Monday, 26 April 2021

Dog in coloured pencil, step by step

 This much loved dog died very recently, and I was happy to have done this coloured pencil artwork (from a photo from when she was a young dog) for the owner to remember her by. 

The artwork was small, around A4 in size. For dark coloured animals it is necessary to use an 'underpainting' technique, which helps get rid of the whiteness of the paper, and allows the darkest areas to be much richer and more intense. After a detailed line drawing, I like to start at the eyes and work outwards from there. 

The background is an out of focus hedge - I love the blobby patterns this creates. 

Grass is always a challenge and is quite labour intensive. This time I put in some of the paler stems first then worked around them. 
I then put in swathes of darker grasses, with mid tones on top.

The whole artwork took around 30 hours. I use Caran d'Ache Prismalo 1, and a manual sharpener. I used Bristol Board for the smooth surface.

For info on workshops (in studio and on Zoom) please email 

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Black Labrador, colour pencil commission

I had this commission last summer, and these photos take you through the steps it needed to finish with a rich, velvety black coat.

There is so much under layering that it felt like two drawings. A brown dog with a black one on top! But without that underlayer, the colour would not have been rich enough and it would have look a bit flat. 

 I mostly use Caran d'ache colour pencils, and work on Bristol board which is lovely and smooth and holds the pigments well. 

For info on commissions and workshops please email 

Portrait commission, progress shots (and cats in the studio)

 Cats are an interesting addition to any studio, and not, I must admit, for the faint hearted. They have a knack of wanting to sit just where you are, or on the computer keyboard or, wait for it, ON YOUR ARTWORK. This is a common occurrance for my students too, as many of them finish off their Zoom class by sending a photo of the cat either drinking their water colour water, or sitting directly on top of their painting! 

'What's the story?' 
I'd just blocked in the line drawing for this commission when the cat decided it was enough already. No harm was done, thankfully... 
Usually, I like to start at the eyes and work outwards from there. This was a graphite commission, so only one layer needed. 
Gently gently down the cheek - the best work to have in mind is 'SOFT' - no hard transitions or edges!

'I give up'

Above, the finished artwork. 

Finally, dear little Lulu, who was fond of lifting the pencil and 'helping'. Fondly missed. 

For info on portraits, or drawing and painting workshops please email

Pet Portrait commissions, oils 30cm x 30xm

Dogs are such loyal loving pets that many people choose to honour them with a portrait. This lovely dog was very poorly, and her owner asked me to do two portraits of her before she died, one for the owner and the other for his daughter.  

I was lucky enough to be able to take the photos myself, particularly as she was a dark haired dog, which can be difficult to photograph. It's also nice for the owner to be able to select the reference from a variety of suitable photographs, to choose the one which means the most to them. 

Each painting was 30cm x 30cm, painted in oil on linen canvas. The background was kept plain so as not to detract from the detail of the dog herself. 

For details or questions about classes or commissions please email

Portrait commissions, graphite

It's been a busy few months for commissions, which has been thoroughly enjoyable. Some were of much loved people, and others were of much loved pets. 

Here are the first two, graphite drawings of a father and son, who were prominent Solicitors in Belfast. 

This drawing of Laura was commissioned by her parents as a birthday present for her. The photo below shows the clients holding the artwork - I am showing you this so you have an idea of scale. They were all very happy!

If you are interested in commissioning a portrait, or attending a portrait workshop (either in the studio or on Zoom) please email

It is always an honour to be asked to do a portrait, and while it's impossible to know exactly what the client has in mind, I make it my priority to ask as many questions in advance, and provide a rough visual before starting the final work. 

The studio is tentatively reopening as lockdown restrictions ease, and I look forward to welcoming some of you there as soon as possible.