I’ve been wanting to try an extra large piece for ages but didn’t know until recently (and thanks to Leslie Harrison) that the velour I love using comes in a 40″ sheet.  It was a little pricey as it came the whole way from Dakota Pastels to Northern Ireland, but well worth it and arrived well wrapped and quite quickly too!

The full sheet is 28″x40″ and I ordered a selection of colours, white, sandy and grey.  This commission was what motivated my search for the giant paper so I really enjoyed this piece.   I definitely plan to make good use of the other sheets I bought.

I went to photograph these gorgeous animals at their rural home on the North Coast of Ireland.  The backdrop and lighting were just as they were on the day, fresh!

The finished painting ‘The Belties’ pastel on velour 40″x28″
The reference photo I took.  I had very little to change about this.
I liked how a couple of cows were cut in half and I just removed the
cow on the bottom right as I thought he didn’t add anything.
I sketched this out smaller and used a grid to help
with the initial masses.  I don’t mind having to use a
grid when it’s something this complex.  It certainly speeds
this part up a little as I can get proportions a little easier.
While good drafting is important I like the actual painting
process the most.
I’ve blocked in the large areas of sky and sea.  It’s taken a long time
to get the gradient to smooth out and there’s still a lot of layering
and blending to do.


Lots more work on the sky done.  I’ve used some other reference
photos from that day to add a little interest to the sky but left it quite
misty.  The sea is still quite flat looking but the island adds
a surreal feel to this piece I think.  It’s a great bit of coastline up there!


Some more of the land just peeping from behind the cows’ backs.


I’ve added a bit more movement to the water with small marks of
orange and blue and tried to add a bit of reflection on the water
in front of the island.


It makes sense to work from left to right so I’m not working
on top of what I’ve done.  I’m using a lot of Faber Castell black sticks
for this piece as it’s really jet black and I want the contrast to be really
high between the dark shadow areas and the sunlit areas.


My palette consists of the black Faber Castell, and a selection of
Unison pastels along with some Faber Castell Pitt pastel pencils.
In the black areas of the cows I use a really vibrant orange with a selection
of lighter oranges for highlights, a nice blue violet and some lighter
violets for highlights in shadow areas.  The very lightest areas on the
cows backs are the brightest greys like Grey 26 or 27 which have a
warm yellowy look to them which is not as stark and cold as pure
white for these highlights.


Starting to get a feel for how they will sit on top of one another.
The high contrast between the shadow side of one and then working
on top of this with the sunlit side of the next naturally makes them
stand out.  I love all their ear tags with their warm shades although
I was happy to see the last one go on as they were quite fiddly
and I tried to get the numbers as accurately as I could make them out!


Only working the tops of the cows at the moment as I’ll have to
do more to the grass before I can complete their legs.


Close up of this second cow finished.  The underside of their
noses is green as their wet noses were reflecting all that green
grass.  This one was having munch too.  I thought that was some
good posing so included it!



This is where I begin building up the fur.  Using the black
stick I loosely sketch in all the curls and main hair direction.
I also block in any really dark areas or areas in shadow.
The next colours I’ll add are the deep purply brown with the
vibrant orange.  Then I start marking in some of the highlight
areas both in sun and shadow.  Pastel pencils I use to flick the ends
of the hair and get really small hairs around edges.


Each cow done this far has taken an entire day.  Probably about
8-10 hours some days.  This scale requires so much more time.
I’d like to try some looser work on this scale perhaps but I wanted
this piece to be as detailed all over as my previous smaller work.
So just some patience required and that’s ok.


Adding some of those light fleshy orange highlights
which just bring it to life.  I put them on quite crudely
and neaten after.


I feel like I’m being watched now 🙂


I like how this cow was looking off while the rest are head on.
They honestly just made this picture by co-operating brilliantly!
I like the shadow shapes on this cow and I roughly block them in
first with the side of the black stick.


I’ve also started working on the green grass around them.
The bottom right of the picture is almost all in shadow so it will
be about the balance between there and the brightest area we
can just see through the first two cows.


I’ve worked on the cow on the right as the last
cow is in front.  It’s been pretty much the same palette
the whole way across so I’ve had this selection of
colours in front of me the whole time which speeds
things up.


Add caption


The grass areas have orange purple and yellow dotted through
it along with the lovely greens from Unison.  I love their greens!


A close up section from the painting.  I had this painting professionally
photographed as I normally get my work scanned but this was far too big!

Hope you’ve enjoyed the progress.  I’m going to get working on another big project again in the near future but have some other fun commissions to work on at the moment.  Check back soon for some more paintings in progress and thanks for visiting my blog!