"Painting" a Himalayan Cat

I recently painted a Himilayan cat who passed away unexpectedly. He was definitely the king of the house as can be seen by the photograph below.

The owner is a dear friend of mine and a photographer. I chose this photograph, even though it looks a little dark and doesn’t show his eyes as well as another photograph I had. Sometimes, I just go by feel what I think would work better as a painting, but having several photos is always a plus when doing a portrait.

I used Mi Tientes pastel paper cropped at 16″ x 20″. Of course I have to provide you with the work in progress photos!

You can see the color of the paper in the first step. I cropped the background to concentrate on his face and body. How could I crop out his paws? This was part of his personality and was told he loved to hang out “at the bar”.

Obviously, I added more cream color in the fur, blue in the background and darkened the chair.

I decided not to show a clear distinction between the floor and wall and instead started to work on the transition.

I played with the colors for a while, trying to pull out the highlights and push the darker colors, while keeping a believable shape to his face and paws. I’ll save you the hundreds of photos I took in this process. For some reason, taking a photo with my phone as I go helps me to see the mistakes.

Here it is finished before I framed it.

And one more framed and in its new spot…

WIP: Elk

This is the WIP for the Elk. In order to depict the massive rack, I wanted to do this on the largest surface I had in the studio. So, I used my only 18″ x 24″ pastelbord (gray). If I had something larger, I would have used it. I’ve found I like to work large when working on animals…maybe it’s because I prefer to stand when using charcoal and pastel, maybe it’s because the nature of the subject warrants to me really get in the fur without getting bogged down with the detail. 
On the other hand, the colored pencils are the opposite. I prefer to sit down, work smaller (for now), and concentrate on the details.
So let’s get back to the elk…I’ve added captions to each step. I guess I didn’t take a picture of the drawing, but my favorite step is below…right after I’ve drawn in the subject, and I pick up the first and second color. It’s just magic. 🙂
Blocking in the elk and background…
  Adding detail…
  Here’s a good photo of the easel and reference photo. Not the best placement for the photo, but I haven’t figured how to affix the references without looking away from my easel.
  Working on the horns a little more…
  Softening the horns further away, working on the chin contour, correcting the ear

Goat WIP

After I completed the donkey, I started to do this guy…and was asked by a few people to do it in pastel. OK…I hit a few bumps in the road since I haven’t really worked a lot with pastel. This was my first pastel animal (before the Alaskan Malamute).

I was working on two photos, but not on purpose. My reference was the black and white copy at the top. I realized I needed to go back to my photos and print out a color copy to work with pastels. The photo I chose wasn’t a perfect match, but I went with it anyway. (Not to self…delete the reference photos you decide NOT to use…or…don’t take so many photographs!)

Basically, blocking in color…but I guess I didn’t use a lot of charcoal in the beginning of this one.

Here’s a close up.

Adding more to the nose and face…note the lavendar/purple?

Working on the head and fur a little bit….and background still hasn’t been started! (There should be warning sounds here…) 

Because, what was a I thinking? I wanted to add a little more color to the background, I guess, but it wasn’t working. I should have stayed with the photo reference, but being used to close ups and values with charcoal, backgrounds could be abstract. That’s what I was going for, but my attempt to add color didn’t work at first. The goat started to recede and not pop out as much.


Starting to blend the background. There are certain colors that will be banned from my pastels…Olive green is one of them…

I decided to stop here for a while and even signed it, thinking that it would grow on me and that maybe, it was the goat that I wasn’t fond of. Maybe it was the subject matter after all…

Except it wasn’t. I like goats. I think they’re cute, so…

After I finished the malamute and went to the pastel class, I thought that maybe I overworked the goat. That I blended too much.

Part of what I love most about pastels is the texture that you can SEE. Some pastel artists do blend and create beautiful paintings. I love them! But…I want to go another way. I want to see the strokes of the pastel stick. To figure out when the artist used the flat end of the pastel or sharpened the end of it like a pencil. That’s the beauty of pastel to me.

So I worked on the goat a little more…and added some warmth to him and the background.

I’m getting there.

New Pastel Painting: Alaskan Malamute

So the original post disappeared shortly after it was highlighted on another webpage. Sorry it’s taken a few weeks for me to get the energy to piece it back together. (Very strange and since I don’t know WHY it happened, or even know HOW to find out why, I’m just going to add the photos back and go from there).

The beginning didn’t start out the way I wanted and I quickly discovered that my sketch wasn’t right. I remedied that by covering the entire panel in charcoal and then bringing out the lighter pieces with a kneaded eraser. At this stage, it’s pretty loose and messy looking.

Beginning stage using vine charcoal and a kneaded eraser

Now I’m adding more detail now that I’m satisfied with the placement, but still using just charcoal and eraser. (There might be a little bit of pastel on the right ear).

