Thursday, 1 March 2012


I've been hard at it today (drawing) and trying to get organised for next week's exhibition.   Ideally I'd like to have a couple more cat pastels ready to exhibit/sell but am fast running out of time as pictures have to be hung on Tuesday evening.

I've nearly finished the collie/Shepherd today so hope to start a cat tomorrow.  It will be pastel to fit a  10" x 10" square mount so shouldn't take too long if I don't have any disasters :-)

The reason for my Blog heading is that I've still got the pastel portrait of Shona sitting on a display easel in the corner of my studio so I see it every day - its taking up valuable space.   I had previously drawn a portrait of Shona (adult) in graphite for her father who works overseas.  On one of his 'home' visits he collected the graphite portrait and asked me to complete a pastel portrait of Shona as a child (drawn from a school photo).   I didn't take a deposit this time.  I finished the portrait, he approved it via internet but didn't collect it (and pay) when planned in December.  He hasn't answered my emails and although I know where he works I don't have an address for him in the UK.    So 3 months on, I have to assume I wasted my time and it leaves a bad taste ......

Its a great shame as I now don't feel inclined to 'take chances'.    The couple who commissioned the portrait of Lottie (lab I have just finished) are absolutely lovely, but they will pay by cheque and I will wait till the cheque has cleared before shipping the portrait - even though I know they're itching to get the portrait framed and on the wall.   I know they are 100% genuine but one bad experience has caused me to be very cautious.

Anyway ... the good guys...     I needed to restock on pastel pencils and at the moment I'm favouring Stabilo Carbothellos.   I didn't want to buy a set which will contain colours I don't use so I found Pullingers Art Shop online - they supply the pencils individually.   I ordered 13 colours and they turned up yesterday.  Unfortunately one of the pencils had a hairline crack running the length of the wood casing which probably means it can't be sharpened.    I emailed them today and they responded really quickly and a replacement will be winging its way to me.     My hubby (bless him) always says that the sign of a good company is the way they deal with problems/complaints ... and so full marks to Pullingers !!!    I shall definitely use them again and recommend them highly!

Some pictures :

I'd intended this to sit in a square mount/frame but tonight when I tried it for size it just didn't quite work.  So I will extend the background colour to the right of the dog and it will be framed into one of the very old solid oak frames I restored recently.  They were all nearly black with age/grime so I've cleaned them up a little and they are wonderfully rustic so great for 'working dog' portraits I think.

This is where I finished today - oh, and its pastels on Fisher 400 paper

I've been using Fisher 400 for a lot of recent commissions and my fingertips are SOOOOO sore from blending the pastels on this sanded surface.  I've tried using cotton buds and pastel shapers and kitchen towel etc but nothing works the same way - most of them 'lift' colour from the surface rather than blending it.

To save time (and fingerprints) I experimented this time with putting basic colours in with pastel pencil and using an old paintbrush to spread it.  This method still lifts/removes some of the colour, and it does create a lot of dust, but it gave me a good grounding for adding detail so I'll definitely try it again on larger pictures.

This is the first stage WIP.  Colours roughly added, paying attention to fur direction

The same picture after a light brushing

Finer detail added with pastel pencils.   Background colour added to left of picture - I'd intended the crop to be close to the dog's left ear (our right as we look at the picture) so hadn't bothered with background colour.  I will now have to extend colour to allow for more background showing in a rectangular mount (landscape orientation).


Art by Laura said...

beautiful!! really, I love it!

Anonymous said...

Shoot, Sue! I had a long comment written then forgot I'd changed my google settings and completely lost it!

Suffice it to say that I empathize with you about the Shona portrait, am glad you got such good service from Pullingers, the dog looks great & have you ever tried "blending" with another pastel?

Also wanted to say that the portrait of Sophie-Louise looks wonderful!

Bev said...

Sue this is just beautiful, such a wonderfully gentle face.
Mary Herbert wears surgical gloves for blending, she says it saves her fingers. She must go through loads of gloves as they wear out pretty quick. I have tried everything else and still find naked fingers work best, I just try not to do too much blending at one time, and don't press too hard.

sue said...

Thanks Laura :-)

Hi Jan .... wow, mammoth comment! Thank you. I'm using pastel pencils here so it isn't quite so easy to blend with another pastel.

Thank you Bev. Hmm not sure about gloves with Fisher 400?

I'm fine all the time I remember to alternate 'blending fingers' but after completing 2 or 3 portraits on this paper in succession I suffer!