What’s On My Easel? Sasha, First Draft

pastel portrait of shi tzu

Portrait of Sasha, update.

We’ve made a few changes to Sasha’s portrait in the past week. For one thing her person asked if we could remove the pink bow at the top—it was too eye-catching and took attention away from Sasha. Once I’d done that, I decided to remove the pink collar as well to see how that would look. For now, I think I like it better. Sasha is such a little thing those decorations look so big. The portrait was also taking on kind of a pink-and-blue baby cast, and Sasha is little, but she’s not a puppy by any means!

Furthering the portrait along, I went through her fur and blended the color areas together and went back over her fur with a couple of think layers of other colors, color complements, to give her fur color the depth it naturally has. I added just swashes of pale blue in the tan areas and a deeper green in the shadowed areas, then worked the native color, tan and brown back over it. I also added tones of pale blue, green, yellow and violet to her white areas.

Most importantly, I worked on her face, as you can see in the detail image below. Dogs’ eyes are typically dark but they are not black, though in photographs they can appear so if deep-set enough. Sasha’s eyes are not deep-set but when eye color contrasts with the dog’s fur, as they do with Sasha’s white and pale tan fur, it can be very hard to determine the color. I worked a little bit of brown into the black so that you can see a bit of color variation as well as her pupils. That alone really brings her to life.

detail of portrait

Detail of Sasha’s face.

. . . . . . .

First Draft

pastel painting of shi tzu

“Sasha”, first draft, pastel on sanded paper, 12″ x 9″ © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

We met Sasha back in February when she and her person stopped by to get a few photographs and get a start on her portrait. Through some frustrating email issues we’ve been discussing size and color and now we’re finally ready to put Sasha on paper. I’m so glad to get a start after I’ve been picturing her fur in pastel for all this time! Most often I don’t get to post updates on portraits as I work because the portrait is a surprise or the person simply prefers to keep their privacy as I work, but Sasha’s human is looking forward to sharing updates.

Above is the very first draft in pastel on the sanded paper I use for portraits. It’s at this point, just after the first layer of pastel in limited colors and little blending, that I stop and let the portrait sit for a few hours or a day, then come back and see if everything looks proportional, shadows and highlights are in the right places, relative colors are good, and the overall composition works in the size the portrait will be. Most importantly, I always check to see if I can feel the subject in the painting. If I don’t, I can’t go on without getting to that point. In this case, I definitely feel Sasha is here.

The surface really is like a fine sandpaper and if you imagine pastels to be somewhat like chalk you can imagine how the surface holds the dry pastel so that you can both blend and layer it. This paper is Wallis Sanded Pastel Paper in a tone called Belgian mist, which is always a good mid-range to start from, adding highlights and shadows equally. Really, I do visualize the pastel before I start, applying it to the paper, blending it with my fingers, then working into it with color after color, blending and shaping the pastel surface to achieve that dimensional appearance of light and shadow. This first draft includes very few colors, four tan tones in her fur, four blueish tones in the background including a violet and a turquoise, and pinks for her tongue and her little bows. Sometimes I like them very much at this rough stage and more than once my customer and I have decided to stop at this point. Below is the uncropped version so I have room to spread out the pastel.

pastel painting of shi tzu

“Sasha”, first draft, the whole sheet, pastel on sanded paper, 12″ x 9″ © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

And below is the main reference photo. I have others as closeups for her face. While the main photo is professionally done I can always use detail images of faces, especially dark eyes and noses, but even light areas like paws. We discussed her bows, which are colored for Christmas, and decided we’d use a color that would work any time of the year. I wanted to use a blue background to complement her tan fur, and since pink was another popular color for this little girl, pink it was.

shi tzu dog

Sasha’s reference photo

Sasha has congestive heart failure and though she’s doing well her human wants to have this done now while she’s still looking healthy. She had won the certificate at last summer’s Animal Care and Assistance event to help raise money for veterinary costs at Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Clinic.


Take a look at other portraits and read other stories

Read about my special for Mothers’ and Fathers’ Days.

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.

Commissioned Portraits and Featured Artwork

If you’d like to read more about artwork as I develop it, about my current and past portraits and paintings and art assignments, each week I feature a piece of artwork on Wednesday and a new product on Thursday. Choose the category for featured artwork to see an archive of all these posts, or if you want to see only my portraits choose commissioned portraits.

Download a Brochure

cover of 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

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.

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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.

Inspired by felines you know! Visit Portraits of Animals on Etsy.


© 2014 | www.TheCreativeCat.net | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski



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