This week we have been making the journey from Germany, through Austria and into Italy.  In between moving I’ve been busy working on a beautiful dog called Riach (a toller retriever I think) and I hope you enjoy his progress here along with some of my photos through the Alps and into Northern Italy.

Riach's portraitThe finished portrait 18″ x 14″ soft pastel

Riach referenceRiachreferenceThese are the two photographs I worked from.  As you can see I took the pose from one but used his face from the other.  Because the photos had the same lighting and setting this was relatively easy to do.  It definitely makes a big difference having great quality photos to start with.

Riach progress 1My first task is to get my line sketch transferred onto the velour.  Here I’ve started to block in the background.  On velour I really rub at the background so that the lower layers really stain the paper.  It takes a few layers of pastel before the pastel will blend on this surface but the key is to not fill the paper up with heavy handed pastel application too soon.

Riach1aSome lighter shades of green added and it’s starting to blur into a nice bokeh background.

Riach2Beginning work on the top of Riach’s head.  Those wispy hairs all around him will really make him pop off the green backdrop.  I use mostly Unison soft pastel sticks but I also use a little pastel pencil around the eyes and his hairy edges just to drag the finest of hairs out over the green.

Pic1This past week we have entered into the Alps and this was up Mount Wank on the German side of the Alps.  We took the cable car up but did a long trek back down the 2000 metres which we felt in our calf muscles for about 2 days afterwards!  Brocci is the fittest of us all, she scampered down like she was a puppy!  You would never think she’s almost 10 (well 70 in dog years of course!)

Pic2All of us posed in front of Zugspitze, the highest point in Germany.

Riach3Riach4Both eyes in, I’m beginning to feel like I’m getting somewhere…

Riach5Working my way down his face and I always like the point when the muzzle goes on as it’s usually the brightest part of a dog photographed outside.  Obviously because it’s facing up to the light.  In this case his lovely white muzzle will really extend from his face.  I’m using many shades of orange and brown with little hints of lilac and light blue in the shadow areas.

Riach6Here you can see my pastel tray in front of me.  I like to keep out all the colours I’m using so that each day I sit down to work I have my palette already there.

Pic2aAs we travel through the Alps we start to notice the buildings change in style as we enter Italy.  It’s strange the subtle differences in the landscape when you cross an invisible border between countries.

Pic2bThis is one of our first overnight stops.  You really can’t beat a mountain view!  This is closeby to lake Caldonazzo where we spend a couple of days both playing and working.

Pic3Brocci enjoys a dip in the lake when it gets too hot.  I take her out a little way and let her swim in, much to the amusement of some children on the beach.  She had a welcoming party when she reached the pebbly shore!

Pic4Lake Caldonzzo in the evening light.  The setting here really is beautiful with the mountains everywhere you look.

Riach7Working on down Riach’s chest and he has so much hair jutting out in different directions.  It’s always easy to feel like you’ve crossed the half way mark when you get the face finished but this chest area takes me another two days work.

Riach8Showing you a view of me at work in the back of Freda our motorhome.  It makes a great studio space although I need to be organised on work days. Everything has to be set up to work, and taken down afterwards as this area also changes into the bed.  I have gotten used to this by now though and I have everything I need close to hand.

Pic6A few weeks back I got a commission in my book for a hedgehog.  I told my client that I would be on the lookout for one. Having not seen one up close in years I was pretty surprised to have this little sweetie visit the van one night.  After hearing some rustling outside I went following her through the bushes and got some great reference for possible paintings.

Pic7This guy showed up at our next location in Besenello.  He was a bit grumpy at having his picture taken though.  Hopefully I keep meeting some hogs of the hedge to build up a selection of reference material.   I look forward to tackling all those bristles!

Pic8Here is a view of Besenello, the last place we stay in the Alps.  The next day we travel further South towards Verona and leave the mountains behind.

Pic9Our next stop is pretty good!  At a campsite just outside Verona and each plot is seperated by plants growing kiwis, figs, pomegranates and grapes.  The food in Italy so far has been amazing and cheap too!  Unfortunately we’ll make up for it on diesel costs as it’s much more pricey here than in Germany.

Riach9Almost there now, just layering up the fur and working my way down his front.  This dog has been so much fun to work on, a hairy beauty!

RiachcloseHere is a little close up of his finished face.  Hope you’ve enjoyed my post and will check back soon for more arty travels!  For commission info check out my tab at the top of the site ‘Pricing’ or get in touch via e mail at