Labradoodle Oil Painting
Intention and Painting
My Dog, Joey, 2018

Setting an intention and incorporating that into meditation is all the rage now and great artists are capitalizing on the benefits. Let’s face it, the more focused you are on what you are doing, the better shot you have of producing a piece of art in the manner you imagined. It does help if you have studied the discipline long enough to know how the paint handles, what brushes do, and so forth. However, if you don’t use your mind as well as your 5 senses and think about what you are doing, planning each step, like a rehearsal for a show, you won’t paint what you intended. Unlike abstract, or non-objective painting, I paint with clear objectives (intentions) in mind. To get there, I set the objective (intention), roll out all materials from my bag of tools, and employ some very mindful techniques to produce what is in my mind’s eye.

Here are some tips I found useful in painting “Joey” and the intention setting meditation I did.

  1. Use the RIGHT REFERENCE: I cannot emphasize enough that the best dog paintings I’ve seen are at eye level. It helps to have them in a cute pose, which may take hundreds of shots! Sometimes it helps to draw there attention with a well-timed treat or have some keys jingling by a friend behind you to get their attention. EYE LEVEL IS KEY!
  2. Brushes: When painting a dog, remember that there not many strong edges. For this reason, pick your brushes well. I used Rosemary Brushes’ Combers which work well with dog hair. I also use Rosemary & Co. brushes from her 278 and 279 series which are long haired mongoose brushes that also work well with hair.
  3. Palette: I used a limited palette of black, white, blue, burnt sienna, cadmium red, cadmium red deep, alizarin and raw umber. I use cadmium red deep as an underpainting, because dogs have warm noses and parts of their body might shine through from the hair, so it helps the “warm blooded” idea for animals.
  4. Substrate: I used double primed linen mounted on birch. I can’t emphasize how much of a difference painting on linen does for the ease of painting. I rarely use cotton duck anymore!
  5. Intention-Setting: Intention setting and meditation are not elusive as one might imagine. You don’t have to get into a pose or light incense! To begin, I made sure the environment was quiet and used some quality time to look at the photo of Joey I wanted to paint. I looked at all the features of his body, using this time to observe the lights and darks, the warm areas and cools, and made note of where the light was coming from (the direction). I thought about how his hair might feel, and when I did that, I went to my brushes and selected the brushes that best reflected that feeling. I then used one of the brushes I selected and without any paint on it, danced the brush over the canvas as if I were painting, to outline in my mind where it might go and how it would be positioned. I thought and I pondered. I let my eyes go over the parts of his photo like I was a in train on a track, observing what I saw out of the window. The point here is to study your subject well. The most important sense we should use when we paint is actually beyond the 5 senses. It is your minds eye. Visualize what you are going to paint with your brain. Use the other senses in preparation, but it is the final sense – the intention setting brain – that is key. See what you are going to paint, then paint it. It is really, that easy.