I have a real treat on my easel over the next few weeks.  I’m working on a triptych of two schnauzers comprising of two individual head portraits and a big double portrait of them together for the middle.  Supplied with excellent photo reference from my client, I decided to start with the two head portraits as it will help me get to know their faces.
This is Pepper who I started with.  My client recently lost Pepper and I know how devastating that is, so I want to be sure that each detail is spot on.  I always feel a sense of responsibility when capturing pets who have passed.  I hear from people all the time how much they treasure their portraits after the animal is no longer with them.

Hope you enjoy Pepper’s progress and a little of our hectic travels from the past week.

Pepper’s finished portrait 16″x16″ soft pastel.

Here is the wonderful photo reference I was given.  I’ve sketched out Pepper roughly and am blocking in the background.  I like how it is very simple, allowing Pepper to jump out from the page.  I’m using the sandy colour velour as it will add some underlying warmth to the piece.

I start at the top and usually by the time I’ve worked the ears I will have decided on my palette for the piece.

Working from the darkest tones to light.  I’m using a lot of lilac and pale fleshy colours for the midtones.  In the darkest black areas I warm it up by adding dark red/browns and purple.  The highlights will have Unison grey27 which is a yellowy white, along with some white in the brightest areas.  You can see in the photo reference that the brightest area is his body behind his face.  His beard is actually quite dark in front of that.  A tip I can offer for figuring out how dark or light a colour you need is to find both the darkest and lightest areas in the photo.  Judge everything from those.  Some people also change the photo and a photo of their painting into grayscale as this makes tonal values more obvious.

I don’t use much grey in this piece surprisingly.  I’m always trying to substitute the flat colours of white, grey and black (which technically are not colours) for more interesting shades which will give the same effect but with more depth.  If you want your work to look more realistic, introducing more colour will help as our eyes naturally see these colours around us in reality.

This past week we left Faro in Portugal to make the long journey back to the UK for our van’s MOT (vehicle test).  It’s sad to leave the sunny South, but all parts of this trip become part of the whole experience and we were looking forward to catching up with some friend in England.

By the time we reach the middle of France the blue skies have turned to grey and it’s a lot chillier!  But for five days straight we drive about 400km a day, so we had more important things on our minds.  It soon takes it’s toll on us and we’re glad to make the ferry in Dunkirk and leave for Dover.

Another tricky element to painting schnauzers is the amount of layers of fur on their face.  Each area has several layers sprouting out from different angles.  I try to always think logically that if some hair is behind, I must paint it in first.  Working from the back to the front works not only for landscapes but complex furry faces too!

Working my way down his nose.  You can see the warm dark brown I’m using to add warmth into the black areas.

Blocking in some of the brighest area to the right.  This will really help me decide on the colours to use for his beard.

I continue to work on around his chest.  It makes sense for me to finish this area first as his beard will come down over this.

We make it over to the South of England and park up on the outskirts of Canterbury for a few days.  I went to art college in Kent so this area feels very familiar even though I haven’t been back in 10 years.  I love Canterbury though and we spend a lovely day exploring.  I also found a great art shop to replenish some supplies!

You can see some of the browns and blue violets used on this bottom section.  I found I really didn’t have the exact colour that Pepper is, but when you look closely at his fur there are so many different colours all together, your eye mixes the colours when you view it.

I sharpen a light grey pastel pencil for the detail on Pepper’s tag.  My client wanted me to omit the extra tag which was covering his name.

While I put the finishing touches on Pepper, we are parked over in Bournemouth visiting some friends we met recently in Spain. One of the best things about travelling we have found is the people you meet.  We look forward to visiting people we’ve become friends with from different countries.  Always a good excuse to go back to somewhere you enjoyed!  This is Freda parked along with Elsie like two old grannies who meet up every once in a while for a gossip!

Almost there now!  Just his chin and muzzle to finish.

Starting to build up some texture on the muzzle and chin.  I use some light pastel pencils to drag the finest hairs out around the edges.  Mostly as always, it’s the edge of a bigger stick which gives the strength of colour I need.

Thanks for visiting!  Hope you enjoyed Pepper, and remember to call back to see his friend Polo who is next on my easel!

For more information on commissions have a look on my pricing page at http://www.emmacolbertart.com/art-portraits-pricing/