Sunday, April 14, 2024
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Commissioned Portrait: “Grayson”

"Grayson", pastel, 11" x 14", 2016 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
“Grayson”, pastel, 11″ x 14″, 2016 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

This is Grayson enjoying himself on the beach. He’s a mastiff and yes, I spent quite a bit of time carefully following each wrinkle and ridge on his face. This portrait may appear to be pretty monochromatic, tan dog, tan sand, brown eyes, brown shadows, pinkish tan nose and lips, but many subtle colors work their way into a portrait like Grayson’s to make him look alive and dimensional and make the lighting appear natural.

Grayson's reference photo.
Grayson’s reference photo.

Grayson’s person won a portrait certificate I donated to the Animal Care & Assistance Fund, which assists qualifying pets in southwestern PA who need emergency or specialty care at Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty Emergency Center (PVSEC), a facility you’ve heard me mention many times in stories of my own cats and rescued cats.

She sent me more than enough photos to choose from: in the house, in the car, at the beach, standing, sitting, lying down, rolling over, this big dog acting really silly, and sometimes that’s a great way to get to know an animal I don’t get to meet. But because the portrait was to be 11″ x 14″ maximum, and a mastiff’s face is so distinctive and you want to capture their expression and all the details of their face that you love so much, I knew we had to go with more of a closeup to be able to see all the detail.

But unlike Guido’s portrait where I had just an abstract background, I decided to use one of the beach photos so it could also carry that memory of a trip to the beach. I lightened the photo and added to it from other photos she’d sent and decided it looked best horizontal. I really wanted to include some of the water and waves and considered sneaking the water behind him, but when I cropped the composition to the best view of his face it was just too distracting.

Also because of the level of detail in Grayson’s face I did a little pencil and watercolor sketch underneath the pastel to give myself both some guidelines, tones and shadows so I would be able to work my way through the wrinkles and not strain my eyes as I had been with details, and this worked wonderfully for knowing where I was in the image when I was focusing on a square inch or two.

Here is just Grayson’s face, along with more details below. Along with all the other wonderful features of his face, I have to say I love animals’ ears. All are so delicate and intricate, and that front edge of a dog’s ear that’s so thin but always catches the light is one of my favorite details.

A closeup of Grayson's face.
A closeup of Grayson’s face.

I also debated about adding the collar with its colors into this. That came in from another photo from the beach. Collars are often full of memories and carefully chosen so unless the animal’s person and I are working toward a specific mood and it just doesn’t fit, I include them as they are. Being at the beach the bright colors and whimsical letters fit right in and I think they help to brighten up all the earth tones.

Here are his eyes, the most expressive part of a portrait. My drawing paper has a tiny bit of texture to hold the pastel and you can see it here on his nose. It’s not evident on the final portrait except when the light hits it at a certain angle. I scanned this painting and sometimes the scanner picks up more detail than I want, but I love it for the detail it catches. One of the other details I love are the dots of reflected light in the eyes that really make their shape come alive.

Grayson's eyes and the wrinkles.
Grayson’s eyes and the wrinkles.

And since we’re focusing on the eyes here’s a detailed view of just Grayson’s right eye because I found it so interested when I focused in on the portrait in Photoshop. Here you can see the bright red on his eyelid, the mixes of red and gold and green to make the hazel of his eye, the violet and green and purple and red in the shadowed areas, the pink and pale blue that help to make up the highlights.

Grayson's right eye, for detail.
Grayson’s right eye, for detail.

And here is his nose and mouth and all the delicate colors where there is no fur. You can also clearly see in these images the level of detail I’ve worked to at this size. From a distance it may look like a photo, but up close you see rough edges, blending, and clearly areas of color that you don’t think of in a dog. That is what gives my paintings their life. Our vision isn’t as sharp as we think and what we see is actually a little bit, or a lot, soft at the edges, and in reality very few things, especially dogs at the beach, hold completely still. Paintings that have every detail sharp and clear at this level often look stiff and totally unreal unless the technique is done with great skill. I leave those edges unfinished and those touches of pure color in details to make your eye work to put the painting together and make studying it more like studying something in life.

Detail of nose and mouth.
Detail of nose and mouth.

And we can back off to look at his paws in the sand.

Grayson's paws in the sand.
Grayson’s paws in the sand.

I let the sand be very rough partly because that lack of detail sets off the subject, and so I could have some fun fingerpainting with my soft pastels.


And the obligatory cat hair that shows up in every painting.

The obligatory cat hair.
The obligatory cat hair.

I hope you enjoy reading about my portraits. I certainly enjoy writing about them.

Also read about other current Commissioned Portraits and Featured Artwork

I also feature artwork which has not been commissioned, especially my paintings of my own cats. If you’d like to read more about artwork as I develop it, about my current portraits and art assignments and even historic portraits and paintings, I feature commissioned portrait or other piece of artwork on Wednesday. Choose the categories 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

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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 Commissioned 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 Portraits of Animal if you are also purchasing other animal-inspired merchandise.

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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 Portraits of Animals 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.

© 2016 | | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!




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.

3 thoughts on “Commissioned Portrait: “Grayson”

  • B….oh…. my…… dog….this is AMAZING !!!!!!!! the work you did on his face alone is fantastic…♥♥♥

  • lynda guckert

    What a stunning painting, Bernadette.


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