Though possibly difficult to see here, this contour drawing also has, for a bit of whimsy, little X’s applied with frisket in the background. The sketch roughly delineates highlighted areas within this black subject, such as the side of the nose and under the chin. Whiskers will eventually be barely suggested.
I usually use blue rather than gray as my first wash for a dark or black subject. Really, it depends on whether the highlights are cool or warm in temperature (sometimes they’re both), but I find that a black object somehow appears darker and richer with blue accents. Gray ones tend to convey a dullness, a lack of vibrancy, to a dark object – in this case my cat. Believe me, when he’s not sleeping, he’s full of character, energy, and sometimes mischief, so gray would be an insult to his personality anyway!
Note that fabric highlights are white, and the same blue is painted across some sketched lines as a first wash over the X’s.
Perhaps he appears a bit more scary now with the addition of yellow in his eyes plus a toned-down pink in his ears. (Note that eye highlights are left white but color crosses his pupils.) The fabric also has another layer of value added to shadows in the folds, and green stripes for pattern/color variation. Frisket remains, and more has been added to blue areas.
Certainly he doesn’t look his best yet… But this gray wash (above) is a critical one. Though it’s the first wash for (and represents) the darkest black, it’s kept gray – or, rather, pale – for now so that mistakes are more avoidable and easier to remove, and to facilitate continued awareness of highlight shapes within.
Almost done… As rich darks are added, highlights are also darkened. Black whiskers across his body are simply suggested by painting dark areas behind or between them. Pupils are painted behind reflected paler shapes.
Finally, fur and a few highlights are darkened even more, and deep recesses within the fabric are darkened further, too. He’s sitting on a quilt handmade by my late friend Elena, who loved cats.