I was asked to paint two beautiful German Shepherd dogs for the same family.  Two husbands to be surprised with pictures of their beloved GSDs.  They’ve now both been gifted and I’m sharing the first of their portraits with you.  This is Sabre who’s photo reference was crystal clear making it possible to see every hair.  The second piece I worked on has older more blurred photo reference so it was interesting to compare the two and see how it affected my techniques.

Hope you enjoy Sabre’s progression…

Sabre’s finished portrait, soft pastel on velour 12″x16″

The photo reference I worked from

As always I started with my line drawing cleanly transfered onto the velour.  It’s a plain background on this one so it shouldn’t take long to block that in.  To get solid colour on velour you need to apply thin layers and blend gradually building up an opaque quality.

I usually start with the ears and get those hairy edges done early while there are places to lean my hand. From here I do tend to work my way down when it’s going to be so detailed.  I don’t want to be smudging what I’ve already worked.

Pastel pencil is useful for the very finest lines around eyes and nostrils.  I also use some pencil to tweak the edges and the fur on a brindle animal. The sharp edges are good for dragging the soft pastel I’ve already applied.

In this image you can see some of the blue Unison pastel I’m using around the eye.  The pencils will not give you the same strength of colour so most of my marks are made using the soft pastel pieces.

Back when this piece was being created, we were in the North of Spain.  I was actually working on these two pieces when we picked up Hairy Maclary the little rescue dog we found up there.  This was us driving through his territory at the Delta where we found him.

Before long it was clear that he and Brocci were quite happy to share our space so we decided to keep him.  He’s now had his operation on his teeth, as well as getting neutered and all set up with microchip and passport.  He’s all official and healthy now too.

Once I get both eyes in Sabre starts to come alive. I use lots of nice zingy orange and yellow throughout his coat.  In the dark areas there are lots of blue violet which work well as opposites to the oranges.

Working my way down his muzzle.  The velour paper I use is so perfect for this sort of fur texture.  I always put my darks down first.  Although with brindle it is a constant to and fro strengthing the darks and adding more layers.

The marks down the muzzle and nose are so small.  I use lots of tiny dots and lines.

Sabre is sitting so regally.  German Shepherds often have this upright posture with such an alert face.  I just love how we have his full attention.  I work my way around his front chest area following the flow of his longer fur.

I just heard that Sabre has been framed and gifted.  I think the framing looks wonderful, the perfect finish for the piece.

Thought I would share a picture of the two paintings together.  I will share Mak the other GSD’s progress very soon.  Hairy Maclary is already a willing model like Brocci!