Cute Pet Portrait in Oils – Getting Started

In this series we will be making a pet portrait in oils. We will begin this first session with a wash drawing – using burnt umber and solvent over a toned canvas.

Reference Image:


  • Canvas
  • Brushes
  • Burnt Umber Oil Paint
  • Solvent (mineral spirits etc.)
  • Easel
  • Palette
  • Palette Cups


  • Begin by using a medium sized brush to apply the basic outline in slightly diluted burnt umber.
  • You can use a second brush dipped in solvent to correct any mistakes (it will wash the paint off the surface).
  • Then keep using the same brush to block in the dark tones.
  • Again, you can use the second brush to correct any mistake (it may need to be cleaned from time to time).
  • Don’t worry if you lose some of the edge to the background (like the lower snout in my piece) as these will be recovered later.
  • Finally, you can take a smaller brush to refine the shapes a bit.
  • You can also start to soften some of the shadow edges in preparation for building form in the next session.