Once I paint the background, I bond with the animal by painting the eyes and surrounding features. To me, this is the most important part of the painting. If I can connect with the soul of the dog, and the eyes ARE the windows to our souls, then I can complete the painting with relative ease.
When painting eyes, it is important to take a close study of the shape and colors. The pupil is the darkest part - and I mix together ultramarine blues and umbers to create a deep "black". (Purchased black from a tube is rather dead, it has no color, no life). Look closely at the iris, as it is not all one color. The outer edge will be the darkest, with highlights here and there, fading into the deep pupil. Finally, and this is of utmost importance, add life by painting a dash of white.