Once again I’m very lucky to receive such a beautiful photo reference from a client to work on this week.  Sweetie is the most adorable Spaniel and this has been a great pose to work on.  I always love to get working on a portrait that shows a little of their surroundings too.  I think it really adds to the piece. That combined with gorgeous contrasted sunlight made the shot the perfect basis for a painting.

I hope you enjoy her progress.

The finished portrait 16″ x 12″ soft pastel on velour.

As always I begin with my line drawing. I sketch on another piece of paper and transfer my drawing onto the velour board.  You can’t rub out on velour so I need my working sketch to be pretty accurate before transferring.  Things can of course be moved around in pastel, but it’s better not to have to!  I strengthen and tweak at my outline on the velour with pastel pencil.  Once I’m ready for the colour work, my proportions are pretty well worked out.

I start work on the background.  My work area is pretty neat for size, but it’s all the space I need.  I even squeeze a couple of dogs in while I work!  Brocci always has her spot on the seat next to me, and Hairy Maclary has even started lying at my feet on and off.  Everyone in close quarters it seems!

Starting work on Sweetie now and a lot of the first part is blocking in the darks.  I was asked how to make a dark coat appear shiny. What I always find when I do workshops is that most people fear going too dark too soon.  But with pastel you need to work mostly dark to light, so you need to almost exaggerate the darks first.  If using a proper pastel paper, you will be able to apply the highlights on top.  But without that depth and contrast, your highlights will look dull.  Try to locate the darkest and brightest areas in the photo.  Those are your two extremes off which you can measure everything else.

Sweetie’s portrait is an excellent example of painting light and shadow.  I use Unison Grey27 which is a buttery yellowy white for the brightest areas.  Then pure white goes on top of that.  I find pure white on it’s own quite stark.  But the warmth comes from the Grey27 underneath and makes sunlit areas really glow.

On Sweetie’s muzzle you can see the white area on the sunlit side is pure white.  On the shadow side I’ve used colours like BV7 (a very light blue I use for white in shadow areas) and A7, RE13 and A31.  All warm and cool tones which I class my off-whites.  It’s worth looking at Unison’s ‘Light’ range.  I have also included a row of these light colours in the Animal set I designed for Unison as they are vital when painting animals.
Bear in mind white reflects everything around it and try to look for colours other than grey in it’s shadows.

This past week we’ve left Almeria and are heading along the South coast of Spain towards Malaga. The weather has been amazing pretty much non stop this past month.  Hairy Maclary is settling into our routine pretty well and him and Brocci even managed to share a seat in the sunny spot for a while.  They mostly ignore eachother but that’s pretty good for Brocci who has never had to share her space before.

The coastline around here is great for snorkling, although I am not great at sticking my head underwater!  It induces quite a lot of panic, so I’ll have to work on that!  Here are the two pups very suspiciously watching Andrew emerge from his diving.

We also spotted this beautiful white cat sunbathing at the beach.  Up on a wall and well out of reach of two dogs who didn’t even realise she was there 🙂

Back working on Sweetie and this front area is tricky!  I’ve blocked in the rest of the dark area and added some warm purples through the blackness to heat it up.  I’ve also started work on the arm of the chair in the foreground.  It’s a strange shade of green when the sun is hitting it so I hope I can get close with a few different greens hues and yellowy highlights.

It helps to pick out the brightest areas as those make really definite shapes.  In the shadow areas I use those off whites again.  Like with the dark areas, if you don’t create some contrast there, the brightest areas will never look bright.

Really getting there now, but the area where her chest hair meets her leg is a puzzle!

Just the last leg to finish and then an all over tweaking session before calling it finished!

The last day’s work on this has us parked up right at a lovely beach at Castell de ferro.  I managed to get a good shot of the finished piece with the bay behind. Hairy Maclary has taken Brocci’s modelling duties off her paws today as it’s so hot.

The beach here is a stoney one and we’ve managed to pick up a lovely set of stone counters to make a backgammon board.  Neither of us play yet, but we’re thinking it would make a good travel game.  We currently play card games and a German game called Rummikub which we’re both a bit addicted to!

Hope you’ve enjoyed seeing Sweetie progress and a little of our journey this past week.
For more info on commissioning your own portrait check out my pricing page at http://www.emmacolbertart.com/art-portraits-pricing/