspiration for this piece needs no explanation – even my cat loving friends love a cute puppy butt! 

I used various photos and paintings as reference points for this furry pack, but the common element was first and foremost the lighting. The goal was to capture the time of day, walking along the beach as the sun was either rising or setting. The golden coats of the pups simply glow in this lighting as they explore the beach during a receding tide, with mom in the lead looking for, well, who knows what. 

My wife and I enjoy fostering dogs, especially mom’s and their puppies. That experience has taught me a few things about rescue pups. First, they know it and they show it – if you haven’t had this experience, you’re missing out. Second, nothing beats watching puppies explore the world as they try to play with everything and everyone they meet, including each other. Finally, puppy butts are just plain cute!

The paint colors were tricky to get just right because there is so much golden yellow throughout. The use of cool blacks (Ultramarine Blue and a little Burnt Sienna) for the paw pads and where the paws touch the beach help give definition and “pop”. Originally I wasn’t going to try to incorporate any reflections in the little pools of water along the beach, but having seen this work well in other paintings I decided to give it a go.  I’m glad I did because it really helps give depth and movement to the scene. 

Just as they encouraged and inspired me in this composition, I’d highly recommend fostering or adopting a rescue dog at some point. In my experience you can find any breed, age, and personality in your local or regional shelter or rescue group.


#dontbreedorbuy #rescuedogs #bestfriends #dogsofinstagram #dogsofinsta #dogstagram #oilpainting #fineart #petsofinstagram #contemporaryart #fosteringsaveslives #dogsofig #adoptme #takemehome #austinpetsalive #atx #berntx #crashboomzip #oilpainting #austinartists #abplanalp

Dangling Paws

Dangling Paws | 18” x 12” | Oil on Canvas Board

This piece is inspired by playtime with Wolfy, who loves fetch despite the challenge of galloping around with his huge paws!

Dangling Paws

There were a few new challenges with this piece, namely capturing the various golden browns of Wolfy’s shepherd-hound coat, as well as the texture of his paws. The key to the coloring was working in various reds and warm yellows, but it took a lot of experimentation to get the right likeness. The paws were more about the texture from using a painting knife instead of a brush, which made the surface of the paws look rough and realistic.

However, the hardest part was the dog bed. I got it in my head that the pattern of the bed would help give the sense of plush comfort that Wolfy’s 85 pounds was enjoying as he slept with his head and paws dangling off the edges. It turned out to be effective, but the next time the bed will have no artistic flair.

Thanks for reading!