Meet Paige, one of my Christmas portraits from 2014. Her portrait was commissioned as a gift, from a person for whom I’ve done two portaits, to her sister. She sent me a wonderful photo of Paige and we decided we’d just do a small portrait, and just her face and shoulders so they’d be large enough to see the details in her face. I trust a sister to know what her sister would like!
Paige’s person emailed me after she’d received her portrait. “I’m sure you’ve already heard from my sister, Susan, that we are in LOVE with the beautiful pastel painting of our dear Paige. You have captured her essence. She is a calm, submissive, intelligent and kind dog. She is the best thing that has ever happened to us. We love her.
“We place your picture in our kitchen so we can look at all day long. Thanks, again, Bernadette. We love your work.”
Overall, I used a variety of soft pastels on Wallis sanded pastel paper, Belgian Mist tone, a gray which you can see in the background of the first two steps of the portrait, below. I like to start with a mid-range so that I can work from the middle tone, working my way up to highlights and down to shadows evenly. It’s easy for the overall tonal range of a portrait to tend toward light or dark when starting from one end of of the scale or the other. Below is the reference photo my customer emailed to me.
I begin by enlarging the image of the subject and printing it out to size, swiping light-colored pastel on the back of the paper and the tracing around the most basic outlines of head, eyes, nose, mouth to give myself a starting point for perspective. I use soft pastels to start, blocking in the larger areas of light and dark within the outline, then begin refining. I have a set of pastels that I’ve collected over the years that includes all those warm tones for many animals’ fur, from pale yellow to amber to deep burnt orange, and begin working the actual fur tones into the base. I finish up details with semi-hard pastel sticks and even finely-sharpened pastel pencils, especially for whiskers.
Aside from Paige herself is a little bit of the background, less important in a portrait like this but still necessary as a finishing touch. Drawing something as complicated as the Persian carpet in the photo actually costs extra and we really didn’t want it anyway, so I came up with a background that was interesting and not too complex, the marbled blue-gray that you see drawn with the side of several shades of blue and gray pastel for wide strokes, which I felt was complimentary to Paige’s fur tones and also rich enough to be interesting without being distracting.
Here is a slideshow of the portrait under construction in six steps, though I wish I’d taken a few more photos as I went along. I’ll have to remember that.
Paige lives with two rescued black cats and is a rescue dog herself, adopted through German Shepherd rescue organization and found on Petfinder.com, plus she’s an older dog as her profile page lists her as estimated 6-1/2 years old. Here is her story, right from her mom. She lives in Annapolis, MD, and Paige’s foster home was in the Washington, DC area. Paige was rescued by All Shepherd Reacue which services the mid-Atlantic area, especially the Baltimore/DC vicinity. Paige was transported to her adoptive home by her “sponsor” a family located in the Silver Spring, MD area.
And she told me more about her home and about Paige:
“Our story, briefly: I knew it was time for a dog. Lili (their daughter) was old enough, the fence had been erected and paid for, our two black, male, rescue cats were in a good place….energetically and I needed to finally take the first step.
“It was a snowy, cold afternoon in late February of 2013. Due to the poor weather conditions, the power went down at the hospital where I work and all of the doctors and patients had left for the day. Miraculously, the power came up and felt it was time to check out Petfinder.com. Typically, after the third page of animals my heart would break my heart and I would stop searching; but I struggled on. On the 28th page if FOUND PAIGE!!! I have included the link with the write up and pictures. When I saw her, I knew she was mine. And she is!!!
Then later Paige’s adopter sent me a little more information:
“I thought the following details would be of interest to you. Last night, Paige went for her wellness check up so the Dr. and I reviewed what we know of her previous life. She was found roaming the streets of Lexington, Virgina in January, 2013. She was taken to the Brockridge County animal control, checked over, vaccinated. They called the all shepherd rescue group immediately and she was transferred to a foster home in Silver Spring, MD and was moved twice before coming to us. This group is very aggressive and are very organized. Believe it or not, we are not the primary owner of Paige, they are. Should we die, Paige will be returned to the rescue group. I signed a contract when they delivered her to our home allowing them complete control.
“Our girl is great but I just wanted you to know that rescues groups are becoming smarter, more sophisticated and efficient. I went from clicking a picture to having a dog delivered to my home! The best concierge serviced I have ever experienced. Making easier for the squeamish who hate visiting shelters. I believe this is the best business model all rescue groups should consider.
The person who commissioned, and her portraits
This is the person who commissioned the portrait, who’s also commissioned two portraits of her own, one of them included in my Great Rescues Day Book. Below she holds the portrait she commissioned for her sister the day I have it to her just before Christmas.
Prior to this, Susan had commissioned me to do her three rescued cats, Augie, Ebi and Percy, who you may recognize from Great Rescues Calendar and Day Book as the August portrait.
An her one dog, Nelli, adopted from a reputable breeder of English Labrador Retrievers after her lifetime maximum of three litters.
If you’d like to read more about artwork as I develop it, about my current portraits and at assignments and even historic portraits and paintings, each week I feature a piece of artwork on Wednesday and a new product on Thursday. Choose the category for featured artwork.
Take a look at other portraits and read other stories
Read articles here on The Creative Cat featuring current and past commissioned portraits.
Read about how I create commissioned portraits.
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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.