The essence of fox

The essence of fox

A new year begins in my new space with an old favourite.

I know the title of this blog sounds like a very dodgy perfume , but what I am trying to do more and more is capture the essence of an animal , by being as unfussy as I can. I want the very essence of a fox ( or robin or hare). This is more difficult than it looks and very tricky to explain my process, but here goes.

Firstly with heater on and the winter sun streaming through the windows, I can begin work in my garden studio ( it still feels unreal to be able to paint in my very own space) 



I have much more space so I can move around more and study work from different angles



I begin by sketching out the main features



Now I begin with the eyes. I have described this process before. I use yellow ochre as my lightest yellow. Control the paint really carefully, you need a good brush for this one that comes to a very sharp point so you can be precise with the details. 

Drop colours in and take colour away with a point of kitchen roll. There is no alchemy here just trial and error.



take your time and really look where the shadows are and the highlights



There is a touch of cerulean blue in there too. 

Take as long as you need, walk away from it and then come back, it takes time and a lot of practice

Then once you are happy move onto the other eye



Same as the first, you need to be careful as you may be losing concentration and it is really annoying when one eye is noticeably better than the other. That is why I also like to paint animals in profile!



Then the nose , again I need to remember to retain the highlights. i don't use masking fluid as I don't want hard edges , but if you really don't trust yourself you can. I use blues and purples for e  nose although it does look black in reality

Now we can splash the paint around



If you want a loose style, you have to be bold, stand up, use bigger brushes and don't be frightened of it. I add paint, take paint away , flick paint and spray the paper with a spray bottle. Be as bold as you dare, but look where the light and shade are



The image will move in and out of focus, I paint the ears quickly I want the watercolour to create the illusion of fur



Now we are nearly done keep standing back and stop when you like it , if you add too much water then leave it to dry a bit and see what patterns emerge , it is fun but it isn't easy. I like to rub away my pencil lines so I am left with pure watercolour, and hopefully just the very essence of fox

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I wish you’d help us with the drawing? Maybe a download sketch? I love these paintings thank you soooo much


Great article! Thank you :)


Great lessons Rachel! These blogs help tremendously! Do you ever just use straight paint with no water for fine detail?

John Hughes

I’m 80 yrs old, discovered watercolor 2 years ago and absolutely love it. I find I am too rigid with detail and am trying to get the fluidity that you show in your paintings so beautifully. Thank you.

Pat Schad

This is so interesting! More blogs on your process please, it’s fascinating ❤️


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