Sunday 30 August 2009


People often ask how long it takes to complete a portrait ... what can I say?

If I sat down with my pastels and didn't stop for any breaks, I reckon I'd finish a single subject (from a good ref photo) in about 6 - 12 hours depending on the complexity. But its the waiting time that drags things out isn't it?

I'm waiting for final approval from Jake's owner (Border Collie) and for further feedback/instructions/approval from Jack's owner (horse).

I'm also waiting to hear from my client who commissioned the portrait of him and his girlfriend. He collected the portrait at 8am yesterday and was going to propose to her last night. He promised to keep me updated but I haven't heard back ... don't like to text him .. just in case :o(

Anyway, this is an update on Jack the horse. His owner is overseas at the moment but, from memory, she thought his forelock should be 'fluffier' and his mane darker (I hadn't coloured it in the scan I sent to her). She also thought his nostrils were too flared, but I think they look that way in the ref, so I need to wait for her input again.

May as well pour myself a glass of wine whilst waiting .... cheers, m'dears!!


Although its a great honour to have 3 portraits accepted by the jury to be hung at the UKCPS Exhibition next month, I decided to cut costs by mounting/framing the pictures myself. But I've spent days searching for ready made frames the right colour and sizes. I found the two larger (20" x 16") frames late last week and set hubby to work assembling them for me. I then found the 'perfect' frame for the smaller dog picture (coat of many colours). It was only when I'd assembled this one I realised the frame was metal and the exhibition rules stipulate only wooden frames may be used. Panic set in!! I couldn't find a wooden frame I liked. So many frames look like wood but turn out to be plastic .... in the end I made the radical decision to use a frame I had at home and paint the dark wood with silver acrylic to lighten it. The end result isn't quite what I wished for, but I've run out of time ..

I should have photographed these before the glass was in place as I've had to take them from funny angles to reduce glare (and my own reflection in the glass). But this just gives an idea of what the finished articles look like. Now I just have to arrange the courier delivery next week ..

Wednesday 26 August 2009

26/08: 'BITTY DAY'

I haven't been idle today, but I've started lots of things and nothing is finished .. you know how it is?

I've done some final tweaking on Jake (Border Collie) but didn't photograph it before we lost daylight so have nothing to send to his owner. I've also made some adjustments to the horse (Jack) as his owner tells me that Jack's forelock was very fluffy and his mane darker than it appears in the photographs. Again, I won't take photographs until tomorrow when I can take advantage of the natural daylight.

I have been working on 'mock ups' for a client who has commissioned a portrait of his three grandchildren for a Christmas Present. I will be working from 3 different references and have spent a few hours trying different compositions. We have now reached agreement about the one to use, so that is in the pipeline - probably for mid/end October now. I am a bit of a technophobe and it takes me a long time to do things like this. I've used Paint Net as I find it fairly easy to understand. I have recently uploaded GIMP which I understand is mean't to be very user friendly, but haven't had time to study it yet. This is a returning client. He originally commissioned a portrait of his daughter's dog for her birthday. His daughter reciprocated with a gift voucher for her dad's birthday - I recently drew his Boxer, Molly and now he and his wife want a triple grandchild portrait drawn ..

and ... I finally got round to picking damsons from the trees in our garden. After 30 minutes I had far too many, so delivered bags full to the elderly neighbours who promise to put them to good use. I painstakingly removed the stones this afternoon as I can't stand fishing them out of the hot jam once cooked! Hubby actually cooked the jam (although I had to provide instructions and a running commentary)!! We've had a little taster and the jam is superb .. slightly tart but that how we like it. If I have time in the next few days I'll pick some more and set him to work again!

Well enough waffling.. it will be back to the drawing board with a vengeance tomorrow.

Monday 24 August 2009


This is Jack a handsome chap who has sadly passed away. His owner was the recipient of a birthday gift voucher but she doesn't have any close up/head shots of Jack so I'm working from a photo where he has a rider on board and is wearing a bridle. As a result this is done in a 'looser' style than my normal work and I'm awaiting feedback from my client regarding his colouring etc., He is A3 sized, pastels on sanded paper (Fisher 400)
The photos are taken at various times of day and in different light conditions, the paper is light sand coloured in reality

I've outlined Jack and marked in distinguishing features. As always, I've put the eyes in first to give the portrait some personality from the start. I've started building a base layer of colour using quite a lot of red shades.

