Work in Progress

Read how I juggle bringing up two children and work on my pet portraits and also see how they come together in my work in progress section.

I will also be doing an in detail case study over the next few months which I hope will interest you and even may give you some hints and tips if you are wanting to give pastels ago yourself.


Since launching my Facebook page 2 months I have nearly 500 likes. This is a great place to watch work I have in progress and keep up to date with other bits of news. I also regularly run competitions for gift vouchers and even occasionally a free pet portrait. It really is worth going over and liking my page to ensure you don’t miss out on one of the unique opportunities. These finished pet portraits can be found with other finished portraits in my Portfolio

This work in progress is from one lucky competition winner, a beautiful horse called Dylan.

Progress 1

Here is the outline drawing for Dylan’s portrait. As usual the initial drawing goes on rough paper and then gets transferred to pastel paper when I am ready to start with the pastels.


Progress 2

I have decided that pastel pencils are the way forward for this background due the amount of detail. I am laying down the green first and I am then adding the yellow flowers. I have done a bit of smudging with my fingers, but most of it is just blended with the pencils.

Progress 3

A bit more work done on the background and still more to be done yet. I have started work on Dylan to try and make the background ‘gel’ with Dylan and will continue to work on them side by side now. This is so they evolve together otherwise I often find they don’t gel if I completely finish the background and then do my subject.

Horse portrait DylanProgress 4

I have worked some more on Dylan’s mane, starting off with laying down the mid tones and building up the darks and lights to create depth and contrast.

I have also started work on Dylan’s body doing pretty much the same. You can see where I have roughly laid down a mid tone, in the direction his fur lays.

Progress 5

At this point I normally email my client and ask if they have any adjustments they would like making to their pet portrait. If not, then I tuck it away for a few days and when I return to it anything that may not look quite right normally stands out.. In this case I was happy with the portrait and he was packed up ready to go to his client.

Beautiful Stallion

Here, every so often when I get the opportunity I will be doing a detailed work in progress. Hopefully some of you will come and watch a portrait come together. More often than not it will be a personal project as most of my commissions are surprises and so I feel it isn’t wise to have them on website until they have been given to their new owner.

I will try and update as often as possible but it will depend on other commitments I have at the time.

I use Fisher400 artist paper to do all my pastels on and I use a mix of soft pastel sticks and pastel pencils. Hopefully how I use them will become apparent as I progress with the portrait. If you want to read more about pastels please visit my about pastels page

I do the outline drawing on scrap paper so as not to ruin the Fisher paper and then I transfer it by tracing on the back the outline and then rubbing it on to the Fisher paper like a transfer.

The next step is the fun bit – using the pastels – stand by for an update.

This is my current one.

It is a beautiful stallion I was lucky enough to photograph and have been looking to paint. He is set in the original background except I have blurred out a lot of it to make him stand out. I am still unsure about the background though and may change it as I start work.

I have also completed the outline drawing. I wasn’t to concerned with the background as I may be changing it.




Stage 1

I have transferred the outline of the stallion to the Fisher400 paper, which I use for all my pastel portraits.

I scan my drawing into the computer then flip it so it’s a mirror image of the drawing. I print it out and then trace the outline with a pastel pencil, then transfer it to the fisher paper by placing it face down, fastening with masking tape and rubbing over the back like you would any transfer.

The first image shows the transferred drawing and the soft pastels I will use for the background in this painting. The soft pastel sticks are Schmincke pastels and I use these for all my blended colour backgrounds such a Scuzz, and Charlie. I use pastel pencils for the detailed work on the animals and any detailed backgrounds such as Finn on my homepage.

I have latex glove to blend and smooth the soft pastel. The brush is a stiff bristle oil painting brush that I use to remove any pastel that may go over the outline of the horse as pastel pencil doesn’t go over the soft pastel very well, so I find it helps to remove it.

Stage 2

I put the pastels on the paper, for this I have used various ochre’s and greys and blue for the sky. When I have put the colours where I want I start blending using the latex glove.

As I blend I may add more colour if either if I want to change the colour slightly or there isn’t enough pastel to blend. I would advise not putting too much pastel down and adding more if needed rather than putting too much on and having to remove it.

Stage 3

This shows the background after it has been blended. I am fairly happy with this for the moment, but I may change it as the painting progresses.

I will normally move onto the foreground. For the most part I will use my pastel pencils for this. I would hope to have another update within the next few weeks, depending on how I get on with my commissioned pet portraits.

Stage 4

In the stage 4 image, I have roughly laid down the pastel in horizontal lines in ochres and greys to match the dusty background. I have then used a latex glove to smooth and blend it together (You can see the result of this in image 5). I add more colour where I think it needs it. I am sorry it’s a bit vague as I am making up this background as I go!

