Sam and Katie – Dog Portraits

A friend and former colleague, Graeme Stobbart, asked me if I could produce a portrait of his two dogs, both of which were no longer with us. Unfortunately, Sam, the Jack Russell, had been passed for a good number of years and the photographs that Graeme and his family had of him were of a quality not best for producing a detailed illustration. However, after sourcing and selecting a number of photographs of Sam, from different angles, I was just able to work out his facial marking and colouration. It wasn’t the easiest of jobs I’ve ever had to do, but sometimes it’s worthwhile making the effort for a friend, especially one that would go the extra mile for you.Sam and Katie (smaller)forblog
I was pleased to get this commission completed when I did, and was delighted to hear that Graeme’s parents, Derek and Diane, were delighted with the finished illustration. It made all of the effort spent at the drawing-board worthwhile. The hardest part for me was putting pencil to paper, not knowing whether the finished result was going to be what myself or my clients expected.

This illustration was also a first for me, as I have (very surprisingly) never drawn a West Highland Terrier before. I loved drawing the picture of Katie, who looks just like the kind of canine friend I would love to have had myself. I have always had a ‘soft-spot’ for Westies, to be honest.

I chose a silver-grey background paper to draw this illustration on, as white would not have been a good contrast to Katie’s light fur and too dark a colour wouldn’t have shown Sam in the best way either, (as both dogs are rather a tonal contrast). I had to resort to using a wide variety of mediums to produce this illustration: coloured pencil, watercolour paint and even chalk. I don’t often mix mediums, but this seemed to give the right feel for different parts of the picture.

I handed over the commission to Graeme on the 14th May (whilst we were having a catch-up and a coffee in Starbucks) with a certain amount of trepidation, as I had never met Sam and Katie and wasn’t sure that I had ‘captured them’ in the illustration. It always gives me a sigh of relief when I know that all of the chalk, sweat and paint have met the hopes and expectations of the person receiving the final piece of artwork. Phew!

Quote from Client ~

“As soon as I saw the portrait it was obvious that Michael had not only drawn (and painted) an amazing picture, but that he had captured the spark that made Sam and Katie so special to us. There is so much life in the portrait and it was no surprise that there were tears when Mam saw the portrait. Michael has worked wonders with the source material and has reflected the characters of two very different little dogs beautifully.”

Graeme Stobbart

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Alfie – Springer Spaniel Pet Portrait

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.
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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’…

Joshua – Boy’s Birth Picture

Further to my last birth picture posting on 22 May (please see Phoebe post), I have had a couple of messages asking me how the colour is ‘built up’ to complete the illustrations.

On one of my latest commissions, I have tried to photograph the different stages (I was halfway through the commission when I thought of it), to show you how this is achieved. To be brief, the colour is built up in stages and because there (probably) isn’t a specialist coloured-pencil to match each and every colour required in the illustration, these pencils have to be blended to create the desired hue and shade.

STAGE 1 – CONCEPT AND SCAMP
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I usually play around with the name in my mind’s eye and try different variations before I begin to start putting blue pencil to paper. I wanted the dogs to be quite interactive in this illustration, so came up with the idea of the canines holding the letters of the little boy’s name. I had originally intended to do different coloured food bowls for the dogs, but changed my mind at a later date.

STAGE 2 – SKETCH (drawn in blue pencil)
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I produced a more detailed sketch of what I hoped the final illustration would look like. I have had a good idea from the clients what they are expecting and they (a family of dog lovers) have also let me know what breeds they would like to be included. From the list, I chose a West Highland Terrier, Old English Sheepdog, Labrador, Dalmatian (one of my favourite breeds of dog), Basset Hound, Boxer and, finally, an Irish Red Setter. I chose various implements to surround them with (rather than the dog bowls I had previously decided upon), which represent their characters (often as they appear in the world of the media).

STAGE 3 & 4 – COLOUR THE ILLUSTRATION
From the sketch a final pencil drawing is created. This will be coloured to create the final piece of artwork. You can see the pencil drawing at the right-hand side of this picture, where the Boxer and Irish Red Setter are shown as feint outlines.
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I have started colouring the illustration, adding in a rather ‘fetching’ cushion, which shows the West Highland Terrier to good effect! I am now beginning work (you can see from the illustration) on the Basset Hound. Already I am blending different colours on the dog’s side (see under the letter ‘s’). I have also started adding in a second colour (this one is raw sienna) on the right-hand side of the dog’s head. I’ve also begun work on the maroon-coloured shoe (I won’t say the possible brand name), which sits in front of the Basset Hound.

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At this stage, the work is complete on the Basset Hound (I may touch it up later, but the majority of the work is complete on him). The maroon shoe is finished too. I have started work on the Boxer; this is at a more advanced stage than the Basset Hound was in the previous illustration. I have also started to put the first ‘coat’ or layer of colour on the boxing glove. The wooden box, which he is sitting in, is about halfway complete at this stage.

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The Boxer and his crimson glove are finished. I am now working on the letters ‘u’ and ‘a’, along with adding the first two layers of colour to the Irish Red Setter’s coat. Building up the colours can be quite time-consuming (having to look for different coloured pencils and blending them), but it all depends on the subject. The Setter is more or less different shades of the same ‘colour family’, so this will not take as long as the Boxer or the Basset Hound.

ImageThe final illustration will then be completed with the name and personal details relating to Joshua’s birth. I am pleased to say that the family were delighted with the picture and are going to come back to me when they have their next ‘new addition’ to the family.

I hope this was of some interest to you. Michael