This past couple of weeks I’ve had a lot of activity between getting our van mot’d and heading for a ferry back to mainland Europe.  In between moving I’ve been working long hours to finish the final in the Schnauzer triptych.  This centre piece is to complete the trio and will be displayed between the two head portraits.
Hope you enjoy their progression.  I took so many photos so excuse me if I don’t go into much detail on every photo.  It’s been a long week of work, ferries and driving!

Pepper and Polo’s finished portrait 20″ soft pastel.

This was the photo reference supplied by my client.  It was difficult to get the two dogs together in one photo so I took elements of both images to create the composition.  There were other changes to be made such as the two collars and the muzzle area on Polo for which I used other photo reference.
I always use Photoshop to cut and paste my compositions.  This gives me the proper proportions to work from on screen.

This is the final composition we decided on and I’ve begun by drawing out the piece.  I’ve marked in some easily distinguishable leaves and grass to keep me right later on.

As always I begin at the back of the scene and work my way forward.  I want to blur the backdrop and gradually bring it into focus by the plane of field the dogs are on.  This helps for the trees in the background as they will become much looser to paint.

With the tree trunks placed I work the leaves over that using very broad marks.  I try to layer up the greens to suggest light shining through them.

The first rows of bluebells are merely dots of colour.  I’m loving the palette for this piece. Purple and green together is my favourite colour combination!

Once I get down beyond the heads I start work on Pepper.  It’s more to give me a rest from background work.  I tire easily on that, but a dog’s face is relief!

To ensure that the dogs stand out from the busy background I try to constrast all the colours around Peppers face.  So where there is a dark outer edge on Pepper, that area of background will be light.  And vice versa.

Just after we got our MOT done in England we made our way back across the South coast for our Ferry from Dover.  This was us parked up for a few days while I worked at Devil’s Dyke overlooking the South Downs.  This is just outside Brighton, and although we visited the town itself, this was the highlight of our journey East.
Fantastic 360 views from up here and good weather to enjoy it!

With another few stops across the coast I continue to work on Pepper.

The part I’ve been uneasy about it the foreground.  My nemisis is grass and there’s rather a lot of it! I know I can technically do it but do I have the patience I wondered.

I’m working pretty small areas at a time and trying to make sure the things in the background go in before foreground objects.

I finally tackle this bottom corner.  I use a harder black Faber Castel stick to roughly sketch in the leaves taking note of where overlaps happen.  Different shades of green and a few simple highlights start to bring them out.  It’s a long process of neatening with pencil and paper tortillon after that.

It’s starting to take shape!

Now to start work on Polo.  Poor Polo had a skin condition at the time the photo was taken so his muzzle hair looks a little different.  I’m going to work from a selection of photos to help him look more how he normally does with the guidance of my client.

I’ve got the fur fuller on the nose but it’s lacking the dark areas.  So I’ll come back to this later.

After our ferry to Dunkirk we start to head North.  Ghent was on my to-do list to see the alterpiece by the Van Eyck brothers.  It was truly stunning in person.  It’s said to be the first oil painting and was done in 1432.  The brothers developed mixing oil into pigment breaking away from egg tempura commonly used until then.  Sorry I can’t share any photos of this experience, photography was not permitted.  But I highly recommend visiting it in person as the restoration work on the painting has it looking so fresh!

Our plan for the summer is to go North into Scandanavia.  We’re hoping to reach Norway via Denmark and Sweden.  So we have come up into Holland now in Maassluis where we’re parked overlooking a large canal.

I just had to share a few watery scenes from Maassluis near Rotterdam.  I do love a good reflection!

Again on this foreground area I’m using the black to mark in the darkest areas.  Without that darkness in there the whole thing will appear flat.

I’ve also had to design a little area for my signature.  The piece is so busy there is literally nowhere I could see a spot I could sign.  I’ve coloured a little area black where I think I could add my signature in a light colour.

Bit by bit I build up the individual bluebells.  They are quite loosely painted on with blobs and then I use a paper tortillon and some pastel pencil to neaten up their edges.

It’s fiddly and slow going.  Both bottom corners took around 9 hours each.

Here is a little close up of that bottom corner where I put my signature.  I used a reasonably sharp light yellow pastel pencil and lightly went over it a few times.  I took a really sharp black pencil and really sharpened up the lines more.

Here is a little close up of Pepper’s face.  It’s been such a joy to work on these paintings.  I hope they will keep Pepper’s memory alive forever.  Pepper sadly passed away at the beginning of the year which prompted his human to get in touch.  I love schnauzers and both these dogs are lovely examples of happy dogs!

I’ve such pleasure working on this triptych and can’t wait to see them in their frames and hanging proudly.

Thanks for visiting and apologies for the long winded post!  If you’d like more info on commissions have a read on