Next commission and we are back to the pastel pet portraits. I am enjoying the mix of juggling between coloured pencil and pastel and I even had a pen and watercolour commission to do this week. It has been a while since I have completed one of those.

Tia is a stunning golden retriever and I have two commissions that I am focusing on this coming week. Both have very similar colouring. They are both paler Goldens. Gorgeous.

Anyway back to Tia. My clients decided on a 14×11 inch portrait framed and we have a lovely out of focus background which will really make Tia stand out beautifully. 

Painting the Background

So the background is going to be painted in soft pastel sticks as the have grat coverage and are easy to blend to create the out of focus look or bokeh effect I want for Tia’s portrait. 

The background in the reference photograph is mainly made up of cool greys which compliments her fur colouring perfectly being that she has a lighter coat. I decided to add some green, just some subtle green to break up the grey and add some some interest. There was some sandy colour also that I added in. It is a lovely balance of warm and cool colours and I think it is going to work so well with Tia.

If you would like to see how I put my background together, please feel free to watch my video on facebook

Here you can see the pretty much finished background. I am quite likely to tweak it as progress with Tia’s portrait, but it wont change dramtically from this now.

Tia, pastel dog portrait of a golden retriever

Tia’s Portrait

Once the background is pretty much how I want it the best bit of the pet portrait can start. Painting Tia. 

I have looked at her coat carefully and it really is a mix of cool and warm colours. The cool greys in her pale fur will work fabulously with the background and the warm bits will be picked up by the warm hues in the background. I have picked a selection of warm and cool greys. Mostly from the carbothello range, ivory, saffron from the derwent range and a yellow ochre, oh and a raw umber. These are the main colours I will be using for her glorious fur.

I, as normal start with the eyes. Always want the eyes right and it is weird if they can’t ‘see’ you haha. Her eyes are almost black, but not quite. Her catchlights are blue. So I make sure I use those colours. I have added a close up of her left eye as we look at it so you can see what I have done close up

Once done I make a start on building up the layers of her fur. The shadows on her seem to mainly be warm greys with cold grey falling across her nose. Carefully paying attnetion to where they fall I build up the layers.

Please feel free to watch the video on the first eye on her pet portrait here .Sorry about my waffle! If you can stand to listen to that you deserve a medal.

Tia’s Pet Portrait Coming to Life.

I think you can really see Tia is starting to come alive. Her eyes are full of life and the details and shading make her look 3D rather than a flat subject.

The other thing that is particularly important is the whisps of hair that Tia has that overlap the background. It is very important to add these in on any portrait. Even short haired animals will have them, albeit shorter! This stops the edge of the animal being hard and almost looking cut out and stuck on. It helps give a sense of depth to the portrait and adds to the realism. This is one of the main reasons I normally do the background before. Sometimes I break my own rules, but generally it just makes it harder for me!

I had a complete day focusing on Tia with great success, no live streams or time lapses, just Tia and I, bonding in the studio. As a result she is nearly finished. It will be a case of coming back to her with fresh eyes in the next 24 hours or so and adding the finishing touches.

Tia’s Finished Pet Portrait

I am so delighted with how Tia has turned out! The softness created for her portrait is lovely and really reflects her gorgeous silky coat in real life. Sometimes pet portraits can exceed your expectations and I think Tia is one of them.

I am not trying to sounf like I am boasting, believe me I spend many hours as a pet portrait artist getting exceedingly frustrated with my work and only seeing where I want to improve it. We are a highly critical breed. Tia is one of those that, whilst I can always never be 100% happy, I am delighted with the result.

I’d love to hear what you think of the finished piece. Now just to frame her!

Tia, 14×11 inches on pastelmat


Tia, goldren retriever dog portrait in pastels

Framing Tia’s Portrait

I have had a bit of a struggle the last few days. Sometimes I think the whole enormity of the COVID-19 hits me every now and then and other times I am quite happy bimbling along in my little arty world. 

Due to that sometimes my creativity becomes a struggle so I refocused on admin and other bits for a while. I also managed to get Tia’s portrait framed. My clients chose a beautiful brushed pewter/dark silver frame for her portrait and I have to say it works fabulously with the background. It has finished of the pet painting superbly. If you are interested in commissioning me don’t hesitate to contact me.


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