I met Tess and Jody at their home to photograph them for their portrait.  You couldn’t meet two sweeter little dogs and I so enjoyed petting them and getting to know their personalities.  They look like a perfect complimentary match, like yin yang, so I knew their portrait could be something pretty special.  The brown of the suede leather sofa was the perfect backdrop to set off both their colours.  As ever I’m as excited about painting a sofa as the main subjects!

The finished portrait 18″x14″ pastel.


My line drawing of Tess and Jody sketched out on the velour board.

I’ve blocked in the back wall and am working on blocking in the large areas of colour on the sofa.  Darks go down first and gradually the light tones will add depth.

Lighter tones and highlights added the sofa is taking shape.  I don’t want the sofa to look too shiny as it’s not a really shiny leather so the highlights are quite minimal.  There is lovely natural window light coming from the right so this casts great shadows.

Starting on Tess.  I use a range of Unison’s light colours in white dogs.  Pure white is kept to a minimum as it flattens the image if used too much.  There are so many colours reflected in a white coat and it’s usually a mixture of off white shades with a little of what colour is around them.  Because of the sofa her tones are all pretty warm.  This progress shot shows just some of the shades I lay down first.  As soon as you add any highlights it really starts to show some form.

For very small detail around eyes, noses and collars I use a little bit of black or brown pastel pencil.  I prefer to find a nice sharp point or edge on the soft sticks to make highlights.  It is really only the darkest lines that get accentuated with pencil.

Again, showing some of the colours I lay down first for her coat.  Down close to the sofa is a little darker than the top of her head as it really reflects what is around her.  I want to keep the brightest highlights for the top of her head and the right side of her left leg which is facing the window light.


I’ve got a new free standing easel which has a tray at the front.  This is so handy for holding the colours I’m using just where I neet them to be.

Starting on Jody, and I love his expression just looking off camera, possibly at one of his beloved humans encouraging him to sit still.

A dark coloured dog is done using the same principal and working from the darkest shades to the lightest.  I use black to block in all the darkest areas and then carefully pick out some of the lighter blues and pale yellowy tones that create his form.  I still need to darken his left side as we look as it’s really only the lit side that has such pronounced highlights.


Working my way down his body, he has a cute white patch on his front which I’m working around at the moment.  The darkest areas are always the easiest on a black animal as you can lay down solid black and then just hint at some detail in there with a lighter tone.  I’ve used some blue greys and brown for these areas.

Almost there!  Working on his white patch and similar to Tess it’s really only the right side as we look that needs any white.  Choice of tone and hue are so important when trying to create directional lighting.

Thanks for visiting my blog, I’m looking forward to seeing this pair framed up and am so pleased with how they’ve turned out.
If you would like some info on booking in for a portrait please visit my site www.EmmaColbertArt.com or send me an e mail to info@emmacolbertart.com.