Meet Buttons, a very beautifully coloured kelpie cross collie painted in pastels (scanned final image). This stunning girl has been painted for a local returning customer in the Forest of Dean and my third collie dog portraits.
My previous commission from this customer was from many moons ago and was in fact graphite which I haven’t used in years! We decided it was about 9 years ago when she commissioned me to draw Pepper St George (fabulous name) which seems a very long time ago now! As Pepper’s portrait had no background we decided a plain but complimentary shade would do Buttons justice and due to her wonderful colouring she seemed to fit very well with brown pastelmat. I got stuck into adding base layers using panpastels with sponge tools. They are so rich it takes very little application to start building up the layers and the tools are very good for getting into tight corners too which is very helpful. Over the top of these panpastel layers I applied pastel pencils and sticks in the direction of fur to start building up the beautiful flecks of colour in Buttons’ coat. I should add that I like to work on the eyes very early on so I have something to focus on and fit everything else around. Sometimes it seems as though the eyes are looking back at me as I work!
Here you can start to see the lovely colours in the fur, lovely golds, pale browns, a little red, pink and even some olive all went into the paler face colours. You can also see the layers as they have been built up. More panpastel in a red-brown shade was used for the shoulder section, you can also see the lovely gold colour added in top with a pencil with each stroke being laid down as though it is an individual hair. Just under the ear you can see the darker fur added at the edge. Lots of layers go into making fur!
Looking at the shoulder/chest area now you can see even more layers of pastel have been added, just lots of pastel pencils used lightly to build up the fur appearance. As you can see Buttons also managed to have soft smooth fur as well as longer courser looking strands so she had just about every colour and fur type going! You can see how I’ve started building up the darker section of fur below the other ear, this was Derwent seal which I use in just about every portrait at some point or another. They say artists develop a palette of go to shades/tones/colours they use in every piece and I am now finding myself doing this, must be going pro!
Really feeling Buttons coming together now, everything is in proportion and looking suitably furry so at this point I start to feel a little more relaxed that things are going where I want. Sometimes it seems to take forever until I feel I am getting somewhere, the fine tuning at the end seems to take forever with very little being done. However looking at the images I add to my blog posts I do actually get to see how things move on between each stage without noticing.
Not too far to now and finally I get stuck into Buttons’ very shiny nose! (Again notice it’s the seal derwent I use for the base!) I tend to buy certain colours in bulk now!
So at this point I felt I had completed the portrait other than any tidy ups however this was the first time the customer had seen it as a whole and felt the green tag was out of place……
…… and so with a few dabs of blu-tak and a bit of reworking the tag magically disappeared! This is why I love pastels so much, anything can be changed, rearranged and reworked easily so long as you are delicate. I’m not sure if it’s the pastels themselves which are easy to use or the fact that pastelmat allows for a certain amount of battering without showing any signs of stress! Maybe it’s a combination of the pastel brands I use as well as the paper but it does allow for corrections to be made leaving the customer with the portrait exactly as they want it so everyone’s a winner! (Including Buttons of course!)
Feel free to visit my gallery where you will find lots of completed dog portraits but if you like to see how they are made, visit my dog art blog posts where I show step by step updates from the beginning to end of each piece and don’t forget I offer worldwide pet portraits commissions.