It’s been quite a while since I painted something that wasn’t a commission.  But with the entry date for the UK Pastel Society exhibition coming up I thought I would set aside some time for a personal project.

Earlier this year when in Denmark parked up on one of the many jettys overlooking water, we woke up to the spashing of dogs.  These beauties were being trained for sea rescue and could tow in a boat with people in it.  I had the perfect vantage point with my camera up on the wall looking down into the clear water.
One shot back then stood out as something I might like to tackle.  However, I really underestimated how much of a nightmare it would be for me.  Many longs days later, I’m happy with the result and am ready to make my first entry to this prestigious exhibition.

I hope you enjoy the progression of the piece here along with a little of our past couple of weeks hanging out at some beautiful beaches on the South coast of Spain.  Plenty of inspiration for sparkly water!

The finished piece 27″ x 16″ soft pastel on velour.

This was my photo reference which I’ve based the painting on.  I cropped the original photo a little to this composition but I’ve tried to include the main shapes of the water to make that doggy paddle look believeable. I loved his shadow which was why I placed him a bit above centre.

The strength of these dogs in the water is unbelieveable.  It was great to watch the process of them practising and knowing that they could well save lives some day.

I start by preparing my big sheet of velour and mounting it to the foamboard. This makes the whole piece firm and is one of my top tips for working on velour.  I sketch out the outline of the dog but other than there isn’t a whole lot of lines I can give myself. I’ve tried to measure where some of those foamy bits to the right go, just to give me some anchor when I get over there.  But to be honest I feel totally lost at sea starting this!

I start to feel a little better once I actually make a start on those greens.  I chose this corner to start because it literally looked like the easiest one!  There is something really mental that happens when you take on a long complicated project.  I almost find I need to see some promise in an area to motivate me.  At this stage I really nearly stop and get back to my commission list.

But instead I start on the dog after I get a feel for some of the greens I want in the water.  I feel like I’ll go crazy on the water if I don’t get the dog in.

Although the spaces are very disjointed I am already starting to feel like it might eventually join up.

While I’ve been working on this piece we’ve been in the Almeria area of Spain.  In the town itself is great and also to the East around the Cabo de Gata area.  There are some great beaches for snorkling and sunbathing.  Brocci and Hairy Maclary have been beach bums this past month!

Hairy is well used to the heat, it doesn’t seem to affect him.  But he does love getting into the van with all the fly blinds up and relax!

Brocci has the more sensible idea of making use of the shade I’ve provided.

Some of the cleanest sparkliest water can be found around this stretch of coast.

I can’t wait to get my underwater camera so I can take better shots of these guys.  The water was so clear this was from above the surface.

I get back to work on the dog and the main thing I’m trying to do in the painting is save pure white for the brightest sparkles and the really sunlit parts of the dog.  I use a range of my Unison light tones to substitute for white in most areas.  Then those white specks will really show up.

Now that the central feature is in I can start to join some of the spaces and fill out to the edges.  I certainly feel a lot better by this stage but I still dread the watery areas to come.  Although I’m not trying to depict it exactly how it is, I do want to base it on the actual ripples as they create some beautiful designs and patterns.  I’m trying to edit and include all the nicest swirls but it takes time and I constantly lose my place.

Finally an area starts to make sense.  That’s definitely the easiest parts of the water done, now I must grit my teeth and do the rest!

I use the dark greens to map out the larger shapes and swirls.

The foam to the right is mostly a very light lilac tone.  Then a few bright dots of white on top of them add those bright relfections.

This little close up shows you how spagetti like some of my lines are.  A mixture of blending and keeping marks seperate.  The sharp contrast of the foam on the surface really helps with the effect.  I’ve shaped this very carefully using some pastel pencil to neaten their edges.

I feel like I’m on the home stretch now with this top area.  It feels good to be almost there!

I’ll leave you with a couple more beachy shots.  Brocci having a welcome dip on a hot day.

After a long bumpy drive up a coastal road we should not have been on, we figured we may as well go on to the top for the views!

Hairy Maclary the explorer on top of the world with views towards San Jose.   Do you know the way to San Jose??  All to well I’m afraid, I lost years off my life driving on it haha!

Thanks so much everyone for following the progress of ‘Dogged Determination’!  Thanks to a facebook friend who suggested the name, I feel it fits perfectly and hope that my determination will be rewarded with a entry to the exhibition.  I’ll let you know how it gets on.

For any enquiries about original artwork or commissions drop me a line at  Or have a look on  for more info on commissioning me.