Christmas orders began coming in by September last year (2017) and I had little time to spend on anything else. I worked around 10 - 12 hours a day from mid October onwards and had to create a finely tuned schedule list for each day to ensure every portrait was completed for a specific date because there were a few overseas orders, some framed too and I had to ensure frames were received in plenty of time knowing framers tend to be extremely busy in the run up to Christmas too. I was hoping to have finished all my orders a week before I was due to travel to my old home town of Chesterfield so I could relax a bit but I was literally working late into the night before my journey the next morning!
Luckily everything worked out well in the end and my final portrait Star the Chow Chow, was literally collected by the Commissionee at the train station when I arrived in Chesterfield, he had travelled the 6 hours with me on bus, coach and then train in my suitcase! I received a lovely bunch of flowers from the lady for his painting and was pleased to see some lovely comments from recipients throughout Christmas day upon seeing the portrait of their much loved Pets. Click on any of the images to visit the progress pages.
Now all the Christmas Commissions are all complete and I've had a couple of weeks off to recharge, I am back in the studio working on new articles and 2018 Art Workshops for my Step by Step Art website, there's always so much to do behind the scenes. If you are looking to book your own bespoke Commission with me or are an Artist interested in articles, mini tutorials and possibly taking in a 1 Day Art Workshop with me, click on either of the links below to visit the page/website.
Here's hoping 2018 is a wonderful year for you!
I was approached by a returning customer from the USA to create a Coloured pencil portrait of a Barn Owl and offered to create a few mock ups of compositions before I began as I always do. As a lover of photography I have a large photo reference library of various animals and birds including Barn Owls and so put together 5 different compositions one of which was the 2 Owls on the wall which became the basis of the portrait. The second stage was creating a few mock ups of the Owls within different backgrounds and finally, with the Owls and background in place the last collection of mock ups made were with various walls for the Owls to stand on which were in focus and added interest to the final composition. Many of my Wildlife portraits are created this way.
I chose a tan toned paper to work on which matches the warm tones of the Barn owls as well as giving strength in colour to the lighter tones such as the whites. The tonal background will be created using Derwent's Coloursoft range pencils which are soft and blend well for great effect and the Owls & the wall will be created using the caran Dache Luminance pencils which are ideal for very fine detail and strength of colour. A base layer of tones and loose detail is first applied to the whole of the portrait before I then apply the stronger & finer details to completion.
The Barn Owl at Cresswell, Northumberland (UK)
This portrait is based on actual Barn Owl territory at Cresswell in Northumberland (UK). It is a 40 minute cycle ride from where I live along the beautiful coastal route of Lynemouth through to Cresswell pond, this place regularly has Photographers set up waiting for this little guy to make an appearance. Sitting in the undergrowth of the wide open field which connects to a lagoon where you can regularly see Avocets, Oystercatchers & even Otters on the rare occasion, is an area overlooking the coast and is ideal for field mice and voles. I wait patiently as I see him in the distance, flying silently and hovering on numerous occasions, not at all phased by the long line of photographers with their huge cameras on tripods waiting to get some great photos themselves. There is something breathtaking about seeing such a Bird in the Wild and feeling honoured that this Owl continues it's daily journey passing close by whilst I click the rapid fire button on my camera. Here are some of those photos.
to the Jaguar itself, applying every single hair individually with a very fine brush. This fur layering process will probably take around 3 layers to get the right balance of tone and level of detail that I like to add into my work and I
break up the intensity of the application by switching to different sections of the painting throughout, it also avoids paint waste as Acrylics can dry quickly so I ensure I place smaller amounts in the paint palette that will be used up before starting with a different range of tones for the next section. There is a lot of small detail on this painting and so it will take a good few hours to complete but I think you'll agree it is a beautiful subject!
The Barn Owls were taken on 2 separate occasions at the Butterfly House in Sheffield, the background was taken in Cresswell, Northumberland which actually has a Barn owl flying through the middle of the image (see the back of the left Owls head) and the wall was taken on different day at Woodhorn church in Northumberland. They were all roughly 'stuck' together to create a single
The Sumatran Tiger was also created in Coloured pencils for a returning customer who allowed me to create my own composition. The Tiger image was taken at a Zoo of which you can still see the bars, the water, rocks in the foreground and the tree branches at the top left of the image were all cut from individual images to create the one composition. You can see the final Artwork by clicking on the image.
The Green girl was created purely for a competition entry for the USA Colored pencil Magazine. You could pull any section from the image itself and create your own composition, for this I uploaded it into Picmonkey and literally played around with different tones, overlays and applications until I came up with the final reference image, click the image to view the progress page.
