I often get asked why I do most of my pet portraits in pastels rather than oils. Well there’s a very practical answer in that my studio is in the converted loft in the family home and I can easily move my work downstairs to continue working on it when my kids are home from school. However thereare other reasons for pastels being my medium of choice.
I’ve explained here before how the pastel medium also produces a unique richness of colour, tones and contrasts I love working with so it gives me more creative as well as practical flexibility. The also create a unique softness in all my pet portraits which adds to the realism to all of my paintings. It often looks like you could run your hands through their fur. I haven’t discovered another medium that can do that quite like pastels. I believe the paper I use makes all the difference too. There are many pastel papers out there, but I would only consider using two for my pet portraits. The first is fisher400 paper. This is a sanded paper and you can blend and have many, many layer to your artwork. It is fabulous to work on and soft pastels and pastel pencils both are a treat to use on this fabulous surface. Do watch your fingers though! It will take the top layer of skin off if you like to use them to blend. I always have gloves on when using this paper.
The other paper I use and use predominantly now is pastelmat by clairefontaine. It isn’t a sanded paper. it has a softer surface and you can get it both as paper and board. It is by far the most popular pastel surface out there and I know so many pet portrait artists that use it for their work. You can use coloured pencil with it and it is kinder to your pencils than the Fisher paper. That has a habit of eating your pencil. Pastelmat takes many layers too and I would say the surface grips the pastels like no other pastel paper. You certainly don’t need to worry about fixative.
I often get asked if I work in oils, and people are surprised when I say it is pastel. They also say “but surely an oil portrait is the real thing and enduring medium”. To be honest that’s a bit of a myth. The outcome of oil versus pastel work is often indistinguishable and the latter is less expensive as commissions can be quicker to complete.
And a piece of pastel art is as long lasting as oil as long as it is professionally mounted and framed and carefully handled and looked after like any piece of artwork – all art will fade over time if kept in direct sunlight so I do advise everyone to hang their pet portraits on a wall that doesn’t get the sun all day.
The final reason for my focus on pastels is customer choice. A few years ago when the majority of work was in acrylic medium and I started experimenting in pastels, the proportion of my workload quickly started shifting towards the latter. I managed to develop my own unique style that people really liked.
That said I am happy working in all mediums and enjoy the variety of doing commissions in each
Please view my various galleries to see my work., in all the galleries you will see a mix of work on the Fisher and pastelmat paper. I don’t think you can tell the difference!