Occasionally I get a tricky job with not so clear photo reference.  Shepp passed away before I was able to visit to take some photos for his portrait, but I knew I would be able to create something special from the selection of photos supplied by my client.

I hope you enjoy his progress, I have been lazy this past week with taking photos on our travels.  The weather has rained a lot, so I promise in my next blog I will have some nice sights from Germany.

The finished portrait 16″x16″ soft pastel

My first step is to draw out Shepp and here you can see I’ve already added in the skirting board and blocked in the back wall.  I want to try and simplify the background but like the idea of using the border to split the image in two.

I block in the carpet area and although I’ll lighten all this later I want the warm and cool tones to shine through.

With a few lighter shades added I’m still not sure about the carpet area.  I think I’ll come back to it at the end when I see what Shepp looks like in there.

I start Shepp by blocking in lots of the darkest areas first.  This is usually my technique but especially in a black dog.  The darker I can make those areas the brighter the highlights will stand out.

Once I get the beginning of the white area in I can start to see the full tonal range.  I use light blues, yellows and pure white on this area.

The first eye in and I’ve tried to lessen the camera glare and reflection in the eye in the photo.  Sometimes in old age dogs’ eye have this light blue sheen in bright light.  My own girl Brocci has it in some lighting although her eyes have been tested and they are healthy.  So I think sometimes it’s just a sign of age.  I don’t want to completely take it out of the portrait as that is part of Shepp’s story but I think I can improve a little from what I can see.

The other eye in and a bit more of that side of the face and I can start to see the full expression.  Collies and Shepdogs have a very particular look about their eyes.  Even in his older age Shepp still has that intelligent and lovable gaze.

Using lovely vibrant pinks and purples on the tongue.  A few small marks of the lightest blue for a wet reflection.

The colours down Shepp’s front and around the bottom of the muzzle have no white.  I used shades of the lightest warm and cool tones in Unison pastels range.  It’s really important to have a range of ‘whites’ to use.  White always reflects what is around it and only the areas in direct light will need any white pastel.

I’ve blocked in his back and I leaned a bit heavier on the areas I want to be really dark.  I will add more texture to this and then some highlights.  I don’t want to go into too much detail in this area as I would prefer the focus to be on his face with the body receding.  In the original photo it was jet black so I used Photoshop to enhance the photo for me to see the wave of the coat.

Really darkening down the blackest areas.  I’ve also smoothed off the carpet a little and lightened it leaving a prounounced shadow under Shepp.  He was lit from a light on the ceiling so this will enhance that effect.

Sharing a little picture of Brocci with the finished piece.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the blog this week.  I will get back out with my camera this week 🙂