I covered the canvas in a layer of black and left it to dry. In the meantime I grided up a printed photo of a baby gorilla, taken when at London Zoo, and sketched him on on tracing paper. I then transferred the outline from the tracing paper straight onto the canvas using carbon paper.

The benefit of using tracing paper rather than griding and drawing my gorilla directly onto the canvas is that I only had to use minimal pencil marks on the canvas. This left most of the black untouched and I was free to start building up the white outline in paint. In the below you can see my crude first pass at capturing the gorilla.

Next I slowly and patiently built up the layers; forming the detail of the gorilla and developing his character. My primary focus was on the eyes, if you get the eyes right you’re halfway there.

In the final stages I sit and look at the gorilla and scribble notes on scrap paper. The point of this is to get some perspective on the painting and take the time to write down what I need to do next.

The beauty of this is that I have a plan when I next sit to work on the gorilla, it doesn’t make much sense to anyone but me, but to me it’s a plan of attack for my next session. It gives me confidence that my next steps are the right ones.

As the final touches went on the canvas, I was enthralled by his expression, looking up at one of his parents for reassurance. I’m hugely pleased with the outcome and really glad I left the painting as a black and white image. By taking away the colour I wanted the focus to be completely on the drawing and the resulting personality of the baby gorilla.

Baby Gorilla

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