Buddy the Springer Spaniel - 11" x 14"
Buddy's portrait was created using 5 different photographs. The body taken from this photo, the head from another, the tail from a third, the background from a fourth and some of the background flowers from a fifth image, all cut and pasted together to create the mock up of the reference image. Doing this can throw a whole lot of problems into the mix as different images can have different lighting, luckily I was able to ensure the correct balance as I was provided with lots of great quality photos that i could pull detail from. As you would suspect the grass took the longest as each blade of grass was applied individually and this was done in 3 layers so individually repeated 3 times!
"I'm sitting looking at Buddy in pride of place on the wall, photo attached! It is absolutely lovely and it had the desired effect on Steve when he unwrapped - there were tears!! Everyone that has seen it has said how amazing it is with the amount of fine detail and so Buddy. If I manage to get a decent photo of Buddy next to it I will send it on! Thank you once again, it is lovely to have a painting of Buddy forever."
Dudley the Springer Spaniel - 9" x 12" in Acrylics
This was a lovely composition but a tiny photo meaning that it pixelated when zooming in and the detail was lost in the face, especially around the eyes. The Commissionee loved the composition so much that I decided to see what I could do and asked if she could send some close up photos of Dudley taken in a less sunny environment and using all the photos together, I elaborated on the background/foreground somewhat and toned down the colouration on his head whilst still keeping the favoured stance. This was a challenge but I really loved the composition too and was happy with the final painting.
"Just wanted to let you know that mum loves her portrait and we all cried our eyes out when we first saw it. What you've done is so special and we couldn't have asked for a better painting to remember him by. It captures his brilliant personality so well. I'll definitely be recommending you to my spaniel loving friends!
Picture of framed painting to follow soon!
The Commissionee only had a few photos of Kita who they had recently lost and so I was limited to flash photos. This image was a nice pose but as flash distorts natural colour I had to guess the balance by using online photos as reference. The image was slightly blurry up close but I found that I was able to apply a lot of fine detail simply by being aware of the fur shortness and the final portrait was far more detailed than I thought possible due to the quality of the photo. The final painting was framed in a lovely black frame which helped Kita's portrait to stand out.
"Hi Karen, I just wanted you to know that I absolutely love my painting of Kita. Thank you so much, you have done the most amazing portrait of him. He was my best friend and my little boy and the painting has been hung in the living room so we can all admire him everyday! Thank you again xx"
Diarmid E-mailed me a great photo of himself, his girlfriend Max and their little French Bulldog Kyla stood in front of the famous red phone box from the film 'Local Hero' when they visited Pennan in Aberdeenshire. As the phone box only covered half the background and the other half would add nothing to the composition it was decided to leave the background out completely and simply write 'Pennan' in the corner of the portrait. As mobile phone images tend to 'flatten' detail, the fineness of the Coloured pencils brought back the sharpness of detail and I really enjoyed creating this portrait - I always love a challenge!
"Hi Karen , Hope you had a lovely Christmas. Wanted to drop you a note to say that Max absolutely loved the portrait! She couldn't believe how well you'd captured the detail from the photo and was thrilled to pieces! We've already recommended you to friends and family and am sure we'll use your amazing skills again in the the future. Have a great New Year!! Diarmid"
This portrait was the last drawing I completed for Christmas and depicts 2 Bearded Collie's called Pyppa (L) & William (R) completed in Coloured pencils. I had taken some photos of them both a year earlier but as William (R) is a rather nervous little boy, I struggled to get any close ups of him. trying to distinguish between them after a year was a challenge too! I was provided with a few great quality photos which I could also use to add in their eyes a little more too.
"Thank you so much for my beautiful portrait, you've really excelled yourself this time, its amazing!"
"I just wanted you to know that I absolutely love my painting of Kita. You have done the most amazing portrait of him, he was my best friend and my little boy. I love him so much and the painting of him has been put up in the living room so we can all admire him everyday!!!
Thank you again" xx
Karen, I was the lucky one to receive this beautiful painting. I can't tell you what a lovely gift it is, thank you so much for capturing Willow's character so well. I absolutely love it, it's beautiful and one to be treasured for many years to come.
Murphie - Large Traditional Heart Memorial portrait
"Murphie arrived home safe and sound this afternoon and what can I say. The photos were fantastic but she is even better now I can see her in "close up". I always knew it would be hard to lose Murphie after having her in my life for 20 years but I didn't fully appreciate just how big of a hole she would leave behind. Your painting has given me little bit of my girl back and I can't seem to tear my eyes away from it at the moment. I attach a photo so that you can see that she arrived unscathed and thank you again for everything. You made the process so easy from start to finish and you took good care of my girl and have created a truly fitting memorial to her and for that I am so grateful"
Bailey - 10" x 12" Coloured pencil pet portrait
" Bailey just arrived! Well, about 15 minutes of tape removal ago. We are so chuffed! Bailey was loved by all of us, but loves my husband best, he was over the moon! We are blessed by your talent!
I just love him! Thank you so much! xxxx"
Obe - 11" x 14" Boxer Dog Acrylic painting
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