This is the very lovely Toby, sadly no longer with us. Wasn’t he a beautiful boy.
I met his humans at Blenheim flower show where I was exhibiting with The Cotswold Guild of Craftsmen where they booked one of my memorial pet portraits from photos. Sadly most of my pet portraits commissions are of passed away pets, especially dogs. My advice to any pet owner is that even if you have no notion of booking a portrait just take lots of photos. No matter where you are, what you are doing, keep taking those photos. You may change your mind and want a memorial to your beloved furry but if not, at the very least you have lots of images to look over and remember them by. Toby’s owners saw two of my springer spaniel pet portraits on display and decided to commission a custom pet portraits of their beloved boy as they missed him dearly. I know that feeling only too well, it’s a hard emotion to overcome, in fact I don’t think you do, you just live with the sadness. Knowing how much they loved their dog made me want to produce a stunning portrait for them to treasure and remember him by. Luckily they had a very clear and detailed photo reference to use with just the edges of his ears missing but that could easily be rectified in the portrait.
Memorial Pet Portraits in pastel
So of late I’ve been using panpastels for all my backgrounds and underlayers. Infact as I complete more portraits I am using the pans even more and using less pastel pencils to build up any blocks of colour and just to use them for the finest of details instead. They are wonderful to build up colours and because they lay down so brightly. They also build up very quickly so even a slow coach like me feels like I’m getting somewhere a lot quicker than I have ever done before! You can see here how my first layer is very light and just smudged all across Toby’s portrait very basically.
The above shot shows how I then added more layers of panpastel to get a really heavy base down as pastel pencils will glide across the top so well. This in turn saves time as it’s all then about the finer details instead of many. many layers of pencils one on top of another. You can see I also note my pastels on each portrait on the brown framers tape, this helps me remember what I’m doing, I’m so forgetful!
So now it’s all about the details, I used all sorts of pastel pencils, Derwents, Stabilos, Pitts and Caran D’ache which gave me an enormous range of browns and cream, just perfect for the lovely Toby to come to life.
So to create the longer fur of the ears I used longer strokes overlapping so added highlights and shadows to give the ears a 3d effect and for Toby’s face I used fine parallel close strokes as his fur was very shiny and smooth here.
And then it was time for that curly chest fur belonging to Toby. I used many greys, creams, yellows, browns to create this fluffy mass. Each pencil stroke had to be in a curl and smooth so it did take a few layers to build it up, just the nose to go! I always seem to leave a nose or and ear until the end, no idea why, it probably has some meaning but I don’t know what it is!!!
And finally Toby is done with his nose to boot. In fact Toby has already made it home, his humans are very happy with their portrait of him and will be getting him framed very soon. We had a very stressful day as the Royal Mail delivery took a day longer than it should (something to note as Christmas isn’t even here yet!) but thankfully he arrived in perfect condition to greet them. They told me it was very timely for his portrait to arrive as it was almost a year since they lost him so they were very happy to have his pet portrait to remember him with. You can view more springer spaniel portraits here.
Sometimes my clients send me photos of their framed pet portraits they have commissioned by me in charcoal or pastel. I have neglected to share very often so I am now pleased to share with you Toby’s framed pet portrait. His owners kindly sent me this image of him in situ in their home. It’s lovely to see him ‘dressed’ properly and now hanging in pride of place. I offer framing pet portraits to all of my clients and more often than not these days I am asked to frame them before delivery or collection. These days glass replacements are of such a high quality you just can’t tell the difference between acrylic glass and traditional glass. I opt for 3mm museum grade acrylic glass for posted portraits which has no blue tinge and is almost imperceptible plus it protects the portrait from harmful UV lighting, an added extra even though I use lightfast pastels. This acrylic glass travels well in the post provided there is adequate packaging and means my clients can open their parcel and hang the portrait straight on the wall or present it to a lucky recipient without any extra work. For collected portraits (something which is becoming more common especially as I have my studio where clients can come to have a look around) I still use traditional glass unless the acrylic is requested.
There is an explosion of custom frame builders on the internet and I’ve teamed up with a couple giving me an enormous range of mouldings, something to suit everyone’s needs and most of them come with a visualisation tool so the portrait can be uploaded into the frame so clients can see exactly how the pet portraits will look, no need for any imagination!
Anyway, must get back to the easel, it’s going to be a very busy few weeks in the run up to Christmas so I need to crack on!
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.
You can also read how Toby’s pet portrait was created from start to finish here in my memorial pet portraits in pastel post (try saying that after a bit of Christmas Mulled Wine!!!)