Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The Cobbler's Child

Quick blog with the first of my animals I've done in a long time, hence the title!

The Pikester is very strikingly marked, so gave me the opportunity to play a bit with this.
I've deliberately restricted myself to working only the light areas, not the black paper. (I've also messed around with the exposure to black the black paper, and I seem to have darkened the white as well!)

It was quite strange not having to work to my 'format' for portraits, and was good to step outside the safe zone for a bit.

I need to leave it for a bit, as I'm not sure whether that's it or not!

Don't forget, anyone wanting to commission me, I'm in the UK second week in July ish!

Monday, 15 June 2015

Musical Pictures.

Two blogs in a week - I'm flying!

To follow on my theme of tricky portraits, I've recently finished a commission for a surprise birthday present from Emma and her sister, to their Mother. The portrait involved the very cute Jock and Jasper, two little dachshund boys.

A few years ago, I was commissioned to do a surprise portrait of Emma's fantastic event horse, Ninety Nine. It was a Christmas present that nearly didn't make the date due to the courier messing up the bar codes and sending both pieces of work picked up from me to the same address - and it wasn't theirs!!! There was a bit of a mad dash across Scotland to collect it in time!

Despite this being Emma's portrait, it was still hanging in her Mum's house in pride of place above the fireplace, so there was clearly an agenda behind this commission - Jock and Jasper could hang in the space where Ninety Nine was, and Emma could reclaim her present!

Before I started it, I thought it was going to be one of those ones that goes swimmingly and I was looking forward to doing it. I had excellent photos to work from, Jock and Jasper's colouring matched and the images sat well together. For some reason, however, I couldn't get into the swing of it. I have no idea why this sometimes happens, but it does, and it makes me twitchy when I have a deadline.

Because I can't really rub out mistakes with the way I work there is no real opportunity to correct errors, hence every mark I make on the paper has to be accurate. When the drawing flows, it's almost an instinctive process, but when every mark has to be a considered decision, my focus starts to fry a bit! Even when I can still see it's working and I do know it's going to be fine at the end, it is still quite stressful!

All I could do was just keep going, and when suddenly I turned the corner (admittedly near the end!) I was really pleased with it. I was really happy how the frame finished it off.

There's a bit more of the story - when I was following the courier tracker to make sure all was going well, there was a missed collection at the depot, the parcel didn't make the Friday pick up at the airport, and the Monday was a Bank Holiday. I though history was going to repeat itself, but luckily the parcel arrived with days to spare!

So I've had a bit of a double whammy of result with this, as Jock and Jasper went down a storm and have gone above the fireplace, and Emma has pinched her picture back!

All's well that ends well!

Friday, 12 June 2015

Delivering Prys

I'm a bit slow at this regular posting stuff. Must do better!

Anyway - two years ago, I offered a portrait to the organisers of the Campbell Gillies Memorial Ball, held to raise funds for the IJF - - who were a fantastic support to Campbell's family after his tragic death on holiday the previous year. The portrait raised £1500, and the subject of the photo was to be Jo Luton's stunning Prys, who sadly moved on to the pastures in the sky just before the ball.

I realise two years is a long time to come to fruition, but we had some difficulties finding good photos to work from, and then organising those photos to get to me. I ended up collecting them in person from Scotland last year. It wouldn't be one of the easiest portraits I've tackled, and I knew Prys (and Jo), so had to get him right.

There wasn't enough information on any of the photos to do one head portrait, and they were too far back in the photographer's records for him to find and to blow up from the negatives, so I worked from a jumping photo (with very kind permission from John Grossick, photographer extrordinaire!) and a snap Jo had of him, which to both of us summed his character up.

I then started the portrait the way I normally work on commission, with the paper colour that most of my clients prefer. For us artists, most times we start a piece of work there is the extreme self-doubt, the worry that it isn't working, and the dawning of relief that it is all coming together.

Only this time, it wasn't working, it didn't work, relief didn't dawn and and I had to scrap it. It looked heavy and clumsy and the colours were warring.

I then wanted to panic, of course. I had to walk away for a bit and decide what to do. ( I can't believe I've actually posted it, but I thought it might be interesting, even though I wince when I see it!)

Often when I do two different heads of two different horses together, it can be tricky getting the colour right (as an aside, black horses beside chestnut horses are REALLY awkward). In this instance, I think the lack of information combined with the amount of shadow in the photos, and the seasonal coat colour change, made it very hard to pull both images together.

I left it a few weeks, revisited, and thought that maybe working on a black paper where I could allow the shadow to disappear into the background might be a solution, so I ran with it, and I think it worked.

Once the portrait is finished, in an instance like this it can also be difficult to frame well. Finding one frame that highlights the same colours on both heads can be a challenge. Clever framing will lift certain areas of a piece of work, and bad framing will make the eye see only the frame. However gorgeous a frame may be, on a portrait it must enhance, not override.

Hopefully I've got the mix right. So far Jo likes the photos of the portrait, but I will be delivering Prys in person in July, so that will be the acid test.

On that note - I will be in the UK photographing horses for commissions in the first half of July.

So far, my journey is taking me from Portsmouth to Dundee, so if you live in the UK and want your horse(s) or dog(s), or anything else photographed for a future portrait I can pretty much sort out anywhere. Plenty of warning would be great, so that I can arrange the route accordingly.

Please contact me and let me know on

The contact page on here has my phone details, (tho please don't try the UK one until I'm in the UK!) if you'd prefer to phone me to arrange to photograph.

Look forward to seeing everyone!