It’s been a while since my last blog post as I’ve had a couple of secret commissions to work on.  I’ll be sure to post them here when they’ve been gifted.  But this week I’ve been working on Toby and Polo, two Bichon Frises.  The photo reference came from my client and I thought it was so sweet how they were lying.  After cropping and adjusting slightly I found a nice composition using the furniture to frame the dogs.
I hope you enjoy their progress and a few travel snaps from the South of Spain.

The finished portrait 18″x14″ soft pastel.

After sketching out the composition I’ve started to block in some background colours.  There is a lot of detail in the wicker chair closest to us and that corner of the carpet.  I’ll try to keep everything else pretty simple.

My first step for the wicker is to use a sharp pastel pencil to strengthen all my lines.  Using a mixture of browns as my base I fill in the gaps.

Each piece of wicker reflects light in a different way depending on it’s angle so I look for some highlights I can add using beiges and greens.

There is quite a complicated pattern on the carpet. When I tackle something like this I want the painting to represent it but am not too bothered about getting every detail exact on the pattern.  The backgrounds are always a little less detailed than the subjects anyway so that all attention is drawn to them.

This week we were due to leave Tarifa and head for Seville.  Alas it didn’t happen as our exhaust broke in two on our way out of a very bumpy field next this beach.  Not too big a deal as it was rusty anyway!  But it meant we had an extra 10 days waiting for our new exhaust to spend in Tarifa.

Definitely not a bad place to be stuck.  The weather here in Spring is lovely, probably the nicest time of the year here as Summer is scortching hot.  Everywhere is lush and green with wildflowers in the fields and the bits of scrubland in the towns.

Happy with the background I move onto the dogs.  I start by defining their edges.  White dogs are so tricky so I was expecting these to take a while and I wasn’t wrong!

I use a lot of muted shades of lilac, purple, and fleshy tones to lay down the first layers.  Both dogs are more lit on the left as we see them.  I’ll want to save my brightest areas for that side.

For some reason I haven’t really worked top to bottom on this piece.  I think it’s because of how confusing the curls are and seeing them from above like this means a lot of curls to paint!

Using pastel pencil around the eyes.  I also use some white and greys to flick little hairs out around the edges and refine.

Adding some of the highlights.  You really need a good variety of off-white shades when painting white animals.  A mixture of cool and warm shades are so useful in all my work.

Onto the second dog now and I already have all my colours out now so it goes a bit easier.It’s a pretty similar process for this only his face is slightly darker on the right.  I try to loosely mark in any defining curl shapes in a midtone.  Then I can either add dark marks or highlights.

Just his little crown to do now.

As I build up the layers the marks get smaller and more swirly.

After a full week of hard slog I was really pleased with the end result.  Hope you like them too!  Check out my pricing tab for info on how to commission your own portrait.  Or get in touch at

Hopefully by my next post we’ll have made it out of Spain and into Portugal.