I was asked to paint Yaya a very beautiful German Shepherd and had the pleasure of visiting her on my last trip home to Northern Ireland.  She was one of the houses I called at during a busy day of photographing, and it didn’t take long to capture some great shots of her.  It seems she’s an expert at posing and my squeaky noises were of great interest to her, producing these beautiful alert faces!

Hope you enjoy her progress and a little of my travels in Spain while I worked on her.

Yaya Finished PortraitYaya’s finished portrait, soft pastel 18″x16″

yayarefThese are some of the shots I took of her around her home.  The last shot seemed the obvious choice for a painting with the interest of the stripey carpet and the angles it produced.  She has such a sweet nature and I thought that really came across in this photo.  I also liked that she wasn’t looking directly at the camera.  Instead she was looking at her two humans who were just over my shoulder.  I especially love this part of my job as I get to meet dog mad humans like myself!

prog1My first task as always is to sketch out the composition and transfer it onto the velour.  I’m now mounting my velour on self adhesive foamboard which makes it really firm.  The sandy coloured velour is perfect for this.

prog2I start to block in the background.

prog3Working on these stripey stairs and it takes me a whole day and a half just to do them.  You can see that I lay down a base layer which is darker.  Then using the lighter tones I dot the colour on giving it that thick carpet effect.  It’s quite similar to painting fur really.  The darkness below gives the carpet depth and it takes hundreds of small marks to build up the texture.

prog4Working my way across this main step.  I keep the lighter tones for the flat step area where the light is stronger and the shadow tones are on the vertical part facing us.

prog5Finally there with the stairs and now onto Yaya.

pic1While I work on Yaya we are in the South of Spain.  We find this idyllic beach stop just outside Aguilas where we spend a couple of days parked right on the beach.

pic2pic3The weather continues to be beautiful with mid to high teens most days.  It feels pretty strange to experience a Winter like this when I’m so used being wrapped up in multiple layers at home!

pic4We travel into the town and park up at the harbour which is away in the distance in this shot.  A beautiful walk right around the sea front and up a big rock for a spectacular view.

prog6Starting work on Yaya now and as always I work from the top down.  This way I always have somewhere to lean my hand if I need to.

prog7Although I use soft pastels for my main colours, a small amount of pastel pencil is very useful on a coat like this.  The pencil can move the soft pastel around and create very fine lines around the edges.  This type of coat takes a lot of tweaking to get it really refined.

prog8Working on her eyes and those gorgeous eyebrows.  They give her such a lovely expression.

prog9Some of the zingy oranges I’m using dotted throughout her coat.  Making use of some really vibrant colour in areas.

prog10There really isn’t a lot of detail in her nose area.  Because I photographed her in a hallway where there was little natural lighting, the photo reference is ever so slightly blurred.  Sometimes I like this for painting from as you can create the illusion of detail without actually having every single hair and speck totally in focus.

prog11I often get asked how to create small detail with big pastels.  Make use of your pastels and the shapes they wear down to.  I sometimes use them on their side which creates sharp edges.  Sometimes I break them and sometimes I drop one by accident.  But every shard is useful.  This tiny piece was very useful around her face area.

pic5At this stage we arrive at a campsite in Vera.  We take the scenic route trying to find out way into the campsite and end up driving around some very rocky farm trails by accident!  Hearts in mouths, there was no going back!  We could see the campsite in the distance but had no idea how to get into it!  Of course when we got there via the back way, we saw the main road.  Thanks Google maps!

pic6Once we got set up we could enjoy the beautiful mountain views all around.  While we were up here though we had our windiest night ever.  Don’t think I slept a wink for fear we were actually going to blow down the hill!

pic7The next morning the wagtails were at our door for some treats.  It’s always nice to have your front door so close to nature.

pic8Brocci doing some posing.  It’s still really windy so I’m trying to catch her ears doing their ‘flight mode’ thing!  She’s more interested in what Andrew’s cooking in the kitchen here though.

pic9Finally…an ear takes flight!

prog12Back to Yaya and working on down her chest area.  Once I have the face done it’s always easier working on the rest of the body.  I have all my colours out in front of me and know exactly what is needed for each area.

prog13prog14Starting to work down her legs now, I love how she dangled them over the edge of the stair.  Sometimes dogs just compose themselves perfectly.  I love to follow them around with the camera and see what they’ll do.  I’m sure you already knew this from my million photos of my girl Brocci!

prog15Here you can see some of the colours I’ve been using along with some of my pastel pencils.  My table easel has a tray at the front where I set my little temporary pastel tray.  When I finish a piece I clean these and pack them away in their proper colour trays.

prog16Both paws in and it’s really starting to take shape now.

prog18On the home stretch now.  I thought it was really cute how her big tail was squished into the corner up against the wall.

pic10On the last day we arrive in Almeria where we still are for a few more days.  It’s quite a big town and there’s a lot to explore including this lovely promenade with nice cafes overlooking the sea.  We even find a vegetarian restaurant in the town which is a real treat. We don’t eat out that often and tend to cook a lot, but when we find a place where everything on the menu is suitable for vegans we have to try it out!  Vegan cheesecake and chocolate cake for dessert…heaven!

Thanks for visiting the blog.  Hope you’ve enjoyed my progress.  If you’re considering having a portrait painted, check out my pricing page here on the website for more info and an idea of cost.