This dog gave me an earworm!!! I couldn’t stop singing Barry Manilow’s song whenever I sat at my easel to work on the fabulous Lola!
The making of a duck tolling retriever pet portrait
I met Lola for a photo session in person which is always great. I get a chance to see the animal in a relaxed situation with their owners. This helps their personality shine through and it was clear Lola was a gentle dog and very well behaved. Her Mum shows her and why not! She really is a pretty dog. All of this was considered when deciding the setting for Lola’s portrait and a soft but subtle green was chosen, especially as it would allow her colours to be the centre of attention and because she is a working dog. I used sennelier pastel sticks for the background, they blend together so well, I love them. I only used light pressured layers for the background. The sticks are so highly pigmented the colour built up very quickly.
Here you can see my easel set up, my sample sheet is getting quite full now, think I may treat myself to a new one soon! I have taken to putting my subject onto another piece of wood. This enables me to turn the pet portrait around as I’m working. Sometimes fur direction is so hard to do as it seems to go opposite to where you hand wants to go, this way I can just work my way around the portrait as I go!
The image above gives you an idea of how I layer. I do tend to add the darkest tones first, but it does depend on my mood as to whether it’s the whole piece or just a small section!
Regular visitors to my blog know I hop all over the place but I do like to put the background in first so the subject sits in front, but I also like to add the eyes. I feel the eyes are the most important part of every portrait, they are what catches your attention immediately and so should be accurate, glassy, lifelike and bring life to the portrait.
I decided to add a base layer all over (told you I jump all over the place!) using a very light layer of panpastel. The panpastels are wonderful for this, they can be added using sponges to give an even layer.
For once, instead of the eyes, I really looked forward to working on Lola’s chest fur. She has a lion’s mane of fur which was just fabulous. The colours were so rich I really was excited to dive in. It took quite a few layers to build up the fur appearance, it had to look soft and fine so it was simply a matter of building up very fine pastel pencil strokes one on top of another.
Back to the easel shot, you can see my mahl stick and old wooden pencil tray I find helpful to put my pastel pencils in. I have so many that if I don’t keep the ones I am using separate, it all becomes very complicated. After I finish each portrait it also helps me keep notice of which colours I am running low on supplies of.
You can see how the layers of pastel pencil build up to give the impression of fluff and fur!
So here is a scan. I don’t like to keep taking my portraits off the easel for scanning as I work so all the work in progress shots are just with a camera and the colours are nowhere near as vibrant as in real life, plus it’s also a very grey winter outside so lighting is pretty poor! (I am also very lacking when it comes to photography skills!)
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.