More colour is being added and I've introduced some orange/yellow and brown pastel to build up a rich base which will show through the final layers of dark brown and blacks

Ive introduced blues and greys into the muzzle area and blue/grey/brown into Jack's chest area which won't be clearly defined - its there to balance up the pose as the photo of Jack is taken from his front.

Now I've really darkened the portrait and added grey and white highlights to add sheen to Jacks coat. At this stage I will wait to hear from my client whether the colour is correct. In the ref photo the colour is a bit bleached - I'm drawing what I see, but that may not necessarily be accurate.

Sunday 23 August 2009

23/08: Christmas commissions

I have been amazed at the steady flow of commission work I've received this year so far. With all the doom and gloom and publicity about the credit crunch etc., I really didn't expect to be kept in full time work with commissions ... sometimes its really nice to be proved wrong of course :o)

I will be taking a holiday in September and won't be undertaking any commissions for 3 whole weeks - just going to chill out and recharge the batteries ready for the Xmas rush. bliss!

Last year I closed my Xmas order book in early October and already this year I have received orders which will keep me fully booked up through October and November. I was quite excited at first with the double horse, Spaniel, then staffy commissions, as I always prefer the furry subjects :o). then got the double child and 3 child portraits in graphite .... I know I shouldn't really have favourites but I do like the four legged subjects best !! But I'm really not complaining ... I just love to draw!

will post again tomorrow with early pictures of my latest horse commission, but am off now to enjoy a large glass of cold white wine .... cheers !!

23/08: Romantic Engagement!!

Who says romance is dead??

This client asked me to draw a graphite portrait of him and his girlfriend. He asked me to add the engagement ring (he has ordered) to his girlfriend's finger ... and then he plans to display the portrait (which I have framed and mounted) in a shop close to where she lives. He will walk her past the shop en route to the restaurant where he plans to propose ...

unfortunately the ref. photo wasn't the clearest as it was taken on a mobile phone, but this is the end result
hope he gets the outcome he'd like ...... :o)

Sunday 16 August 2009

16/08: Schnauzer finished

Well I put the finishing touches to Molly today and sent scans for approval to the clients. Just heard back that they love it ... so another one done and dusted ... phew! Always a relief to get approval isn't it!

I've put the pastels away and cleaned my work area ready to tackle a couple of graphite commissions next. Amazing how far pastel dust travels :o)

This picture shows the colours more accurately than the close up

My camera has focussed to much on the blue tones in Molly's fur with this close up ... but disappointingly it doesn't really show up all the colours in her eyes - I used yellows, greens, blues and brown in addition to the obvious black and white - to achieve the glassy sheen that schnauzer eyes have. Never mind, I hope you like her -she was such fun to draw.

Saturday 15 August 2009

15/08: UKCPS Exhibition Birmingham

I have been out visiting the 'three old ladies' today - Mum, Mum-in-law who is 91 years young tomorrow, and my retired horse Roxy who is now 24 years young.

Got home to find an email confirming that three of my coloured pencil pictures have been accepted for hanging in the UK Coloured Pencil Society's exhibition in September (Birmingham). This came as a total surprise because they are all practice pieces and I didn't really expect them to be selected by the judges ..... but I'm very happy that they were :o)

This is entitled 'Coat of Many Colours'. It was one of my first coloured pencil drawings on drafting film and for this one I have used a black backing sheet.

This is also coloured pencil on drafting film (using a black backing sheet). Lurch is a rescue vulture who was ill treated by previous owners and has a couple of missing toes. He now rules the roost (literally) at a local wild bird/owl rescue centre and tours the County with a selection of his feathered friends raising funds, and awareness for his sanctuary.

