Ben was a gorgeous commission completed for Christmas and my client provided me with their own photos of him which were so good I felt I could work solely from those.
The main elements to a good photo to work from are daylight conditions, and the photo to be taken from the eye level of the dog.  There is also a knack to catching them in a moment that they really look like themselves.  I know that sounds weird, but everyone, humans included can be caught from a weird angle that can make them look so different in 2D.  What I’m looking for is a picture that has a typical expression instantly recogniseable by those who know them.

The finished painting of Ben 14″x18″ Pastel on velour.


My rough outline on the velour.  I’m not really bothering to
draw out the background.  I’ll not be putting a lot of detail into
it, just suggesting the shapes and colours of the garden behind him.


You can see from this how I build up the grass.  Working my way
forward I’ve covered the paper in a dark tone of green which
I’ve then sprayed with fixative (hairspray) to set it a little and
add some tooth back the paper ready for the lighter layers of colour.
I could spend days painting each individual strand of grass but
I’m more interested in the main focus of the painting which is Ben.
So I tend to use blurred backgrounds and looser marks in the
surroundings like an Impressionist way of working.  I save the detail
for the face mainly where I want the focus to be.


With all the grass in behind him I spray the background so that
when I start putting the lighter fine hairs of the dogs ears out over
that, it won’t mix with the green colour as much, but will sit in front.


Before finishing his chin and ear I need to get the fur in behind
those areas on his chest so the chin will sit in front of this.  It’s
really just a logical way to work like this, bringing it forward in layers.


I’ll use a lot of blues and violets for the fur on this side of the dog.
The Impressionists’ paintings taught me a lot about not using
white for white!  I rarely use white now, especially when painting
a white subject.  Instead I have shades of lights which are close to
white but tinted with blue, green, violet, yellow, orange, all the
colours I need for sunny and shadow highlights.  I think that
was the hardest thing to train my brain to see other colours
instead of the colour we know it is. I now save my white for
those very last bright highlights and they really stand out now!


Ben all framed up and ready to go to his new home.
If you’d like to commission a portrait please get in touch or
e mail photos to