My method of painting is pretty much freehand, as I know horses and dogs characteristics so very well after years of painting different breeds, colours and horses that perform different disciplines - dressage, showjumping, eventing and showing. Knowing the anatomy means proportions, musclulature and positioning of eyes and ears etc are correct.
When creating a horse, dog or cat painting I start by sketching the subject onto the paper then usually move on to straight on to the eyes. As you will know you can really see their souls through their eyes, horses eyes are so gentle and expressive and as we all know when they see us arrive in the yard waiting for their feed - eyes fixated on us and vocalising (and sometimes impatiently pawing at the floor or door!) and as we all know when our dogs sit and look so soulfully at us their eyes fixated on us when they want your attention, to play, or their dinner – or your dinner!
I am usually inspired by the background in the photograph of the horse or dog that you supply, and I will choose my paper colour accordingly - either to harmonise or to contrast for a more dramatic effect. I block in the basic colours and tones in much the same way as an oil underpainting, and gradually keep working over the whole portrait graduating up to the light tones. The final stages are the highlights, fine whiskers and hairs. Please visit my photography tips page if you are trying to get a good photo for me to paint from.
I was recently asked to submit a step by step tutorial of one of my black labrador dog paintings for the Society of All Artists bi-monthly magazine "Paint". You can see my tutorial on my website page creating a Black Labrador painting on black pastel paper.