The latest pet portrait for Christmas is going to be of the beautiful Erin. A black greyhound. It has been a while since I have painted a portrait of a greyhound, the last portrait I did of one was Queenie earlier on in the year, so I am really looking forward to painting one of these gorgeous sight hounds. I would love to rescue one at some point, but I have my hands full with my crazy terriers currently!

I had a few photos of Erin to help me create he dog portrait, but we settled on the one below. Removing her pink collar and coat as I think they were just a distraction. Oh and I will also be adding the tip of her ear in. She has gorgeous soulful eyes! Can’t wait to paint these!


We will be changing the background also. It is a little unattractive. I am thinking more of an out of focus green foliage behind her with a blue sky, possibly with whisps of clouds in it. I am loving painting my clouds at the moment haha!

I also took the reference photo into photoshop and with my limited editing skills uppped the contrast and sharpened the photo very slightly to help me pick out the detail as you can see she is very slightly out of focus. I am not too worried about this though as I have other photos of her to help me with her portrait and also there are lots of greyhound photos online to help me with the bits that are hiding behind her collar. Thank goodness for google!

I have sketched Erin’s pet portrait out below. I have used brown pastelmat as it was to hand. Possibly would have used the dark grey if I had it is it would be a more natural choice for a black dog, but it doesn’t really matter.

So below we have the outline drawing for Erin’s pet portrait. I can now proceed with either Erin or the background. I decided on the background. I don’t know why I sometimes choose to do it the other way. Probably because the painting the animal is my favourite part.

It was decided after a discussion with my client we would go for some out of focus foliage for the background and blue sky. As you can see from the progress shot I decided to add a bit of grass in the foreground too. As you can see I have a way to go yet, but it is starting to take shape. 

I don’t worry if I go over the outline of Erin or my subject as I can brush the excess off with a bristle brush and reestablish the outline. You can see where I have done that around her mouth and muzzle. Tomorrow I hope to get the background done and then I can start on Erin’s portrait. 

I have now started the trees in the background. I really want these to be an impression of them, rather than anything too detailed as I really want Erin to be the absolute focus of the painting, After all I do pet portraits not landscapes. Saying that I have had an idea for a landscape series……watch this space, I really want to give it a go when I get a second.

I will return to the background at various stages throughout the painting as I work on Erin. A background rarely is totally complete until the pet is in or has started coming to life as you need them to work together. If you aren’t careful they can look like they don’t belong.

Now you can see I have started blocking in Erin, the details will follow later. This is just so I can establish proportions and colours and the underlying muscle structure will start to be established. This is essential with all pet portraits as you need this to make the animal look 3D and lifelike. You don’t want them to look flat, rather pop out on the page. It is also essential when you start adding the fur detail you draw it in the right directions as it always lies in a specific way, also defining the muscle structure of the dog. I have learnt by many years of experience if you put the fur in the wrong direction it doesn’t make for a very good portrait unfortunately!

I have made some more progress on Erin’s portrait today and will get a photo to upload tomorrow for you. I keep fiddling with the background whilst I am working on her. They aren’t harmonious yet, and I need them working in harmony. I am happier that I was earlier today, and it will get there. It is very important with all pet portraits the background doesn’t compete with your subject and works with it, so much so it enhances it. It is the same with the plain coloured backgrounds, although that is more a matter of picking a colour that works with your subject. Luna’s portrait I had to pick the background wisely. My client wanted yellow flowers but I felt they were too pale and she may get lost in them. It was either bluebells or poppies as there was enough contrast between her white fur and the bright colours of the flowers. They also wouldn’t over power her despite their strong hues, they made her stand out. Don’t forget if you are looking for ideas of backgrounds for your dog portrait you can see many of the different ones I have completed for clients in the gallery

I have carried on layering the colours in Erin, slowly starting to add detail to her. Again making careful note of which direction her fur lies. You can see on her neck I have had to correct an area. Even with not being able to see from the reference photo which way her fur went I knew from the way it was looking I had done it wrong. I ha to scour Google to find a few reference photos to help me with this. You can see for this photo where I have started to correct and although it is a bit of a mess it feels more ‘comfortable’ to look at and I know it’s starting to look better. Overall I will make her neck a little less detail as I want her beautiful face to be the focus as with all my pet portraits.

I have spent most of the afternoon working on Erin’s neck, adjusting the direction of the fur and blending it softly. I don’t want to make this part of her portrait as detailed as her face as I want your eye to be drawn to that rather than her neck and face. By blending out the detail everso slightly it helps to do this. You don’t want it to be as out of focus as the background either. It is a bit complicated to explain, but part of it is to depth of field (think photography) and the other is subtle adjustments I make to the painting, tricks I have learnt over the years to make your eyes drawn to the most import part of the pet portraits.

Anyway tomorrow it will be a case of finishing the whole portrait together, tie in the background with Erin and making sure it works in harmony. I will go over Erin’s face and pick out all the last details, she has lot’s of white flecks of fur and I don’t have enough in yet, adding her whiskers and making sure my shadows are as ark as the should be, and the highlights as bright as they need to be. I will also be adding some more very subtle blue and purple tones to her fur. A black dog is never black! Then it will be a case of scanning her in and showing my client. Also I need to add the relevant photos to this blog. Sorry to all those reading it and haven’t got them yet, but it I have found doing this as I work on a portrait a good way to remember update my blog. As I have painted a section if I come and talk about it I remember the process and to take a photo too! Otherwise I just plough on through forgetting everything and you end up with a rubbish blog! At least this way you get a better one, even if you have to wait for the photos!

Next up will be a gorgeous black lab, a cocker spaniel and quite a few others! It’s getting serious now. I fear a few late nights will be needed!

I will upload all the progress shots from my phone later today, but here is the beautiful Erin all finished! So you can at least see I haven’t been talking about on non existent dog portrait! I am about to email her over to my client so fingers crossed he will like it. The frame is due in today so updates will follow once framed.

The great news is my client is over the moon with Erin’s portrait. I framed her last night in a gorgeous, warm mid wood frame. I do love this frame. It suits most pet portraits is a medium width moulding.

Here you can see some lovely close ups of Erin’s framed portrait.


I am not packing up Erin’s portrait and will be taking her for delivery shortly. She doesn’t have a long journey, off to London. After lunch I will be starting Ike’s portrait.