Monday, September 25, 2023
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Commissioned Portrait: A Gift, Paige

pastel portrait of german shepherd dog
“Paige”, 11″ x 14″, pastel © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

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.”

detail of portrait
Detail of Paige’s face.

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.

photo of dog on rug.
The reference photo for Paige’s portrait.

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.

portrait of shepherd dog
A slideshow of the portrait under construction.


About Paige

Paige lives with two rescued black cats and is a rescue dog herself, adopted through German Shepherd rescue organization and found on, 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 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.

woman with dog portrat
Susan, who commissioned me.

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.

portrait of three cats
“Augue, Ebi and Percy, pastel, 12 x 18m 00 z0169 Bernadette e. Kazmarksi

An her one dog, Nelli, adopted from a reputable breeder of English Labrador Retrievers after her lifetime maximum of three litters.

portrait of yellow lab
“Nelli”, 13″ x 17″, pastel, 2003 © B.E. Kazmarski

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.

Commissioned Cat Portraits

portrait of black cat on wicker chair
Samantha, pastel, 1994 © B.E. Kazmarski
Commissioned Dog Portraits

portrait of two dogs
Sophie and Ellie, pastel, 2009 © B.E. Kazmarski
Portraits of
My Cats

pastel painting of cat on table
After Dinner Nap, pastel, 1996 © B.E. Kazmarski

Visit my website to see portraits of my cats, commissioned cats, commissioned dogs, people and a demonstration of how I put a portrait together from photos.

Download a Brochure

cover of brochure
My Portraits Brochure

My brochure is an 8.5″ x 11″ two-page full-color PDF that half-folds when it’s all printed out, showing examples of portraits with an explanation of my process and basic costs.


Purchase a Gift Certificate

sample portrait certificate
Sample Commissioned Portrait Certificate

I offer gift certificates for portraits in any denomination beginning at $125.00, which is the basic cost of a portrait; the recipient is responsible for any amount the portrait costs over $125.00.

The certificate itself is 8.5″ x 11″ and features a collage of portrait images with the recipient’s and giver’s names, printed on parchment cover stock. The whole thing is packaged in a pocket folder and includes a brochure, a letter from me to the recipient and several business cards.The certificate package can be easily mailed or wrapped as a gift and shipped directly to your recipient.

I can also make it downloadable if you’re in a hurry.

Portrait certificates are a minimum of $125.00 because that is the minimum cost of a portrait.

Certificates are good for up to one year after issue.

You can purchase gift certificates here or from my Etsy shop if you are also purchasing other animal-inspired merchandise.

Enter the recipient’s name
Enter shipping address

You only need to enter an address if it is different from the address I’ll receive through PayPal. These are often surprise gifts and need to be shipped away from the home address to make sure they are a surprise.

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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.

© 2013 | | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski



From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

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