How I Paint Lion's Fur

Painting Lion's Fur

Mar 23, 2023

Important Points:

  1. Painting fur describes the muscular and skeletal forms beneath the fur.
  2. Painting fur is easy when values are controlled.
  3. Values relative lightness or darkness a subject has. 
  4. Turning form requires controlled values.
  5. Chroma is the relative color intensity an object has.
  6. Drawings often look incorrect when they are accurate and correct.
  7. Mixing paint using Munsell is awesome.

I've been painting Lion's mane  and snout for most of the time I've been working on this painting. The mane's just so dynamic and a really interesting challenge. 

The snout is a different sort of challenge. It's made up of short hairs that have different hue and chroma, and lack consistent directional flow.

Yesterday and today, though, I turned to building up the short, low-chroma fur on his body and legs. I knew I had to get the body fur correct because the forms beneath it are described by it. Also important was to make sure the light hitting the forms I painted was logically consistent. And I've been bothered by the mounded shape just in front of Woman's elbow. It seemed incorrect, even though I had drawn it very carefully.

Note: if you're interested in learning how I draw out my compositions quickly and accurately you might find this helpful. 

Once I began to put paint in that area the mound seemed so wrong I went back and checked all the shapes — twice! And it was correct. But it looked incorrect. 

I knew I had to tackle this issue soon, before I spent too much time on other elements. Yesterday I mixed 2.5YR 2/2 and worked it into all the darkest creases and folds. The shoulder mound still looked wrong, and I was getting more concerned. Even though this has happened many times before it still freaked me out.

Something I learned early on is that when values are not correct — or in this case, not in yet — forms will often look contorted and weird when all they're needing is for more information to be added. And that was the case in this instance. 

I mixed up 2.5YR 3/2 and put on my big boy painting paints. Starting with Lion's right leg, I turned the forms under his mane and at his elbow into the light. 

Then I moved to his left leg and did the same thing, beginning at the bottom edge of the panel and working my way upward. I spent most of my time articulating the tufts of hair and the creased skin folds behind the arm. 

Next I worked out the swirls of mane between Woman's fingers and Fox's tail. Got to the small ridges that go diagonally up to the right, carried them past her elbow to the slope of the mound, painted the very ends of Lion's mane and the very slight hollow just behind and along what turns out to be his shoulder blade!

Not a vague formless lump at all. A shoulder blade. Scapula! Hah! Take that baseless fears.

If you're interested in learning how to mix every color that's possible but aren't ready to spend $1,600 on a printed Munsell set, check this out. I've created a digital Munsell set that is accessed on your phone, contains more colors than the printed set, and has none of the inaccuracies the printed book is known for. 



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