I can hardly believe this is my 100th blog post, how time flies!
It’s been a busy start to the year, which has seen me being fully occupied almost every minute. This is a good thing, in many ways, as the news is full of concerning headlines and it would have been more difficult for me if I hadn’t had things to keep me fully occupied.
Last year, my friend, Mary Redshaw, requested me to do an illustration of her late pet – a beautiful greyhound, named ‘Rio’, whom she had obtained from a rescue centre. Having re-homed Rio later in the dog’s life, Mary didn’t have a great deal of time to spend with her new greyhound, but that time was very enjoyable and special and Mary’s whippet, ‘Tina’, also loved her new companion.
They had some great times at Cullercoats beach and Mary has some stunning seascape photographs of the wonderful times they spent up there visiting Mary’s sister.
Illustrating black dogs can be a bit ‘tricky’ as very often there’s no shape or texture to the illustration; so to convey the beauty and the gentleness of the dog, as well as her texture, I made the drawing slightly more pastel, so the detail and expression can be seen. Mary is delighted with the pet portrait, which is now framed and displayed on the wall with all of Mary’s other beloved canine friends.
I always say the love of a dog is so unconditional; they don’t care what you look like or what you do for a living – they just show their belief and trust in you.
I think this is a very difficult time for all of us in our history and it is time now to have a belief and trust in each other at a time when it’s most needed.
One of my friends, Mary Redshaw, has commissioned a great many illustrations from me, but this time it was her niece, Laura Stewart, who approached me to do an illustration for her husband as a Father’s Day gift. Gary and Laura became proud parents of Oliver last year and this picture shows the pride that Gary has in his wonderful son.
I have done numerous portraits in my time, but very few, if any, has given me as much joy to do as this one. I think the fascination for me is that the image has captured a special moment, as Oliver goes to greet his father who has lifted him up. The joy on Oliver’s face and his cute smile were wonderful to create.
As the photograph I was given to work from was black-and-white or mono, the best medium to use, for me, was graphite pencils. I chose a harder pencil, primarily 2H, as I didn’t want any part of the picture to be too dark or black. The picture is tender and emotional and I felt the pencils used to create this should reflect that. So, all the B pencils were banned from this commission!
Thank you, Laura, for allowing me to the share this special moment and to produce it in illustration form. I am very pleased to hear that Gary appreciated his Father’s Day gift and I hope Oliver was suitably impressed with it too 🙂
I went to visit my friend, Mary Redshaw, this month and catch up with her over a few pots of tea and a fish and chip lunch. I always enjoy this social time with this lady, who proudly displays all of the commission work that I have done for her (all beautifully framed and presented in her living-room). I always enjoy seeing her two ‘new’ dogs: one a Greyhound named Rio and the other a whippet named Tina.
One of my favourite dog portraits I illustrated for Mary was the picture of her brown Doberman Pinscher – Tia, who was such a character. She certainly was a dog that knew her own mind and no amount of persuasion or commands could change her mind if she thought contrary to the request.
I remember doing a mono illustration of Tia, as well as the colour…because I wasn’t sure which one I liked best… Which one would you choose?
It’s my last posting of the year next month; I am so grateful that there are so many people reading this blog now. I am told by WordPress that my stats are booming, so thank you to all of the people who are reading my posts regularly…
Dina, pronounced ‘Dinah’, is my fourth Doberman Pinscher illustration for Mary Redshaw. I have known Mary from my time working at a tertiary college and she has always had a love of dogs, particularly Doberman Pinschers, and during the last five-years I have drawn a succession of Mary’s beautiful dogs: Gina, Tia, Della and now Dina.
For some reason, I always had a soft spot for Dina and despite the fact that she could be as mischievous as her sister, Della, I never wanted Dina to get the blame. I never got to meet Mary’s ‘girls’ apart from once, when I met Dina and took her and Mary’s whippet, Tina, for a walk. Dina was, by now, quite an ‘old girl’ and was having difficulty with her breathing and her walking was impaired, but despite all of this she had a beautiful nature and was a perfect companion for Mary and the spritely young whippet.
I drew this commission after having looked at hundreds of photographs that Mary had taken of Dina; together we chose the one that we liked the best and that reflected her gentle nature. Using coloured pencils, chalk and a small amount of watercolour paint the illustration was completed in just over two-days. Mary asked if it would be possible to include my ‘motif’ of a ladybird, so that was included near my signature and is the first time I have done this for a pet illustration.
I handed over the commission to Mary today and she was very ‘moved’ and said that I had captured Dina’s expression and character very well. It’s always nice to be able to see the expression in people’s faces when I hand over my work to them. One of Mary’s friends came to her house later in the afternoon and recognised Dina.
Mary is soon to get Dina framed and hung on the wall with her other canine friends, a collection of illustrations and photographs and memories that mean so much to her in more ways than one…
When I first saw the photographs of Mary Redshaw’s dogs, I had no idea what breed they were. I had never seen a brown Doberman Pinscher before; only being familiar with the Anubis-like Doberman Pinschers (with the pointed ears and black-and-tan colouring), that I had seen on TV programmes, like ‘Magnum P.I.’ with Tom Selleck.
After having watched ‘Magnum P.I.’ Mary’s interest in the breed was kindled. She has owned a good number of Doberman Pinschers over the years – male and female, both black-and-tan and brown-and-tan varieties. Her first Doberman Pinscher puppies were Tara in 1987, followed by Elsa in 1989 and Ziggy in 1993. She is an excellent pet-owner and takes marvellous care of her dogs; she currently has one brown Doberman Pinscher, called Dina (pronounced Dinah) and a blue-fawn-brindle-and-white Whippet called, Tina.
I’ve drawn a number of Mary’s dogs, including Gina and Tia over the last two years. Drawing peoples’ beloved pets, (when the pet is no longer with us) from their photographs takes time and selecting the right photograph with enough ‘drawable’* quality is paramount to the success of the end result.
We chose a lovely photograph of Della, who Mary had owned from 2005 to 2012. The photograph showed Della’s gentle doe-like features and loving nature. The drawing process can take many hours, as each ‘coat’ of colour builds up the fur of the dog. Mary was delighted with the result of this illustration and I have agreed to go for a long-promised walk with her and ‘the two girls’ before this month is out!
“I am thrilled to bits with the illustrations that Michael did for me. They are excellent! Just looking at the portraits is like looking at my dogs, because they seem to look back at me. They are so life-like and much better quality than the photographs he had to work from. They have been really well admired by everyone that has seen them.” Mary Redshaw
*Note: “In addition to simple drawing, ‘Drawable’ provides a number of generic mechanisms for its client to interact with what is being drawn”. I thought I had made this word up, as I had never heard it before. But after typing it into a popular search engine, this explanation appeared (as if by magic!).