Pastel Portrait of Bingo

A very cute pose of a beloved dog called Bingo, sitting up for his owner. His portrait needs to be ready so he can join them again for Christmas as he recently passed away. He already has a place reserved for him on a pillar and the final framed size needs to be 30 x 40cm, which means the portrait size is in between A4 and A3. I chose a warm neutral brown Ingres Pastel Paper and sketched the main proportions of the head and body. I started to put in the highlighted areas with my soft pastels and then decided to work with the shadows to create the shape of the fur. Because of the texture of Bingo's fur I chose to use pastel pencils for the majority of the portrait, using each layer of colour to be blended by the tip of my pencil rather than my finger or a blending stick. For the finishing touches I sharpened my pastel pencils and emphasized the outline with flicking out stray hairs and making sure the overall portrait balanced tonally and had the right amount of texture, also that I captured that little spark of personality!

Pastel Portrait of Saffy the Siamese

Another Christmas portrait from a past customer is being worked on in my studio. This is Saffy - a sleek Siamese with a wry smile. I chose a blue/grey midtone Murano pastel paper to sketch her onto before choosing the lighter tones to apply and blend as a base coat. Then I applied the darks and golden colours and pushed the pastel into the tooth of the paper which has a honeycomb texture if left unblended. Next I worked on the ears and the main part of the face adding in some subtle colours and tones. With these blended using a silicone tipped shaper I started work on the texture of the coat. I switched to pastel pencils as it's a relatively small A4 size portrait, and flicked in greys, creams, whites and yellows into the lighter areas. These were blended using the lighter pencils so the marks remain. I put some golden colours into the face and added some darks on top. Finally I have gone darker on the face as the other photos show her slightly older and this is how the owner wanted to remember her. I have also widened her eyes so you get transfixed by her blue stare and added whiskers!

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Portrait of Poppy

Christmas portraits are underway and this is one of a lovely dog called Poppy who is being painted in acrylics. The process so far shows how I first applied a ground of yellow ochre to underpin the painting with a warm colour before drawing Poppy onto the canvas board. I have placed her in a fictitious park with a ball at her feet as she looks eager to play in the original photograph. Next I painted green onto the background to establish the balance. When that was dry the light and shadow areas were marked out in Poppy's coat along with the shadows in the background scenery. I am painting in the details now and building up glazes within the coat to create thick fur and depth. Keep watching - this is only halfway through...!

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Family Cat Portraits

My mum is celebrating a big birthday this month so I decided to surprise her with a portrait of her British Blue cat, Jeeves. I also managed to finish a pastel portrait of my black cat and my sister's British Blue cat, Dexter, for her birthday. So here we have a trio of family cats!

Pastel Portrait of Lady

This is an A4 size pastel commission of the face of an old dog called Lady which I have been working on and is now complete. I had two photos to work from and the colour varies so I'm hoping I've captured her!

Confessions of a Holiday Painter

Whenever I go on holiday I always pack art materials - the biggest pad of paper my suitcase will take, some watercolours or pastels, drawing pens, pencils, a rubber, masking fluid, tape, a selection of brushes, you name it, I'll use up my baggage allowance with creative paraphernalia and if I'm not quite up to the limit I'll chuck a couple of art books in too for added inspiration. My confession is that I often return home with at least a third of my suitcase unworn and unread and the art materials untouched! However, this time, I decided rather than setting myself the onerous task of creating a finished masterpiece by lunchtime each day (preferably framed and packaged for shipping as well), I would just try to do a doodle each day - a quick sketch of a landscape, a detail in my surroundings, something quick, in pen & ink, just as my great-grandfather did on his travels. I have plenty of photos to inspire me now I am home but these are the doodles from my sketchbook and a flower I painted as a gift for our friends Ioanna and Antoniou in Greece as it was picked for me from their garden...

Rosie - Portrait of a Boxer Dog

This latest commission is of a Boxer called Rosie. Her owners sent through a lovely professional photo so I didn't need anything else apart from permission from the photographer. The painting is 12 x 16" on canvas board in acrylics. As you can see from the steps below in the gallery I started by painting the background and left it to dry overnight. Then I drew the main features of the dog over the top and proceeded to block in the main areas of colour starting with the orangey browns, then white and black. I mixed up a variety of mid-tone browns and applied them with an old flat hog hair brush that has seen better days but is perfect for fur. Layers of orange, yellow, cream, white, grey, ochre, umber and black were painted in the direction of the fur firstly in large blocks and then using a much smaller brush to pick out the finer hairs and build more texture into the coat. Finally, attention was paid to the overall texture of the coat, checking the tonal values were dark or light enough and little details like whiskers!

Hot off the press!

The Art of Painting Animals

I have just received delivery of a new book in which I am a featured artist! This 144-page instruction guide teaches you how to paint animals step-by-step in acrylic, oil and watercolour. Two of my paintings are on the cover and there are four of mine inside. The release date is 13th August 2015 so pre-order a copy now!

A Creative Weekend at West Dean

West Dean College ran a Design & Craft Fair last weekend which was well worth going to. There were loads of stalls to look around with great quality jewellery, ceramics, objects made from wood, leather, paper, fabric and metals. They had talks from artisans, a band for musical entertainment and a few foodie vans, including a lovely vintage tea tent, but the real draw for me was the chance to get a taster of their courses (as well as some fine paella!). You could sign up for 1 1/2 hour workshops for as little as £10 a pop and try your hand at something you'd perhaps never done before. I had never thrown a pot before so I booked on the pottery workshop. I also made a silver ring, painted a watercolour storm, made a broody hen out of clay and took inspiration from their gardens to make a mess, I mean marks, with charcoal and ink. Roll on next year!

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Inspirational Visits

Having just caught up with all my emails, the cat, the chickens and other jobs after a week in the South of France, I thought it would be a good idea to catch up with my blog. Now that I have incorporated my blog into my new website, the idea is to combine all news together so this could be a long post! 

The picture here is a pastel of my three hens which I started as a demonstration at the Pastels Course. It's on Fisher 400 paper which I painted with a watercolour base before layering it up with soft pastel. I finished it in secret in my new studio, had it framed and presented it to my husband on his birthday in April - he loves his chicks!

Since then I have dragged him around the John Singer Sargent Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (Singer Sargent is one of my favourite portrait artists so it's wonderful to study his paint strokes up close as well as a selection of his sketches); the 'Inventing Impressionism' Exhibition just around the corner in the National Gallery (a fascinating collection of paintings owned by Durand-Ruel - a Parisian art dealer who championed the likes of Renoir, Monet, Manet, Pissarro, Sisley and Degas amongst others who had been rejected by the art establishment and who is credited with inventing the profession of the modern art dealer); a few of the Open Studios in the Chichester Art Trail before we headed to Arles and St. Remy in France where Vincent Van Gogh churned out hundreds of vibrant paintings in the short time he spent there before ending his life. The huge purple irises that he daubed onto his canvases in thick layers were out in full bloom everywhere and the quality of the light intensifies all colours. Sad that he only sold two paintings in his lifetime and never lived to see how valuable and widespread his work has become posthumously.