Thursday 29 October 2015

29/10: COCKER SPANIEL - a little more progress

Its no fun working on black fur when the light is so poor - even with daylight bulbs I'm struggling today.  

I decided to stop work when I realised I'd mistaken my green umber pastel for burnt umber which led to her nose getting a strange tint for the base layer!  I've corrected it but won't risk anything going wrong today.   

I'll be working on this more at the weekend so will post an update then.  I'm looking forward to getting to grip with those ears!

Wednesday 28 October 2015

28/10: LATE ..... AGAIN!!!

Most of my posts seem to start with an apology for absences but I really don't where the time goes ...  the good intentions are there but life always gets in the way

Since my last post we've been blessed with some wonderful warm Autumn weather so it would have been rude not to have spent time in the garden doing some (final)? tidying up before the Winter, and planting out the bulbs that we bought so enthusiastically a few weeks ago ... now they are all in pots and, hopefully, we'll have a brilliant Spring display

We've also had a visit from Daughter and family so have been playing childrens' games and walking along the beach throwing stones into the sea ... simple pleasures!

Today the weather changed and we've had lots of rain and grey skies.  

Change of plan .... I've started on the Black/white Cocker Spaniel first.    No particular reason for the change of plan,  the cat will probably be next although I've also agreed to do a 'memorial' portrait of a beautiful red & white Welsh Springer Spaniel - all will be portrayed in pastel and before Christmas.   That will be the last of my commissioned work this year as I've got two exhibitions before the end of the year and I really ought to be working on pictures for exhibitions in 2016.

This is Day 1 of work on the Black/White Cocker Spaniel.   It is intended as a surprise Xmas present but my client doesn't use the computer very much so I'm OK to show progress here:

As usual, I started with the eyes as I really don't like staring at empty sockets ... and I'm gradually adding base colours of blue/grey/red so that the black tones don't look flat when finished.   Simply using black pastel will make the portrait very dull at the end.

This is pastel pencil on light grey pastelmat paper

Thursday 22 October 2015

22/10: DAY OF REST!

We've had a busy but productive few days.  Monday we made the ferry crossing to Calais to stock up on wine and other goodies for the Winter - it makes a nice day out for us as we always have a 'picnic meal' on the return journey with lovely French bread, pate, cheese and red wine.

Hector the horse was approved by his Mum so on Tuesday we delivered the portrait as my client lives fairly close to family members who we then visited.  We always buy a few cases of wine for Mum and her friends (life in their retirement complex is quite social and jolly) so we delivered those and then went to check on Mum-in-Laws flat and met the carpet fitters who came to measure up for new carpets for the new owner .... if the sale ever completes.  I really don't understand why property buying/selling takes so long in the UK.   The flat is empty and our buyer has no chain but its been 3 months and still the legal bods are dragging their heels!

Yesterday I finished the graphite portrait I started weeks ago ... for various reasons he was put to one side so it was nice to have him finished and approved.     He'll be packed off to the RAF squadron's base at the weekend for hanging on the Mess Room wall and I should be getting photos of the next one fairly soon.  I'm told he is on a diet at the moment and wants to lose a few lbs before having his photo taken/portrait drawn!

This is the completed one - I have permission to show the photos but have been asked not to reveal which squadron/address they belong to

A4 graphite pencil on white Mellotex paper (my camera turns the white paper grey unfortunately)

I had the second lot of dental work done yesterday afternoon ... another 90 minute session in the chair but I'm really pleased to say I have no pain or swelling today - I'm just having a lazy day though

This morning I've had a visit from a lovely man with a beautiful cocker spaniel.   He wanted me to photograph her and draw her in pastel as a surprise Christmas present for his wife.    She was just gorgeous, so friendly and excited to meet me.   She was a bit wriggly and not easy to photograph but we got there in the end.    She'll be on my drawing board in a couple of weeks' time.         

Next up will be tabby & white cat called Toby - another Christmas present.   I'll start her at the weekend as tomorrow we're accompanying Mum to hospital to have a cataract op so that will eat into most of the day.

