How the Leopard got his spots – work in progress!

I’ve been wanting to paint one of the ‘Big Cats’ from my own photos and real experiences other than a typical zoo visit. As we were so lucky to see a Leopard in the wild on our safari trip in Sri Lanka, i just had to have a go at painting one and with about 100 photos of leopards alone, it was something i had to do.

Some might say I am bit mad to attempt it, I suppose I am but I like a challenge and this was definitely a challenge to say the least. I sketched out the leopards shape and basic points I needed as a guide for building up the spots, on went a rough back ground colour and then to start painting in the head, seemed like a good enough place to start.

A few hours later I was still working on the face, still painting in the basic spots, by this time i was starting to see spots before my eyes – I am ashamed to say ‘I cracked’ had a paddy, threw my brush in the air, tore the canvas paper in four, promptly broke my brush in half and packed away as if there had never been a Leopard in sight.

A few days later after pondering another approach to the leopard painting, i set out again – glutton for punishment! Anyone who knows me, knows I won’t be beaten, so back to the drawing board. This time I planned out the whole thing differently, marking in the 101 spots or more, with loads of patience and a loaded paint brush I set to blocking in the felines markings.

So its going to be a long process and I am not giving up on this one – heres a photo of the leopard I am working from and a few stages of the painting progress, sorry no evidence of the one that got away…


painting stage 1, 2 & 3 are basically blocking in stages to get a feel of values and tones, creating depth to build on – the boring bit but a very important to build up the layers.



so those dreaded spots have been painted in about 3 or 4 times by now as and when required to keep the shapes standing out over the layers of wash and now I am

ready to paint in a thicker mix of paint. The spots are still roughly marked in, loads more work to do but a good base to work on.




The last painting is where things really start happening – where the animal starts to come alive and i feel i am finally turning the corner and this is where i usually start talking to the painting, okay you could say i’m a little crazy but then i’d have to be to tackle this again!

Last night I worked on the ears, eye and muzzle and slowly working my way accross, too tired tonight to paint so giving it a rest and pondering my next stage, I think it may be the the feet, tail and mouth leaving the whiskers to the very last bit (whiskers are the missing link that can make or break a good painting – save the best to last or you could say the ‘scariest’ bit)

To get to this stages, I would reckon I have spent about 14 hours so far and possibly that again to get to the finishing stages, possibly more!

I am very thankful to the artist and tutor Beverley Daniels, who taught me how to mix paint only using the 3 primary colours and white – because of this i am able to re mix the shades again and again in small amounts, this way i do not to waste paints with each of my painting sessions. I have also learn’t so many great techniques from Beverley and this has enabled me to create my own techniques.