A Portrait, Step by Step

imageThe first step in creating a portrait of a pet is to obtain a reference photo which captures the animal’s personality. I took around twenty five photos of this lovely black lab, Dallas. The owner thought this one really captured his inquisitive expression. The other photos were useful to check his features from different angles, to ensure accuracy.imageThe next step is to complete a preliminary sketch on paper, concentrating on accuracy of proportions and the delineation of areas of deep shadow and highlights. The sketch is then transferred onto pastelmat, a specialist surface designed for pastel.

imageI can then start blocking in the background and the deepest shadows. In this case the owner wanted a plain grey background but sometimes a naturalistic background will be added at this stage.

imageThe highlights in this portrait  had a lot of blue in them. Pastel is very vibrant and laying down layers of vivid colour which I can then overlay with more subtle colour provides depth and richness to the final portrait.

image Once the areas of deep shadow and highlights have been blocked in I can start to add more subtle nuances of colour and value and begin to suggest detail.

imageI’ve left the eyes until near the end as they contain the most vividly contrasting colours. I like to put a lot  of emphasis on the eyes because they are such an expressive focal point. In this portrait I’ve brought the right eye out from the shadows to emphasise the inquisitiveness of Dallas’s gaze.

imageThe final stage of the portrait is to add the finer details. Depending on the type of pastel used, very fine lines can be achieved, ideal for portraying detail such as whiskers. Pastel also blends beautifully to create the impression of soft fur.

Go to Commission a Portrait 

3 thoughts on “A Portrait, Step by Step

  1. Hi,
    I wondered about getting a portrait of our much loved cat done.
    I’ve lots of photos I can email you, so just timescale and costs etc.
    Many thanks



    1. Hi Paul,
      I have a four week completion time for pastel portraits at the moment, plus shipping time if needed. An oil portrait would take a couple of weeks longer because of the drying time. I have set out a guide to prices on the “Commission a portrait” page of my website, which also gives an idea of the different size options. If you’d like to e-mail me some photos I’d be happy to look at them and once you know what size and style you’re after I could give you a quote. My e-mail address is weir1967@aol.com.
      Take care


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