Well out of my comfort zone with this one as I normally paint using soft pastels. However, when asked to do a Bearded Dragon called ‘Puff’ as a Christmas present, I decided that watercolour would suit this better using a slightly looser style to my norm.
Using140 lbs watercolour paper I built Puffs’ main color with a few washes. Some of the main detail and darker areas were drawn with a 0.5 mm pen then using Stabilo 0.4 mm colouring pens to add further detail and colour.
I needed to get a good contrast to Puffs’ orange and yellow colouring and after testing various watercolour paints, decided that ‘Aquacryl’ would give the required effect. They have a wonderful vibrant colour when used undiluted and a slight sheen when dry.
It was certainly a challenge and I am looking forward to using this technique again for my next dragon .
There is a rather sad but also heart warming story behind my most recently finished commission. The request was to take a rather grainy picture of a World War 1 soldier, and add more detail to the picture.
The soldiers name was Harold Dyson. A young private enlisted with the Duke Of Wellingtons West Riding Regiment. He was killed in action on the 8th October 1917 at the age of 21.
Mick, who requested this commission, had found Harold’s name on a poppy that he bought his daughter from the British Legion. It was a rather special poppy called a Passchendaele 100 pin, and it was made from the fuses of the shells that rained down on the soldiers during the war.
His daughter Nelly, who was 15 at the time, was touched by the sentiment of the poppy and wanted to go to Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium to find out a little more, and to pay her respects.
She has since made this trip and now plans to return every year to continue the remembrance of this young soldier.
Mick will also be returning to Harold’s home town of Golcar near Huddersfield where Harold was born to also continue remembrance there.
The portrait of Private Harold Dyson has now been presented to his Daughter and they are both currently heading to Tyne Cot to pay their respects.
It is wonderful to know that Mick and his daughter feel so strongly that this young soldiers sacrifice, that was also made by so many, be remembered. They keep the memory of Private Harold Dyson alive.
I can only hope I have done him justice in my representation of his photograph,
More information on Harold can be found at the link below.
Meet Nido, a dog portrait of a lovely little Cockapoo, painted in soft pastels as a commission for a wedding present.
This dog portrait is painted using soft pastels and is a bespoke 12″ x 9″ size prior to framing. The finished artwork was professionally framed complete with with artist glass (enhances the colours).
I have made a short slideshow for anyone curious in how this picture developed over time from start to finish.
In my earlier years doing dog portraits, I always started with the eyes first and worked around the picture from there. This invariably caused huge problems with eye position and scale, resulting in massive amounts of reworking. Nowadays, thanks to workshop tuition from Margaret Evans, I work on the portrait as a whole, and this is now the standard process that I use for both people and animal portraits.
This coo was pretty damp but I’m pretty sure he was warm under that fur. Painted using soft pastels on Colourfix paper and based on a photo my daughter took while we were on a wee road trip around the Highlands.
A larger picture than normal at 20 x 16 inches prior to framing, so for the background I used dark browns with water to apply a loose wash, overlayed with some light blue.
I’m still deciding whether to cut down to 16 x 16 inches so will test out digitally.
Meet Tarley, a Border Collie cross. This recently completed commission in charcoal (and a little bit of pastel) is 16″ x 12″ prior to framing and drawn on white cartridge paper. A friend of Archie (my previous post), Tarley is a cross with a Golden Retriever and quite the handful. After a lot of toy throwing in the garden we eventually managed to get a good picture to work from.
Meet Archie. Commission is soft pastels on “Colourfix” paper, 16″ x 12″ prior to framing.
This young Cocker Spaniel pup is so full of energy and fun I wondered how on earth I was going to get a reference photo. My luck was in though, and I managed to capture his look on my very first shot.
His coat is amazingly soft and I used some iridescent gold pastel to try highlight this. It’s not so obvious in the photograph of the finished picture, but in the right light, it catches the eye when passing by the original.
I love working with charcoal as it is such a malleable medium allowing it to be moved and lifted easily. Unlike graphite pencils, it does not have a ‘sheen’ and so looks the same from any angle.
I recently completed a couple of pictures in charcoal that were commissioned by a Grandmother as Mothers Day presents for her two daughters. Having met these two wee boys in person I am glad I work from photos as they never seem to stop moving. Hopefully their high energy is still apparent in the finished portrait as was obvious in the original photo their mother had captured. Select the image below for the before and after view.
The original photograph of ‘Lily’ was very bright making balancing the tone a challenge. To compensate I placed charcoal over the whole portrait and then lifted only the very the lightest tones with a putty rubber .
Only a limited toolkit is needed comprising of:
Charcoal sticks – used on their edge for broad strokes or fine detail using the tip.
Charcoal pencils in varying tones white to black – great for fine detail around the eyes an hair.
A couple of coloured pastels – useful when doing animals to add a touch of colour.
Putty rubber – used to lift the charcoal off the paper to adjust tone.
Sharpened rubber – useful for adjusting detail areas.
Tortillons for blending – used for blending detail areas where fingers just wont do.
A very sharp knife – I tend not to use a sharpener, preferring to use the knife. The sharpener more often than not breaks the top off, especially with pastel pencils.
Sandpaper – to get a very sharp point to pencils or to grind down charcoal. Ground charcoal is good for applying with your fingertip to get soft areas on the skin without leaving lines.
A rubber/eraser was used to pick out and ‘draw’ the fur detail in the picture below.
It’s pretty messy to work with, much like pastels, but as long as you keep something handy to keep clean (wet wipes or damp cloth), then your hands and work area will stay clean.
To keep the paper clean I tend to use an old tile or piece of tracing paper (the separator pages from Ingres paper pad come in handy).
The ever changing Scottish winter light is never great for indoor photography, even with a flash, so although I do use white paper, it is not always apparent from the photographs of the finished artworks.
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