Stage 5

In this next photograph, you can see how I have blended the pastel together and I have now proceeded to add some more details. I have used a dark sepia and just made little stone like shapes and then gently smoothed them down with my finger. I only do this gently because I don’t want to smudge them too much and loose definition. If that happens pastel is very forgiving and it could be redone. This is why I love this medium so much. I have also done some lighter marks too. I have added some grey and burnt carmine. Burnt carmine is a favourite of mine by Derwent, It’s a purplish colour, but it works well in shadows and reflections.

I am now trying to add the dust kicked up by his hooves. I am currently using a pastel pencil for this, but may well turn to the soft pastel sticks, I am not sure yet.

Stage 6

I have the small update as promised. I have started blocking in the colours of the stallion with pastel pencils. No soft pastels are used for this process. I will continue to do this until I have the basic details down and then I will refine and add the finishing details after.

I occasionally smooth down the pastel with my fingers, but tend to try and avoid it too much as it can muddy the colours. I try to do most of my blending with the pastels themselves.

Stage 7

I have continued blocking the basic colours and the refined detail will go on last. I am adding some ochres to the stallion as well to show some reflection of the sandy ground. It is now really beginning to take shape.


Stage 8

I have continued with his body trying to create some depth to highlight his muscles and create a sense of strenght and power. I am still avoiding any really fine detail for the moment. I have at points gently smoothed over parts with my finger to soften up areas where it needed it. I do try to avoid doing to much of that though as it can muddy the pastels.

Stage 9

This is the penultimate stage now. I feel he is virtually finished, but I shall leave it now for 24, hours maybe a bit longer before I return too add the finishing touches. This way it normally makes anything that is not quite right jump out at me as I am looking at it with fresh eyes.

I have worked on his mane and tail and added some veins on his body. I didn’t put as many as there are on the photograph as I don’t think it was necessary I just wanted to suggest some.

His mane overlapped some of the soft pastel I used for the background. Pastel pencils will not go over this very well so this is where the paint brush comes in! I use it to gently remove some of the pastel, but not all of it. I shake the loose pastel off outside (don’t blow as its not to breathe in pastel dust!) I then blend it over again so it matches the rest of the

background, but there is now less pastel there and therefore easier to draw over with the pastel pencil.

I have also darkened up some of the darks and lightened up some of the lights and we are nearly finished!

With a few final tweaks we have the finished portrait titled ‘Wild At Heart’, which was given to him by Lucy aron Wilde. Hope you like it and thanks for reading.

Work in Progress

Here I will be showing the progress of one of the current pet portraits on my easel. I am always happy to answer questions about my techniques and the mediums I use to create my pet portraits. If you have any questions please contact me.

In between my pet portraits I always like to have a personal painting that I am working on. These will all be available for purchase when completed, and possibly limited edition prints released.

Photo to Portrait

I have decided here to show you in a basic format the steps involved in the creation of your pet portrait. I thought it maybe of interest to people who are considering a portrait and wanted to see how the process works and all the stages involved.

Splash horse portrait-1Step 1

This is the clients photograph. As you can see the photograph is in focus and fills the frame and the lighting is good, and most importantly no flash.




Splash Horse portrait-2Step 2

This is the mock up. In this instance my client wanted a plainish background for their horse portrait.




Splash horse portrait 3Step 3

I send an outline drawing to the client for them to approve, and once that has been done I can start their portrait.




Splash, pastel horse portraitStep 4 – Finished Portrait

The finished portrait! A photograph of the portrait is emailed to my client and it is then packed up ready for shipment to its new owners. Some of my clients like to see a couple of progress photographs and others prefer to wait until the portrait is finished. Just let me know and I am happy to do either.



Tips for taking your own photographs for your pet portrait

To ensure I can achieve the best results for your pet portrait it is important that I can work from clear images which show the unique details of your particular pet such as the fur, eyes, markings etc. If possible it is always best to send three or four images pointing out which one is most true to their colour. If you wish to send me some new photographs and you are not experienced in capturing pets here are a few tips I hope you will find helpful:

Photographs taken outside without flash or by a large window are the best to avoid red eye.

Try to avoid a really sunny day as the sun will cast dark shadows on your pet and the photograph won’t reflect their true coat colour. Likewise avoid a really dull overcast day.

Ideally, take your photographs with your back to the sun.

Take your pets photograph at their level rather than looking down to avoid and distortion or an unnatural pose and make sure they are facing the camera if you want a head/head and shoulders pet portrait.

Try to get as close to your pet as possible whilst staying in focus as this will give the maximum amount of detail and make painting the portrait easier.

Good photographs are essential as I can only paint what I see!