Wednesday, 24 August 2016


I've really struggled to finish this portrait.    I think I'd kind of taken against the ref/pose and so once I started working on the nose (which isn't terribly clear in the ref) I had lots of problems

I put pastel down, lifted it off with BluTack and just couldn't find the right balance - generally I love eyes and noses but ... I ended up really stressed and had to leave the portrait alone for a day.   I came back to it today which was 'make or break' as it needs to be done by the weekend and I really didn't fancy re-starting it.

I'm now reasonably happy with the likeness and have emailed these 2 pics to my client for comment/approval ... fingers crossed he'll like it.    In anticipation of a good result I've just tidied all my pastels away and dusted the tops in my room - how far can pastel dust travel I wonder?  Certainly over the entire desk, most of the floor area and I notice black fingerprints on doorhandles and light switches ...

In the ref photo, the dog's body is twisted around to his right side (our left as we look at this) and there was one hind leg, some body and tail showing.   I cropped these out to concentrate on the neck/chest area with no distractions.  

I used to do just head/shoulder portraits with no body but a wonderful artist ' Peter Barker' contacted me to ask why I 'truncated' my models ... he didn't understand/like 'floating heads' in portraits.   Since then I've always tried to bring the animal to the bottom/side of the portrait even if its just a faded out/suggestion of body so I don't have a isolated chopped off head ... hence the bit of chest and the orange patches at the top of the legs.

The portrait 'as is'

and with an old (single) mount loosely laid on top to show how the portrait will sit in the picture.     I always supply double mounts with my pastel portraits but didn't want to get one out of its cellophane till its needed.   This will fit a 20" x 16" frame

Wednesday, 17 August 2016


Just a quickie
This is a commission I agreed to take on (despite saying no commission work this year) ... and I'm using pastels on Fisher 400 sanded paper so already getting sore fingers .. I always have to blend with my fingers and usually end up with 'bloody' fingertips when using this paper.

Its a long time since I've used this combination so having an interesting time ...

Its A3 in size so approx 16" x 12"

End of first session

Another hour today

both times I've photographed the work in evening/dull light so the colours are a little 'off' - in reality the Fisher 400 sandpaper is a little more 'golden' in colour.

I'm still at the stage where I'm trying to get all the base colours in but trying very hard not to lose sight of the contours/lines in his face ....

I should be able to do another couple of hours work on this tomorrow so will certainly get all the base colour in and  start reworking the finer detail ...  there will be a very simple background added but haven't decided exactly what to do yet.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016


I had one of those horrible nights when you just can't switch off the brain and get to sleep (until 6.30am when its almost time to get up) ... consequently this afternoon whilst watching the Dressage/Olympics I found myself drifting off/dozing at times ...

But I did do some more work on the spaniel drawing ... Ordinarily I'd tackle curls like this in pastel as I find it simpler, but I did fancy a challenge and its certainly been that!

Here's the latest update ... not sure if I will carry on/finish this tomorrow or pack the coloured pencils away and get the pastels out as I've got a Doberman dog to portray before the end of August.   I'm not taking on commissions at the moment ... but this one was a special request that I couldn't refuse.   I'm not overly happy with the ref photo but its good enough to work from so .. watch this space over the next few days

Here's the Spaniel - in coloured pencil on drafting film (with a black backing sheet) - size approx A3

Tuesday, 9 August 2016


Well, despite getting distracted by the Showjumping at the Olympics, I did get a little bit further advanced on the coloured pencil drawing ... its evolving all the time with constant tweaking of the hairs/curls and I have altered some of the hairs after seeing this photo which really shows which ones look odd (despite being that way on the ref. photo) ... this is where a little artistic licence comes into play.   I'm going to need to brighten the highlights in the eye (to our right) also, looking at it here ..


I started work on this yesterday and will get a little more done this afternoon.   I fancied a change from humans and what could be more challenging than all these glorious curls.

I had the pleasure of meeting this lovely character, Spock, earlier this year.  He belongs to a fellow coloured pencil artist who lives near me and whose work I collected from the London Gallery and delivered to his house when the Exhibition finished in May.   I always have my camera with me and couldn't resist taking a few pictures ... I think the photos were taken the day before Spock had an appointment with the dog groomer to get his curls clipped short.  

I'm working in coloured pencils (Polychromos) on drafting film with a black backing sheet and I'm making a few adjustments to the ref. photo as I want to reveal Spock's left eye (on the right side as we look at him) which is totally hidden by a lock of white hair which had fallen across his face.

Slow going, but its quite therapeutic

The edge looks a bit 'raggedy' here but that's just where I've used masking tape to secure the black backing sheet to my drawing board to stop it sliding around.   With drafting film you really need to decide in advance whether you use white or coloured backing paper as the coloured pencils look very different dependent on the background.    The drafting film itself is a semi-opaque/light grey colour

Saturday, 6 August 2016

06/08: 'PLAYING'

David was out for the day yesterday so I had a little play on a scrap piece of brown pastelmat paper.

It does seem as though the Polychromos pencils are 'leeching' into the soft surface but the advantage of working on Pastelmat is that the coloured pencil can be 'smudged' easily with a piece of kitchen towel or a cotton bud and so large areas can be covered quickly.  I've sprayed with fixative to get a little more 'tooth' but can't add any more layers.   Roll on the time when we can buy 'Touch up Texture' as promoted by Alyona Nickelsen - available in the USA but not yet in the UK (although Jackson's assure me they will stock it in the future).   Just a little more tooth would enable me to fix that mane which is such a mess right now.

  To 'complete' a cp drawing this quickly is quite unusual - approx 5 hours for 17" x 14" picture but another time I will use a more conventional HP watercolour paper I think.

Anyway, I've called a halt to this drawing but may use it as the base for a similar one done on a different paper in the future