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.
I am always delighted when a customer returns to me for another commission. It is an endorsement and validation that they appreciate the style and quality of my work and are happy to commission you to do another piece of artwork for themselves or a loved one.
Last year, Mrs Angela Rose had commissioned me to create a birth illustration for a young relative, with a collection of dinosaurs. On this more recent occasion, she requested me to create a portrait illustration of her daughter’s two West Highland Terriers: Milly and Harper. I prefer to take photographs of pets myself, whenever possible, so I went around to do a photoshoot of the two canine characters. Both of these two dogs were in a rather soporific mood on a hot July day that they needed to look their best for the camera. They were both very well groomed, but their sleepy moments were interspersed with bouts of running, racing and jumping, as Mrs Rose’s daughter, Amy, and myself strived to keep them awake whilst I took numerous photographs.
I have to say that both Milly and Harper were adorable in different ways, but I have a ‘soft-spot’ for Harper who gently raised her nose to touch mine whilst introductions were being made.
The illustration took a number of days to complete and required a background of fawn and soft browns to make Milly and Harper stand out. Whenever I am drawing ‘white’ dogs I am amazed to discover all of the different colours that go to make up the fur. These colours can include a range of browns, creams and fawns to name a few.
I handed over the finished commission to Mrs Rose and her husband, Ian, and they commented that the illustration was “spot on” and that Amy would be delighted with her personal and unique commissioned illustration.
I later heard that Amy was delighted and the commission will soon be displayed on her living-room wall. Thank you to the Roses and my other clients who return to me time-and-time-again for illustrations – it is very much appreciated.
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…
I’ve drawn a number of different breeds of dogs over the years, but never once a Jackhuahua. So, when a friend and ex-colleague, Marsha Lally, asked me if I would draw her Mum’s four dogs, I didn’t realise that I would be drawing not just one Jackhuahua, but two, as well as two Staffordshire Pit Bull Terriers. They say things come in threes, but these dog breeds came in twos.
I tend to be quite selective about the photographs I use in my illustrations, but because of the distance and limitations on how far I can travel, I asked Marsha if she could supply me with a range of different images to choose from. Images were supplied and I tried to choose four that would make a successful canine montage. One should not have favourites, I know, but I have to admit that Gizmo (the black-and-tan Jackhuahua on the left-hand-side of the picture) was my favourite dog of the four, although I did enjoy drawing Ruby (the third dog along) the most.
As the commissioned illustration was a surprise birthday present for Joanne (it was belated because the amount of work I had on at the time), it was all kept rather hush-hush. I was told that the picture, when presented to Joanne was a great success, so all of the planning and secret preparation was not in vain.
Kindly, Marsha and Joanne, gave me some of their thoughts, which they said I could use on my blog. Thank you ladies…
Quote from Marsha Lally: “I knew Michael was a great artist when I asked him to draw our dogs for my Mam’s birthday, but he has totally exceeded my expectations. It’s a wonderful picture that will be cherished forever.”
Quote from Joanne Telford: “The picture has really captured the essence of each of our dogs, it’s incredible.”
Of all of the breeds of dogs that I have drawn in my lifetime, spaniels must be the most frequent, followed close on the heels (or should I saw paws?) by Border Collies.
A couple of weeks before Christmas I was contacted by a very friendly gentleman, named Keith, who asked me if I could draw his daughter’s fiance’s dog. Within a few days I was being collected by Keith and taken to his home to photograph the dog, who turned out to be a highly intelligent and very active Springer Spaniel, by the name of Alfie. I love it when people arrange to have special and totally unique illustrations done for friends and relatives. There is usually so much thought behind these actions and it always speak volumes of how highly regarded the recipients are to those that commission the illustration.
It’s always lovely to draw people’s pets, but when you have met the pet and made their acquaintance it does make the illustration all the more special for me. Alfie had a lot of white fur, which was complemented by his dark chocolate fur and the amber tone of his eyes. He is a very handsome dog indeed and one that would be a lovely companion to a dog lover.
The illustration took a few days to complete and because of the large area of white on Alfie’s chest, I put in a suffused raw sienna tone behind him, to highlight the profile of his fur.
The commission was done in secret and collected by Keith, who was very pleased with the result… I heard later, that the illustration had been a big hit with the young gentleman, Marc, who had received the illustration on Christmas Day.
So, that is another spaniel to add to my collection…and he is soon to be followed by a Jack Russell and a West Highland Terrier. They do say that ‘variety is the spice of life’…
I’ve been rather busy doing some birth illustrations over the last few months and the odd portrait – both human and animal. As well as this, I have had a little time left to think about some art that I would like to create when a ‘window of opportunity’ opens. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading the newsletter, below, and that it is of some interest to you. Thanks…
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!).
This is an example of one of the many dog portraits I have done over the years.
I have lost track of the many different breeds that I have illustrated on my drawing board, but I think the breed that must win for numbers alone (above all others) are spaniels. I think I have done more spaniels than any other breed of dog. Sometimes I seem to do the same breed in clumps and have three Border Collies in a row, followed by a Jack Russell or a Yorkshire Terrier…
I took my own reference material (photographs mainly) for this illustration, as it is much easier to draw a dog – or any pet – once you have met him/her. Taking photographs from different angles (to choose the most suitable image later), is a good way of capturing the personality of the dog and knowing that the images you have taken will be suitable for the finished illustration.
Toby’s owner wrote to me to say that he was delighted with the portrait and that the picture has been viewed by his many friends around the world. Toby is a young Border Collie, re-homed with the diligence and care of Dogs Trust, www.dogstrust.org.uk, who made sure that the new home Toby was going to was both safe and suitable. I hope that the finished illustration shows both the intelligent and affectionate nature of Toby’s character.