Sunday 18 October 2015


Just awaiting approval from Hector's 'mum' then I can give the portrait a light spray of fixative and get it parcelled up ready to go.

I'd hoped to put the final touches to the RAF portrait this afternoon as its only graphite so poor lighting isn't such a big issue ... but I think I need a break from the drawing board and I've just taken delivery of 48 lavender plant plugs (thanks to the Telegraph Gardening special offer - 48 free of charge, just pay postage)!  They are quite small so need potting on ... think I'll take care of that now and then chill out for the evening.

We're off to France tomorrow to stock up on wine and goodies.    The forecast looks good so should be a smooth ferry crossing so long as we don't get held up by the antics of the illegal migrants at Calais.


and with a mount laid over the top to give an idea of how he'll fit a frame.    He'll be packed with a double cream coloured mount once approved.

This is the portrait I completed of her other Horse - nearly 3 years ago now.

Saturday 17 October 2015

17/10: HECTOR - HORSE (work in progress)

OK .... a horse.    Horses were what I started out drawing when I first 'discovered' pastels.     After that I added dogs, cats and finally humans in pastel, coloured pencils and graphite pencils.    I don't portray as many horses these days (tends to be more humans) but I think they remain my favourite subject.

I portrayed my client's other horse, Manny, about 3 years ago and this is her new horse, Hector.  I'm using pastel on Fisher 400 sanded paper to match the style of the first portrait.    I'd forgotten how unforgiving this sanded paper is if, like me, you're in the habit of blending pastel with fingers ....

These were the early stages, blocking in colour using mainly soft pastels to form the base

The weather has been gloomy for several days and I've been using a daylight bulb lamp to enable me to see colours better but all these photos are a bit 'off colour' as taken in poor light.     Fisher 400 is a typical 'sandpaper' colour - light sandy/gold but it looks a bit blue/grey in some of these shots

Here's Hector, outlined and with the first colours being laid

Strengthening the colours - I did debate whether to use coloured pencil for the bridle which would allow me to get finer detail but I thought it might look too 'waxy' next to the pastel so will persevere with pastel pencils and try to keep the points sharp - not easy on this sanded paper which eats pencils (pastel and wax)

Uggghhh you can see I've tried to photograph this using the daylight bulb lamp but its casting strange shadows 

Its beginning to come together a bit more now but at this stage I needed guidance from my client.

This is the reference photo I've been asked to work from - its not bad - taken indoors under artificial light though.    Look at the colour of his muzzle here:

this is one of the supporting ref. photos supplied by Hector's Mum:    this is taken in natural light and just look at his colouring here:

Looks like a different beastie doesn't he?

So we're now going to be working on a compromise, between the two.     This is where I finished up today.    Again, colour/quality of photo is poor but at this stage I'm not going to waste time faffing around trying to 'tweak' it.     I'm hoping to finish this tomorrow (subject to client's approval) and crack on with the RAF portrait.

17/10: I'M BACK

We escaped to our house on Fuerteventura to have 5 weeks R&R and chill out after all the stress of the last few months.   The sale of Mother-in-Law's flat is still going through (fingers firmly crossed) but its moving very, very slowly.   There's no chain, no problems but British Law/Conveyancing is choked with red tape it seems.

Anyway we got back to Whitstable last Friday and since then I've been busy with a birthday commission (finished and despatched on Wednesday), a horse (nearly finished), another RAF portrait - to be finished early next week and also I've started on a course of dentist treatment which I've been dreading.     Had 2 root canal treatments in the week and another scheduled for Wednesday afternoon ... then the real fun begins with some jawbone augmentation which will mean up to 12 months on a soft food diet..... but its got to be done so no point worrying too much.

This little lady is a Labradoodle and she was a birthday gift for my client's husband.    I prefer to portray dogs with a ¾ profile, or at least a slight turn of the face to avoid foreshortening the face/muzzle.   But this sort of 'full front' pose was what my client wanted

Sorry, this was a quick photo and I didn't anchor the pastelmat to my drawing board, or crop the edges so its curled a bit.

I've used pastels (soft) with pastel pencils for finer detail on grey Pastelmat paper.