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Pet Portrait

Richard Bell’s Wild West nature diary, Tuesday,  19th May 2009

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MY HABITUAL approach to drawing an animal is to keep moving on to another sketch as the animal moves. These sketches record what Tess, a friend’s dog, got up to over a 15 or 20 minute period but you couldn’t describe them as a portrait. However that’s what I’ve been asked to do by a neighbour: a portrait of a pet . . .

Working from Photographs

I resorted to working from an existing photograph the neighbour had chosen for me. This makes it a long job, as in effect I’m attempting to draw the surface of the photograph as accurately as I can, rather than drawing a dog.


Here’s how I set about it:


Particular Problems

The photograph was taken with a flash, which tends to flatten the form, so it’s difficult to build up a convincingly three-dimensional impression of the dog.

Certain areas, like the detail around the eye, seem to get over-emphasised in the photograph, perhaps because of the flash, so I blotted them out a little so they didn’t stand out as much - so I haven’t fully succeeded in being ‘true to the photograph’!

I have to say that I’m happier drawing wild animals or farm animals than pets - however cute they are! Although I have to admit this chihuahua isn’t the yappy variety; she’s got a calm, patient, concerned kind of temperament.

watercolour of chihuahua

Original photograph for comparison. Background dog deleted in my version!