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  • sarah-leigh

The Early Pet Portrait Years

Updated: Oct 23, 2019

I am currently at some pretty ugly stages with my current pet portraits and I haven't really documented enough do a work in progress of either of them either. So I decided to go through some of my older pet portraits and see some of my early work. A trip down memory lane.

My early pet paintings were all done in acrylics. I had many years ago started out with watercolours and used them in a very detailed way. In fact I used watercolours more like acrylics and acrylics more like watercolours. So somewhere inbetween the two. I moved over to acrylics quite early on in my pet portraits career. However something always mesmerised and captured my imagination with other pastel pet portrait artist out there. I struggled continually with them so continued with the acrylics for a while.

While I was trying to establish myself as a pet portrait artist I offered a lot of competition prizes to get my name out there. One of them was a fundraiser for the 2004 Tsunami and Inodnesia. The winner requested a portrait of her stunning Andulusian horse Carrie.

Here she is. I can see lots of mistakes in it and how I would have changed certain parts of her portrait if I painted her now. I would love to do a side by side, but I no longer have the reference photos!

Over the coming days I plan to add some golden oldies to this blog post so do look out for them.

Not sure why that last paragraph there ended up in giant letters. Must have pressed something random.

So on my Facebook page I have been sharing these golden oldies too. Next one up is another acrylic pet painting and it is of another horse. A stunning horse whose stable name was Fang! He lived up to his name as well.

When I was just starting out as pet portrait artist 15 years ago, before kids, I went out and did a lot of photography too, to make contacts, gain reference material to build my portfolio and because I love photography. I was out in touch with Fangs owner who lived up the road from me and she was very interested in getting some photos of Fang in exchange for me using them as references for future horse portraits.

I had a lovely afternoon photographing him and when I sent her the proofs she decided to commission a portrait of him. He is a stunning boy I think you will agree.

Here is his portrait. Again like Carrie. I can see things I would change now, but I am still very proud of this piece.

So after using acrylics mainly for my early years producing pet portraits I was still mulling over the use of pastels. My husband bought me a book by Lesley Harrison, a pastel artist who I admire greatly. She works in pastels producing both wildlife paintings and pet portraits. This really renewed my interest in pastels and I increased my collection, trialled more papers unsuccessfully and my frustration grew. I even tried the velour paper she uses with great skill for all her work, but I couldn't get to grips with it.

I was a member of a few art forums (this was before facebook was useful for connecting with other artists etc) and I got to know a lady called Mary Herbet. Another pet portrait artist. She was brilliant and recommended I try a paper called fisher400 and gave me lots of tips etc. Boom, it was like all my answers to using pastels came at once. Now I still had a lot to learn, but the new paper literally revolutionised my pastel pet portraits. It really is true that quality materials can make all the difference.

Before I offered pastel pet portraits on my website I needed to get some practice in, and one of my favourite learning pieces was a dog portrait of the beautiful Scuzz. My online friend Paul Hawkyard had posted his photo as reference for artists to use and I snapped it up. It was gorgeous. Paul is an actor and he has been in may things, even Scuzz was on TV too. Sadly she crossed the rainbow bridge a couple of years ago. Paul was so delighted I decided to gift him the painting. I hope he still has it.

Anyway here is Scuzz.

I don't have the best quality image of her portrait, but I do consider her the launching of my career of a pastel pet portrait artist!

Despite the success of Scuzz and her pet painting, I still wanted to get at least another couple of pastelmpet portraits under my belt before deciding to make the switch on my website and to clients, I also needed some pet portraits completed to go in my galleries. I also needed to research framing pastel portraits as it is different to acrylic. Again the lovely Mary Herbert helped me with all this. I was rapidly gaining confidence as I completed a couple of horse portraita and then there was Finn. Finn is still one of my proudest pieces ever. He ultimately was a huge turning point from me and I he has earnt me so many commissions for springer spaniel portraits. My favoute colour, liver and white, sitting in some Heather, Finn just makes me burst with pride whenever I see him.

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