A Step by Step Pet Portait in Pastels

For this post, I though I would post up a step by step guide of how I complete a pet portrait. I very rarely manage to take photo’s of the process all the way through but, Andy pointed out that people often like to know how a piece of art comes about.This is Holly, a labrador and I used a photo reference from Paint my Photo.

Initially I start with a drawing putting in as much detail as I can until I am happy with the overall look.

Being right-handed, I always start on the left uppermost corner. Using any kind of medium in black and I will inevitably smudge it if I don’t work systematically ~ as it is invariably I end up looking somewhat sooty ;) I use little strokes in pastel in the same direction as the fur making sure that I leave in the highlights where the fur catches the light.

I continue working across and downwards mainly just in black pastel until I get to the eye. When I am detailing the eyes, I always put in the white light highlights initially and then a layer of yellow. Whilst this initially looks quite odd, it builds some depth into the eye.

I will then input the pupil and start adding colours to the iris, fanning out from the pupil like a star.

For the next stage I continue with the fur and also turn my attention to the nose. The top of a dog’s nose catches the light but it is usually textured so to provide this texture I cover the top of the nose in small white dots.

It is at this stage that I will introduce a little more colour, in this case Holly has a certain peachy colour around the nose area in particular. When I feel happy, I will then use a Q tip and gently blend my strokes. As I build the tones around the nose, attention is paid to those areas that are dark like the nostrils and ensuring that I get the shape of them accurate. It is small features like this that really do determine the animal. If you look at several Labrador’s, I can almost guarantee that they will not look the same. A lot like people really!

I continue in the same manner as previously being careful to adjust little things as I go but also not too much. Seeing half an animal can skew the perspective and I am always glad to get in the second eye so I see the whole thing coming together.

Finally the finished piece!

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  1. CherryPie

     /  April 17, 2012

    Fascinating. I enjoyed seeing how the artwork unfolds. I love the finished result :-)

    • Chrissy Marie

       /  April 17, 2012

      Thanks Cherie, it has been ages since I took enough photo’s to describe it.

  2. I absolutely love seeing the creative process. Thank you so much for sharing. You’re very talented!


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