Thursday, 18 January 2018


This is the very beautiful Tay.

Her commission came about in a novel way for me, as she was a surprise leaving present from a Veterinary practice to a departing member of staff. I had previously portrayed a dog for the the practice owners, and they thought a voucher for a portrait of the recipient's adored Labrador would go down well. I was of course delighted to oblige, and even happier to have such a glorious subject!

Tay is a gorgeous example of a Golden Labrador, but not only that, she has been a catalyst for me. I am very proud of this piece, the comment below is not because I'm unhappy with it at all, she's simply been the trigger, because of her colour. Bear with me, and I'll explain.

Portraiture has to be exact, I have to get it right. I have to portray the animal I'm commissioned to, not a generic breed type, or where my 'feel' wants to take me.
My technique of working with pastels and coloured pencils allows me to execute an extreme of detail not as feasible in paint. The downside to pastels is the limitation of the colour spectrum.  Over the years, I've developed the skills to mix pastel blocking to achieve the shades I need. I've learned the colours that can't blend, due to the physical structure of the chalk or pastel, rather than the colour restrictions. I know the colours I can work on top of, and the colours I can't. I've worked within these parameters for years, but I'm increasingly becoming frustrated with what I want to do, and the colours I want to use that don't exist within this medium.
Colour is important, and I've honed my craft to such an extent that I think I mostly achieve what I'm trying to do, what is required. Sometimes, the block layer appeals to me more than the end portrait, but the detail is lacking and colours are never accurate enough, because the pencil work is what gives the depth and the texture to the finished piece. Frustratingly, the camera never captures that, not even with a professional photgrapher. It's a bit like trying to photograph velvet, the subtleties of tone vanish.

The reason this portrait was a bit of a game changer for me was how very easily the pastel colours for the blockwork flowed and blended at the first stage. Then, when I got to work on the detail, the limitations of standard colours again frustrated me. I worked through it, I know how to, but it has motivated me to look at more options. Below are the two stages of the piece, the block work and the finished one.

 The newsflash is, I'm starting to do some pieces in oils. Only for myself at the moment, but I will blog the process when I'm happy with the finished work.  I have thought for years that I'm trying to make pastels work like oils, to achieve that strength, depth and limitless colour that oils give. The ease of making the colours I need is inspiring; my ability to channel them, and work with a wet brush, somewhat less so!
If you got this far, thank you for reading, I hope it wasn't too long or dull, and I apologise to the stunning Tay for hijacking her blog post. 😊

I have no intention of stopping working in pastels, so feel free to carry on commissioning me for the work that I'm known for!