The challenge of creating a pet portrait commission in pastel from poor quality photographs

A blast from the past - when I visited a friend recently, this portrait hanging in pride of place reminded me of the challenges it presented when I undertook it in 2018. This is the blog I wrote at the time and it is still as relevant today.....

When I was asked to undertake a commission for the Smith family I was a little concerned as the three dalmations, that had been part of the family’s life for over thirty years, had all passed away. The only photos they could provide me were taken by older cameras and mobile phones, with some in slide format……

Reference photo for dalmation pet portrait commission Ivan Jones pastel artist

Now Rohan ( left ) and Baggins ( right ) were acceptable, though the detail was not the best when enlarged. But what was I to do with Strider ( in the middle ) where the reference photo had to be digitised from a slide 20 years old or more? In a flash of inspiration I searched Pinterest and found a reference photo of a dalmation with the same head position as Strider…….

Using pinterest image for reference pet portrait commission Ivan Jones pastel artist

Using this attractive image I then produced a rough sketch of Strider using the marking from his photograph and sent this to Sheila ( who had commissioned me ) to see if she felt it resembled her memory of their first dalmation……and she did!

Rough sketch of Strider from reference photo pet portrait commission Ivan Jones pastel artist

This gave me the confidence to proceed with the these portraits, knowing I could produce something that was special to the family. The next step was to decide on the layout of the three dogs. By printing the chosen images onto plain paper then cutting them out I could provide Sheila with different arrangements for her to decide the one she preferred. These ones below are a sample…..By the way, the one she chose was not the one I would have chosen, but it is important the client has full control at this stage……

Arrangements of dalmations to chose pet portrait commission Ivan Jones pastel artist

Once the layout was agreed upon I was able to happily proceed with the project which took me about 70 hours to complete in soft pastel and pastel pencils on Art Spectrum colourfix paper. Each dog had it’s own challenges but I am pleased with the outcome and so were both Sheila and Kim ( the latter who had a big birthday and who was presented with the portraits once completed..)

Final completed individual dalmations pet portrait commission Ivan Jones pastel artist

If you want to see more of my pastel art techniques, and pet portrait commission, have a look at my Pastelwork in Progress facebook page and my Ivan Jones Art you tube page……catch up soon!

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