Refining the detail

It becomes more obvious that I’m adding color now, mainly a soft blue – both to the background and to the fur.

Next step, adding pastels over the charcoal

Adding a second color, mostly a peach color to the fur, to play with the warm and cool sections. Blurring your eyes on the photo helps pick out different colors. I also take a piece of paper with a hole in it and hold it over the photo to identify colors. It’s amazing what you see there that your eye didn’t pick up before.

Adding peach

Getting into the nitty-gritty of the painting, playing with the colors and adding more local color to the nose and eyes.

Playing with the peach and blue. Also added some pink to the nose and orange to the eyes.

Is this like watching paint dry? I can’t help but take tons of photos. I’m adding more black, darkening sections of the fur. I’ve also refined the nose a little more.

Darkening the fur and softening the nose

The final step…you can see that I’ve softened the fur a little. One of my favorite spots is under his chin. It’s really soft there, almost as if he’s shedding and you can gently pull the hair right out. (Does anyone else love to do that? I could do that to these long-haired dogs for HOURS!)

“Wooly Malamute” | 16×20 | pastel

Donkey: WIP

I’ve been working on my newest animal piece on pastelbord. As you’ve seen, I did this cow with charcoal and a kneaded eraser. (For you city folk, this is NOT the donkey…)

 I used vine charcoal only – which are the skinny ones on the left.

This eraser is my favorite…my progress stops completely if I can’t find one of mine…it’s called “kneaded” because…well, here’s what Cheap Joe’s says on their website:

“These erasers are great because they can last just about forever. Many beginning artists don’t understand just how great a kneaded eraser is because no one ever shows you how to use one.
But, here is a tip. These erasers are stretchy. This is great when you want to shape these erasers to fit into tight spaces or when you want to ball them up to eraser a swath a few inches wide. They are also kind of like silly putty in that you can shape them, then place them on an area that is a little too dark, press down and voila! You can instantly lighten an area and fix a compositional nightmare in an instant. But, here is the especially great part.
To clean these erasers just stretch them out, fold them over, stretch it again… and again. These erasers come out clean and brand new all over again. There aren’t too many art materials that are your friend and last practically forever.”

 They’re great stress relievers too. My kneaded erasers are usually pretty clean.

Since pastelbord has a rough surface, I also used a stump for the blending. The white of the drawing is the actual pastelbord surface in the cow drawing.

OK, so enough about the supplies. Let’s talk about the new piece I have. It’s a juvenile donkey from a reference photo I took while on vacation. I started off with a quick sketch…it’s different than regular sketching since I wanted to preserve the white of the surface. It’s pretty rough looking and reminiscent of a zebra.

I was mainly blocking in the values, but this eats up those charcoal sticks quickly! 

I added more texture to the fur and backgound.

 I played with this for a while, trying to get the right balance of background texture…I ended up using white pastel on the lightest areas.

I’m not ready to call it “done”, but ready to set it aside for a day or two.

Carnation Flower: Update

Another update – I’m adding the red (crimson red) to the flower now. I’ll have to go back and forth with the colors to keep the values where I want them. After looking at the grey value on this, I want to push the darks more. (That’s something I tend to be timid about. I can put them in for my portraits, but not when I switch to colored pencils!)

I’m a little frustrated because my favorite pencil sharpener is at the gallery, so I’m working with a manual and a battery powered pencil sharpener. I guess I sound pretty silly – my husband thinks I have a pencil sharpener fetish. If he could read the art forum posts on supplies, his eyes would glaze over…

For now, I’m stopping here since it’s 3:15 am. I’m going to sleep…maybe.

(Oh yeah – better images, right? I ended up scanning it. Forget the camera!)

January Flower: Carnation WIP

I worked at the gallery yesterday and was able to get quite a bit accomplished. I love to do flowers…but less petals! This is taking a lot of time and concentration.

Of, course, it’s a WIP (Work in Progress). This is the January Flower, taken at the gallery with my phone. I tried to fix the brightness and contrast, but it just made it worse. Just imagine the paper is actually white. And yes, the flower is green for now. It will be red in the end…trust me. 🙂

For those that haven’t figured out the flowers, I’m working on a series of Flowers of the Month. This is what I’m planning:
Jan: Carnation (WIP)
Feb: Violet (Not Started)
Mar: Daffodil (Not Started)
Apr: Daisy (Not Started)
May: Lily of the Valley (Not Started)
Jun: Rose (Not Started)
Jul: Water Lily (Not Started)
Aug: Gladioli (Not Started)…although the back up for this is the poppy…I might have to go with that.
Sep: Morning Glory (Not Started)
Oct: Cosmos (Not Started)
Nov: Chrysanthemum (completed)

Dec: Narcussis (completed)

Oy…there’s a lot more to do that have been done!