Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions

What are Pastels?

‘Pastel is pure pigment, the same pigment used in making all fine art paints. It is the most permanent of all media, when applied to conservation ground and properly framed. Pastel has no liquid binder that may cause other media to darken, fade, yellow, crack or blister with time. Pastels from the 16th century exist today, as fresh as the day they were painted. No restoration needed, ever!

The name Pastel comes from the French word “pastische” because the pure, powdered pigment is ground into a paste, with a small amount of gum binder, and then rolled into sticks. The infinite variety of colours in the Pastel palette range from soft and subtle to bold and brilliant.

An artwork is created by stroking the sticks of dry pigment across an abrasive ground, embedding the colour in the “tooth” of the paper, sand board or canvas. If the ground is completely covered with Pastel, the work is considered a Pastel painting: leaving much of the ground exposed produces a pastel sketch.’

© Pastel Society of America

After many years of painting pet portraits I have found that pastels are my preferred medium for my subjects creating a natural softeness yet vibrancy that cannot be recreated with any other medium. It has the advantage of being instantly drying unlike oil paints. You can see the quality of my pet portraits for yourself in my pet portrait galleries

What do I do with my unframed pastel painting?

Now you have removed the paper, cardboard and bubble wrap you can peel back the marked tabs/tape and view your pastel painting. Once you have viewed it please re-seal and keep it in this protective ‘sandwich’ until it is framed. Of course you can view it again and show others, but please ensure it is always re-sealed and stored in a dry, cool place.

  • Please don’t brush or blow the surface to clean off dust!
  • Please don’t touch the surface of the pastel painting, imagine it is like wet paint. It smudges very easily!
  • Don’t spray fixative without the artist’s permission!

Pastels can be framed with or without a mat, but in either case, a minimum of 1/4 inch should be maintained between the surface of the artwork and the glass cover. This can be done by using multiple mats, or by the use of spacers.

A sturdy Plexiglass/Perspex can be used instead of glass. Before installation, it should be treated for removal of static, and the space between it and the pastel surface should probably be somewhat deeper than it would be for glass.

Pastels may shed small dust-like particles of loose pigment. To maintain a clean appearance, provide a space that will hide these particles. One method is to use a reverse bevel, Another is to use a double mat with a spacer between. The spacer can be a plastic strip made for this purpose, foam board, or even pieces of matting cut smaller than the exposed mats.

I do get asked a lot if I fix my pet portraits. The answer to this is no! The reasons are threefold. Firstly the paper I use to create you pet portraits grips the pastels very well and there is virtually any shedding of pastel and fixative doesn’t really prevent it. Secondly, I find fixative can dull the colours of the painting and even change them slightly. This maybe subtle but as I spend may hours trying to get them accurate to your pet I don’t want any shift in that. Thirdly, I had a nasty experience with the fixative splattering a completed portrait painting in blobs of fixative. It took hours to sort out and after that I vowed never to fix any pet portraits again!

How do I take care of my painting?

Please remove the masking tape from the glass. This is put here just in case the glass shatters during transit and prevent it falling on the surface of the painting and damaging it. If it leaves a slight residue please remove very gently with a very slightly damp cloth. Please ensure it is only slightly damp to prevent any moisture entering the frame.

When attaching the D-rings with the screws to hang you painting please do this very gently, screw them in by hand and don’t bang or knock the painting as it could cause some pastel particles to come loose.

I use the highest quality pastels and paper available for my pastel paintings, but as with any fine work of art or fine furniture, it is advised not to place a Pastel painting in direct sunlight. It is best to avoid direct sunlight and fluorescent lighting: both are rich in ultraviolet light and will provoke fading.

‘When under glass, the heat of the sun can create humidity, which could cause moisture damage to develop. Pastel paintings should always have a space between the glass and the painting to avoid pastel particles sticking to the glass. The use of ‘spacers’ or a mount is therefore recommended. Never touch pastel paintings direct as they are very sensitive to touch and smudge easily. Whenever transported or not in a hanging position, a Pastel painting should always be face up.’

