Monday, 15 April 2013


I really don't like having to tell clients that the photos they'd like me to work from aren't suitable.    One of the upcoming commissions is of a beautiful young retriever type dog.    It will be a surprise for the dog's owner and therefore photos are being secretly supplied by the owner's partner.  

One of the refs is a lovely photo of the dog as a puppy - fast asleep.   Extremely cute but with no features on show so really it could be any dog (of its type).

The alternative photo shows the dog slightly older and with a very happy smiley face - loads of character, but its taken full on so the face is foreshortened and the nose looks disproportionately large.   A lovely fun photo but I don't feel it would translate well to a portrait ... so have emailed my client asking if its possible to get other ref photos.

I worry about upsetting clients this way but am determined to toughen up and not take on work from photos I don't feel comfortable with.

For that reason I no longer offer gift vouchers .... Twice recently I had voucher redemptions and had to work from photos I would have turned down if they hadn't been prepaid commissions ..

Anyway, whilst I await further ref photos (hopefully) for the retriever and confirmation from another client as to which photo of her dog she'd like me to work from, I've continued further with this double portrait.

Lots of twiddly bits to sort out (especially the ears) further along the line, but I'm probably going to start work on the second dog and then do all the tweaking at one time.

I won't get much artwork done for the next couple of days but it won't hurt to leave this to one side for a while.

I laid a double mount over the picture to show where the dogs will 'fit' in the frame.   The mount has a plum inner and a light ivory outer so I think it complements the coat colour nicely.    The support is Fisher 400 (sanded) and I think it works well left as a plain uncoloured background ?   

I won't do all the fine hairs on the dog's head till I know that the client is happy to leave the background uncoloured - just in case.


  1. This is unbelievably awesome Sue ...almost photograhic ! Pastel , colored pencils ?

  2. Thank you Jane. I'm using pastels for this portrait.

  3. The drawing is gorgeous Sue but I so agree with you on the quality of the photo. I won't take any more work on if the reference photos are not good - it's just too hard.

  4. Beautiful Sue! And I do agree about the mat/mount complementing what you have so far.

  5. Lovely picture. If pictures don't work, they don't work Sue, the client should understand.


  6. This is gorgeous work!

    I find that finding the right photos are always a challenge. But it will work out better in the end if you get the best possible picture or combination to work from.

    In many cases there aren't any better photos. I have the policy of accepting these when this is the case (such as for older photos. But I also always ask for better ones if it is possible. I explain to the person that I can only draw what I see, because if I start making things up the person might not look the same to them anymore.

  7. love the colour of the eyes, just gorgeous :)

  8. thanks ladies. Sorry for the delay but have been out and about for a couple of days so just catching up now.

    if the pet/person is still alive then it should be possible to get better ref photos but I know just how hard it can be sometimes to get that 'perfect' pose.

    But, harsh as it may seem, I will no longer work from poor photos of deceased pets .. I've done it before and used 'breed type' photos from the internet to fill in the gaps where I can't see features. It isn't satisfying for me and I'd rather say No at the outset.

  9. I just don't know where you get your patience from to do all the detail. The expressions you seem to be able to paint give the pets so much character. Fascinating.

  10. Hi Polly
    Thanks for stopping by. You've probably noticed I don't work 'by the rules' ie left to right for right handers.

    I always have to sort the eyes out first .. if I can't get the eyes right then I can't do the portrait. Even if they aren't actually finished, the eyes have to be realistic enough that I'm working with a personality .. I can't stand looking at empty eye sockets as so many artists manage to do whilst they're getting the ear drawn in etc ... and then I just 'flit' around doing the bits that take my fancy

    I would like to be disciplined. I frequently get asked if I will teach/give demos etc., but I never know from one portrait to the next how I'm going to tackle it .... so how could I possibly teach technique?


Thanks for visiting my Blog. Let me know what you think :-)

I have disabled the Captcha requirement at the request of followers who find it irritating when posting comments. However to stop the subsequent flood of spam posts I can no longer accept comments from Anonymous sources.
Apologies if this is a problem
Thank you