Sometimes I get asked to paint a pet who has passed away, and that is one of the best jobs I can do.  To paint something that will be a lasting memory and as close a likeness to the animal as I can manage is a privilege.  Russyboy’s humans had him in their lives for 17 and a half years which is an incredible lifespan for a dog.  He attended their wedding, moved to the other side of the world and back with them, and needless to say I could tell he meant the world to them.  They provided me with several lovely photos of him which really gave me a sense of his character.
I hope you enjoy his progress here along with some of my journey in Southern Spain while I painted him.

Russyboy’s finished portrait 16″x16″ soft pastel on velour.

My first task is to draw him out which as always I do on a piece of drawing paper and then transfer onto the velour.  I’m using the light grey tone for this as it works great for white fur and has a lovely warmth to it.

Here is my photo reference next to the piece as I start to block in the background.  I’ll probably only work the top half of the grass before starting on him as I will want to finish off the grass at the bottom when I’m working on his legs.

This week we are travelling up through the mountains having left Almeria and heading for a small village just South of Granada.  Andrew’s family are visiting us so we’ve rented a villa in the mountains.  The drive through the mountains in Freda is slow, we are in first gear sometimes to climb steep hills!  But we’re in no hurry, the scenery is well worth taking in!

This is Canillas de Aceituno, quite a remote town in the mountains.  The villa is down a long, steep edged lane about 2 kms from here.  A bad head for heights is not advisable in these parts!

We arrive at Casa Mango which is to be our home for the next 4 days and Freda has the perfect parking space.

This is Casa Mango hidden in the hillside.  It’s quite a treat to live in a house for a few days as we’re so used to life on the road now.  I couldn’t recommend this place enough. We found them on Air B&B and between the idyllic surroundings and the friendly owners who were so welcoming and helpful, it really was the perfect retreat!

I don’t tend to work outside too much as I’m usually working off the laptop screen and the glare outside makes it difficult. But I couldn’t resist setting up for a few hours on one of the more dull afternoons to start some work on Russyboy’s face.

As always I start at the top and work my way down.

Working some detail into the first eye.  He really had the most beautiful bright eyes!

Although the days can be warm here in February, the evenings turn colder, especially up in the mountains.  This was my favourite place to work beside that huge fireplace in Casa Mango!  Of course my trusty helper approves and curls up for a snooze while I work.

We take a daytrip down to Torre del Mar one of the days, but the wind was crazy!  We soon escaped back up to the sanctuary of the mountains!

One of Andrew’s sisters who came to visit is a vet in Scotland.  After seeing a herd of 300 goats heading home on the main road, we decided to visit the farm and see where they live.  Paco, our host from Casa Mango, made the introductions and brought us up one morning for milking time.  This inquisitive face was most interested in my camera!  Out of the many farms I’ve seen, these goats had it pretty good!  Mountain grazing and tranquillity.

Being a vegan, I don’t use any animal products so it always makes me a little sad to visit farms.  I grew up surrounded by many and am well aware that most farmers love their animals and treat them well.  But there is just no escaping the fact that no animal production is free from cruelty.  The more I looked into each industry, the more I realised this and started the transition to having a plant based diet.  While that seemed impossibly daunting as a meat eating, dairy loving, hated cooking twenty something, I can honestly say it’s changed my life for the better.  Four years on it’s by far the best thing I’ve ever done, both for my mental and physical health as well as the animals.

I don’t tend to say much about my dietry choices usually as I believe each person is on their own journey and I’m not a preachy person.  But I couldn’t help but share this here as my visits to farms always leave me feeling a strong sense that my choice was a good one.  Some day I will have a patch of land where all animals will have safe sanctuary to live their lives in peace.

Anyway, back to work on Russyboy!  Working on that pink tongue and really starting to see his face come to life.

I start to work along the top line of his body and all the sunlit areas.  For these I use Unison Grey27 which is a lovely yellowy white, and then layer white on top of that.  Often when you apply white to a coloured paper it will dull down when you rub it in.  By putting this warm white underneath, my pure white shines brightly on top.

I use small shards of the bigger pastel sticks for the detail.  Around his front there are many light fleshy tones with blue greys and lilacs.  The areas in shadow have everything but white.

We left Casa Mango and headed quite a distance West beyond Marbella.  This is Casares up in the mountains, yet another steep climb to get here.

There are dozens of birds of prey and I climbed out on a rocky hillside to photograph them.  It’s so difficult to catch one in focus, I’m still trying!  Maybe my next blog will have a better attempt!  Can you spot the vulture amongst the buildings?

It already feels like Spring has arrived here.  This area seems much more lush than the East side of Spain.

My last evening working on Russyboy is spent parked up in this town.  I begin to work the surrounding grass and add some highlighted outlines to his legs to let me see where the light will be hitting them.

Once I get his legs in I’ll bring some of the foreground grass up over his paws to really ground him in the picture.  I tend to paint grass quite loosely.  I really want the focus of the painting to be Russy himself so I’m not concerned with painting every blade accurately.  I make loose random marks in a variety of greens.

Just that last dangling paw to do and then some tweaks overall.  Whiskers and final tweaks will finish him off.

As I finish this evening, I nip outside to capture a good night view of the town.  I love these hillside dwellings, especially when they are illuminated at night.

The next day after some further tweaks I think he’s done!  Here we are in front of Casares in between rain showers.

Hope you enjoyed my progress and travels on this one.  If you’re interested in having a portrait painted please get in touch with me at or have a read on my ‘pricing’ tab for more info.  Thanks for visiting!