I've called this Victoria's Secret, though her real name is Anya!! I wanted to practice my 'negative drawing' but hadn't realised quite how difficult this would be. I've used only white, grey and blue coloured pencils on black paper

Unfortunately, it has proved to be as difficult to photograph as my graphite drawings. It really does look better 'in the flesh'

Thursday 13 August 2009

13/08: Molly - Miniature Schnauzer

Molly is being drawn in pastel on Fisher 400 paper as a wedding anniversary gift. The clients' three sons (assisted by their Gran) bought their parents a pet portrait gift voucher as an anniversary present.

There was a slight delay in redeeming the voucher as, in an effort to smarten Molly up, the clients had her clipped - and unfortunately, she no longer looked like the Molly they knew and loved!!! So Molly's coat has grown back a little now and I started work on her late yesterday.

I'm having a lot of fun with this portrait - she has a wonderful expression and the coat is a nice challenge!

Wednesday 12 August 2009

12/08: Jake (Ground to a halt)!

At times like this I wish my photography skills were better ... I have done more work on Jake but its a very cloudy day here in Whitstable and I just can't get the camera to pick up the subtle blues and mauves I've added to the black fur. But I know the highlights are there :o)

Jake's owner is away on holiday and I won't do any more to the portrait until she has seen it. I'd like to think he is finished ... but time will tell!

Time to move on to the next commission, a gorgeous miniature schnauzer

Tuesday 11 August 2009

11/08: Jake - Border Collie (not quite a WIP)!

This is Jake a gorgeous Border Collie. His Mum initially approached me in May enquiring about commissioning a graphite portrait. She has subsequently decided to have the portrait drawn in pastel and specifically asked for it to be on velour.

This should have been a work in progress post but I forgot to take photos in the initial stages. At this point I have used soft pastels on grey velour to map out the areas of black and white coat and have started to add blues and greys to give depth to his facial contours.

I probably won't do any more on this today. When I last had a 'proper job' I worked as Office Manager for a firm of Financial Advisers. They are holding their 20 year anniversary celebration today and the Partners have invited David and myself to attend the 'do' which will be held at 'Great Comp' in Kent. This is a beautiful 17th century Manor house with about 7 acres of beautifully maintained gardens. So I'm hoping the weather will stay kind to us so we can have a wander round the grounds and admire the planting.

If you are interested in Gardens you can read more about Great Comp here :

Monday 10 August 2009

10/08: Dogs Trust Fun Day - Chestfield

Our local Dogs Trust Centre held their annual Fun Day yesterday - they were soooo lucky with the weather.

There was a fantastic turnout and the dogs were all having a wonderful time making new friends and joining in lots of the activities. It is always fun watching dogs being introduced to the joys of agility training(actually its more fun watching the owners trying to show them what to do - I think we saw more humans jumping fences than dogs!!

These are a few of the dogs I met and will hopefully have the pleasure of drawing in the future (not necessarily from these photos) :

This is Zeus, a Rottweiler x German Shepherd

Lupo & Red (brothers) - Mum was Collie x Whippet and Dad was Greyhound x Old English Sheepdog!

Mum and daughters - 3 beautiful whippets

Kali. Black & tan Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

10/08: Wing Walkers

I had a busy day yesterday - but not at the drawing board for a change! I went to take a look at the local Dogs Trust Fun Day and met some wonderful characters (and the humans were ok as well)

Then went with friends to the second day of the Regatta festivities on Tankerton slopes. It was a beautiful Summer day and the beachfront was jampacked with people enjoying a traditional fair atmosphere - we had Punch & Judy, donkey rides, yacht races and the most amazing spectacle of wing walking by Team "Guinot" Wing Walkers. Here are a few of the pictures I took - apologies for the quality but these planes moved very quickly and made sudden direction changes (looping the loop etc)

Saturday 8 August 2009

08/08: Katie Finished

I think Katie is just about finished now but will put her aside for a few days and start my next commission, which will either be a Border Collie or a schnauzer - will decide on that later but now I'm off for a walk to the beach where our local 2 day regatta should be in full swing (courtesy of the Lions)

Thursday 6 August 2009

06/08: Happy Clients

I was recently commissioned by a lovely lady to draw a family group portrait (Gran, Mum & Aunt) for her Mum's birthday, and also a cat portrait (Gizmo) for a friend's birthday - both in July. This is what she had to say today:

""I Just wanted to say thank you once again for the pictures, Mum was speechless for once, and her sister had come down to surprise her so she got to see it as well. It was a big hit all round!

