A local portrait of a beautiful and intelligent dog – Oscar the Cocker Spaniel – he’s a working dog. I wanted to paint Oscar in the summer but he had a very short hair cut and his owner I wanted to wait until it had grown a bit.I spent a lot of time getting the perfect shot with good lighting. His Mummy Claire had a hold of his collar and I got down to his eye level. Dog portraits don’t always look good if the subject is looking up at the camera – it can distort the shape of the face.
Above is the photo I used for the composition – it’s not quite in focus as he moved slightly but I had other photos for the details so it wasn’t an issue.
I wanted a fairly detailed background. Lyndhurst, where the dog lives is surrounded by beautiful forest and trees – The New Forest so I was spoilt for choice somewhat! I chose Bolton’s Bench as Oscar walks there a lot and it’s also my favourite place in the forest – In the world actually. It turns out I used to play here as a child and eat ice creams. I photographed the background separate from Oscar and had to improvise with my coat – yes I got a few strange looks photographing my coat I can tell you! This photo also helped me with some nice blues and light clouds for the sky.
Eventually, I found a wooden post about the right height and got a classic New Forest background shot that i was really pleased with. Here’s Oscar very roughly superimposed on the background to make sure it would work.
Now that I was happy with my composition, I set to work on Velour Paper – my ideal paper for dog portraits with Soft Pastel. It works so well for animal portraits in general.
My first task was to sketch Oscar and the background but I was itching to get started on Oscar and went right ahead and started working on Oscar’s eyes and ears. I love painting eyes I can’t resist!
Enough though! I like to get the background in so I can build the portrait up in layers – velour is very good for creating depth with lots of layers of luxurious buttery smooth pastels.
This is the under painting – just to get colours and tones on the paper. Great areas of white can be so intimidating so I like to fill the paper with colour early on.
Then I set to work with the detail – the clouds in the sky – the iconic tree at Bolton’s Bench – so named because under the tree there is a circular bench, a great place to sit, run, play, eat ice cream and fish n’ chips!
Now the grass and getting it to blend together so the near grass could be seen then fading away up to the tree. I love the changing colours of the grass on this Autumn day – the yellows as well as the greens.
And finally, working on Oscar’s coat perfecting his fur and freckles and not forgetting his beautiful curly haired ears.
I hope you enjoyed the making of Oscar’s dog portrait, if you’d like to commission a portrait for yourself or a friend there’s lots of information here and you’re welcome to phone me for an informal chat. Tel: 07740 282399
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