Friday, 24 September 2010


The reference photos for this beautiful black lab are taken outdoors in bright sunlight so there is lots of 'glare'  which in some photos make her look grey and mauve and others grey and blue ... so I'm trying to compromise a little.  I don't want to lose the highlights but equally I don't want to lose sight of the fact she was a black labrador.

I'm often asked whether it is 'better' to draw black coated animals in graphite - as the subject is pretty 'black & white'.   My honest answer is that I'd almost always opt for colour - either coloured pencil or pastel -  as black fur/hair is made up of lots of different colours and it adds so much more interest to the portrait if I can work some pink/blue/mauve shades into the fur and 'lift' the black.    The colours may be very subtle by the time the portrait is finished, but I think its worth doing.

Anyway, here are a couple of progress photos from today

The mauve and blue 'underpainting' becomes less 'obvious' as the portrait progresses, but the colours remain as subtle lowlights in the overall make-up of the portrait - unfortunately, these photos were taken at different times of day in different light conditions so they make it hard for me to 'prove my point' :o)

and as I mentioned in yesterday's post ... I thought I'd tackle a very 'hairy' Shih Tzu cross with similar colouring so I can get the very 'mucky' colours out of the way at the same time :o)

This wasn't scheduled till October ... but this doggie is a bit of a dishevelled character ... hair goes in every which direction.  He is a much loved character - a rescue dog who stands just 10 inches tall!!   In reality I haven't got a clue where his left eye is, or what the eye colour should be (awaiting confirmation) so I thought I'd make a start by applying soft pastel very loosely to the paper and using a damp paintbrush to spread the colour.  I've never done this with pastel before, but I feel with this picture I don't have to be so precise, simply because the dog isn't 'precise' ... he's a character - his hair goes in all directions .. so what!!  The photo I'm working from doesn't show all of him but I've agreed with his owner to complete the portrait without showing his ears etc., as its an interesting angle and will make a change from the stereotype pet portrait I could produce (by referring to additional refs).  Using a wet brush to spread the base colour of soft pastel really gave a quick base coat for me to build on ... I'm quite impressed!!

Stage I .... very, very basic colours laid down ....

Stage II ..... more colours - still very basic.     If this method doesn't work out, I still have a couple of weeks to re-start and work on the portrait in my normal fashion :o)

But the light has disappeared now ... the weekend has started so I'm about to open a bottle of red wine and 'chill out' for the evening.  Hope you all have a great weekend


Colette Theriault said...

Hi Sue; thanks for commenting on my blog. I love the two portraits you are currently working on and in fact, the black lab looks a lot like my dog! Both are coming along great and I can't wait to see them completed. I love to see the progress of a portrait. The support almost looks like smooth that pastelmat for both? I'm thinking the wet brush has softened the pastel.

Enjoy your weekend! Cheers, Colette

sue said...

thanks Colette. Unfortunately the lovely lab is no longer with us so I'm trying to do her justice from the available references. Having a black lab yourself you'll appreciate how their colour differs when photographed in different light conditions :o) She was quite a lightweight/slim labrador.

Both portraits are on pastelmat, the lab is on light grey and the other is on what Sennelier call 'brown' - though it looks a little pink in my photo.