Having laid down the composition, the first thing I always do is get some colour onto the canvas, no matter what. It takes away the "fear" of spoiling that empty white space.
Now I start filling in the important bits, and start thinking about possible problems I might have to overcome. The success of any portrait, human or animal, rests in the eyes. As you can see, Coco's eyes are not only very black, they are also very hidden, so that tell-tale highlight that adds so much to a portrait is not to be seen. What we do have though is the character of the hair, as it falls over the eyes, and surrounds the face, the beautiful white fur characteristically stained brown from contact with water, that sweet button nose, also very black in the photo, (so much so there was no detail) and the set of the little mouth with the surrounding moustache.
Now the whole is coming together. I like the pastel colours of the fur, which adds a frail angelic feel to the dog and is offset by the darker, solid tiles in the background and the brightness of the cushion. I now aim to get the balance just right.
Now I am bringing it all together, making sure the all important eye area reflects the feel of the photo, bringing everything into a balance that I feel works. The background is always an important part of a pet portrait. Rather like a frame it can make or break a painting. But I am happy with this as I think its a natural foil for the little love in the middle.