'C' - well she just burst in to tears, 'P' was actually jealous because he hadn't thought of the idea and really didnt have any idea the picture was going to be that good!

Ive attached C's email for you to see and a picture

Full names withheld for privacy
Here's an excerpt from her friend's email:

"Just want to say the biggest thank you to you both for the most amazing prezzie i have ever received. i still keep welling up every time i see the Gizmo picture! And when Gizmo saw the picture, sahe fluffed up her tail in defense, as if she had seen another cat.....but then she calmed down, so must have clocked that it was her or something!"

Wednesday 5 August 2009

05/08: WIP Dalmatian

Not much progress made today I'm afraid. I kept getting sidetracked with household and gardening tasks - and a trip to the doctor. But I did do a little bit of work on it:

I've continued to lay the base layer of pastel, working on her ear and neck and I'm relatively happy about the placement of her black spots

Tuesday 4 August 2009

04/08: WIP Dalmatian

This is Katie, a beautiful 8 year old Dalmatian and the portrait is to be a surprise 60th birthday present for her owner, Margaret.

I've been putting off starting this portrait for weeks - it isn't required until September, so adrenaline hasn't kicked in and I've been slipping other commissions in first. Also the choice of reference photo was left to me. I had shortlisted two photos and just couldn't make the decision. I think the other picture was possibly more interesting as Katie was smiling broadly - but that meant drawing a huge expanse of doggy gums/tongue and teeth so I decided on this one where she seems to be expecting a treat!

I'm drawing her in pastels on Colourfix (which isn't my favourite paper) as the pink colour complements her fur nicely

I've made the outline quite dark so it will show in the WIP photos and I've just marked where her spots are. As usual I have drawn the eye first and then started to put down a layer of pastel, being careful to follow the fur direction.

I have started to block in the shadows and contours of Katie's face. They look very exaggerated at this stage but will tone down as the white hairs are drawn in later and they will all help to add depth to the portrait.

04/08: Labrador x Rottweiler Finished

This photograph was taken last night in artificial light.

I put (what I hope are) the finishing touches to Oliver's portrait this morning and this photo was taken in daylight so the colours are more true. I've emailed this scan to Oliver's owner - so fingers crossed he will be happy with the end result.

Monday 3 August 2009

03/08: Whitstable & Tankerton Sunsets & Views

I can't believe its nearly 2 years since we moved to Tankerton (Whitstable) - where has all the time gone?? There is always so much going on in this part of the world but we've really not made the most of all the opportunities. I have been very busy with commissions and David with various voluntary agencies he has joined. Whitstable has become very fashionable and its almost impossible to move round the town and beachfront in the Summer months. The famous beach huts here sell/rent for 'silly money' as they are so popular with the DFLs (as the locals call the City Gents with their families - 'Down from London's)!! But it is their money which keeps our local shops and pubs afloat through the leaner winter months so we mustn't complain about how crowded the beaches/restaurants are in the Summer!!

A few of our feathered friends
Ballet dancing Seagull?? I hope this isn't the same gull that likes to headbutt our patio doors most days - he is making a horrible mess on the glass and must have given himself some nasty headaches by now!
Beach huts on the path between Tankerton and Whitstable. During the Summer they are all occupied with families and friends enjoying a few bottles and barbecues on the beach.
This pub is actually on the beach at Whitstable (and subsiding gradually) - it is one of the most widely photographed buildings in this part of Kent as it is silhouetted against the bright skyline.
We have beautiful sunsets here. and another one!

Saturday 1 August 2009

01/08: Society of Feline Artists (SOFA)

Well, after months of thinking about it, I finally got round to sending off my application to join the Society of Feline Artists. I've been inspired by the work of Gayle Mason and Katherine Tyrell who are active members of the society.

My membership card has arrived with an invitation to submit work for selection for SOFAs annual exhibition in London. Unfortunately, my recent feline portraits have all been commissioned for clients and I have nothing appropriate to submit. But I am now inspired to work on some cat pictures for next year's exhibition.

Here's a link to their website which you can follow to look at some of the fabulous feline pictures exhibited last year