© Pastel Society of America

I know the above makes pastel paintings sound very delicate but they are actually sturdier than it sounds, as long as they are treated with care your painting will outlive you!

I hope you enjoy your pastel painting for many years to come as much as I enjoyed creating it. I have worked creating pet portraits in pastels for many years like this and you can read my satisfied clients testimonials.

How long does my pet portrait take?

My waiting list is normally 8-10 weeks, but this can be longer in busier periods such as Christmas. If you want a pet portrait for Christmas please order in plenty of time, I start getting enquiries for Christmas gifts in early September.

If you have left it to the last minute to order your pet portrait I will try my best to accommodate you, but if this is not possible I also sell gift vouchers which have proven to be very popular and can be a great alternative if you want you recipient to be involved in the process.

What format do my photographs need to be in?

Digital is preferred as it makes it easier for me to adapt the image if need be for composition ideas. Please send them to me as high as resolution as possible please as the detail is essential for me to create your portrait.

Film is fine though if you don’t have digital. I do advise you send it recorded delivery for peace of mind. All photographs will be returned with the completed portrait.

With either format its essential the subject is in focus, fills the frame and natural lighting is used, not flash. You can read my tips and more about the quality of the photos I need to create your pat painting here

How do you go about creating my portrait once you have my photographs?

The first step is to decide what type of portrait you want, a plain or detailed background, framed or unframed, full body or head and shoulders. From there I design a composition for you to approve. Once you are happy with that I will create an outline drawing. This is for you to check you are happy with the proportions and the composition one last time before I start with the colour.

Once I get the go ahead I start with the pastels and this when your portrait really starts to come to life. Some clients like to have a few updates as the portrait progresses and others like to wait until I have finished the portrait before I show them a photograph. From there its framing and/or shipment. I have detailed steps on creating you pet portrait here or you can watch the progress of pet portraits I am working on in my blog which is updated pretty much daily

What about payment of my pet portrait?

Payment can be made by cheque made payable to S. Leigh or direct into my bank account. I ask for a 30% non-refundable deposit before I start work and the balance is due upon completion before shipment. I can also offer installment payments as well. Please contact me for more information

Will it look like my pet?

Yes I guarantee a likeness and will work with you to achieve that. The balance is only due when you are entirely happy with you pet portrait.Some people like to see some progress shots of their pet portrait. I am happy to do so, please just let me know. If not I send a final scan for you to approve. A that time any amendments can be made. Pastel is a great medium to make corrections to. Not that I need to very often. Most people are delighted with their portraits. Please see below some examples of portraits next to the photographs my clients sent me.

Is my pet portrait guaranteed to be delivered in time?

Yes, so far I have never missed a deadline for a pet portrait. What I cannot account for or be held responsible for is delivery problems due to adverse weather conditions or other things beyond my control.`All my pet portraits are sent either via parcelforce or special delivery to ensure speedy delivery and all pet paintings are sent with full insurance.

Can you paint any pet?

Yes, I can do a pet portrait of any animal you would like. I have done a hawk, a parrot and a rabbit amongst others. I welcome any unusual or exotic animal to paint. Providing the photographs are of good enough quality any animal is a possibility. I can also paint groups of pets, be it you dogs, cats and horses or even a mix. I will produce a mock up of your pet portrait before I start to make sure you are happy with the layout and any colours that maybe used in the background.

Can you ship your pet portraits outside the UK?

Yes, I have sent my pet portraits all over the world, as far as Australia and America, don’t let distance stop you from ordering the wonderful gift. Please contact me for details and a quote for shipping your pet portrait. 

Can you a put in a specific background?

Most of my pet portraits come with a diffused colour background, but if you would like you dog or horse or any other pet put in a specific scene its not a problem at all. If you have a favourite place or just an idea please let me know and we can work together to create your perfect pet portrait. I will always produce a mock of you pet portrait in photoshop before I start your painting to make sure you a completely happy with the layout. You can visit my galleries to see the different style backgrounds and options previous clients have chosen and it may give you some ideas yourself

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