Let me introduce you to Mikey, an adorable Apricot Poodle. I have known Mikey’s owners for many years, and in fact they were some of the first people to commission me to draw a portrait when I was just starting out. The subject then was their poodle at the time, Charlie. Charlie was jet black which posed some big challenges for me, especially as a less experienced artist. It was so hard to see where one curl ended and the next began, and to stay true to his depth of colour, but determination wins the day and I am delighted to say that Charlie’s portrait still hangs above the mantlepiece in his home. His owner wanted to get a special gift for his wife’s birthday, and as Charlie’s portrait still is admired and enjoyed to this day, he knew that a portrait of their beloved Mikey would be a perfect addition to their home.
Mikey was such a treat to study with a gentle palette of whites, creams and peaches, and those big dark eyes. I imagine him to be much like an animated teddy bear, so soft and cuddly, a wonderful sofa companion.
As he is such a soft dog we decided upon pastel for his picture, and to use a richly toned paper to compliment his colouring. Pastel is the perfect medium for portraits such as this as with the buildup of pigment on the page comes a smoothly blended and creamy depth of colour, which represents his thick coat perfectly.
I have included here four stages of the creation of Mikey’s portrait.
In stage one you can see that the outline and main shapes have been sketched out, and I have begun to block in the the colours of his face and one ear, plus roughly drawn in his features.
In stage two the ear as well as the majority of his chest has has a full base coat of pastel laid down. There is also now the collar and tag drawn in. These stages are where I map out the bulk of the details and get a sense of which colours to use where and how they will interact across the page.
In stage three the portrait looks more finished than it is. On closer inspection you can see that the pastel layers are still patchy, and there is a lot of finessing to do to improve the definition, texture and accuracy of the details.
Stage four is the finished portrait of Mikey, proudly sitting to attention and looking so soft it is as if we could reach out and stroke him.
I am very happy to say that Mikey’s portrait has now been gifted, that all the family love the artwork, and that Mikey and Charlie’s portraits hang side by side in the living room to be enjoyed for many years to come.