Tricia Griffith – Fine Art

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Pet Portrait: Maggie

1911747_10152808866222356_8675961473465011288_nNovember and December 2014 were crazy busy. I ended up with several pet portrait commissions, along with a trip in early December which meant I had to draw, draw, draw to get them all done in time. One of the first ones I completed was this pretty little girl Maggie.

954740_10152790808142356_6640141157932612391_nWhen I was starting this one, we were in the grip of some particularly nasty weather, and at one point I was working on the sketching and blocking out for colors in the dark with my iPad for photo reference and book light to draw by.

I am kind of fussy about my colored pencil portraits, since I feel like I tend to get too carried away laying down the color and they end up looking a bit too heavy to me. Fortunately, people who get them do seem to love them, they just tend to have different character than the graphite drawings. Each medium I use tends to add its own personality to the work, though.

10171645_10152806695107356_4707720726084763737_nFor Maggie, I was determined to keep the color layers super light. She has beautiful layers of browns and golds in her coloring and I wanted to capture that without getting to heavy. I started with the lighter cream colors and then gradually added in golds, red-browns and darker browns to create her honey brown and chocolate tones.

I find that when I treat the colored pencils more like a graphite pencil, I’m much happier with the results. These lighter colored animals are easier. When I draw animals with a lot of black, that’s when I start to get a little more carried away, because I want them to be nice and black and shiny. Overall, I am super happy with this one! 10406419_10152805682977356_1868249901571629304_n

My kitten Isabeau was a great supervisor for this piece. She helped make sure I wasn’t using too much colored pencil! She is more than a year old now and much bigger. But still good at supervising and keeping me in line.



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Pet Portrait – Bagel

Bagel PortraitI was pretty excited about this portrait for a couple of reasons, and the first one is – I love the dog’s name, Bagel! I just love food names for pets! The other reason I was excited about this one was because it was my first order from my experimental listing on my Etsy page. Also a large majority of my portraits are for people I know, or friends of people I know, so it’s always nice to have an order from another source to mix things up a little!

This was a smaller size than I usually work in, 8×10 for the original, but still plenty of room to work. I also have really come to enjoy doing portraits in graphite, although when drawing white animals with colored pencil, my go to method has been to use blue to create the shadowy areas and kind of make the white “pop”, so it was a little harder to wrap my brain around just using graphite to create a sense of shading and fur without making him end up grey.

This portrait was completed with the help of three moderate quality photos of Bagel as it was a surprise birthday present and it would have been problematic to get higher quality photos without raising suspicion. I also used some photos of other American Bulldogs to help get some of the bone structure and finer details.

I was using a new scanner when I scanned this image, so I feel like it doesn’t *quite* do the original justice, but the client seemed happy with the results, and I was pretty pleased with how young Bagel turned out!


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Pet Portrait – Simon

Simon FB

I did this portrait as a surprise birthday present for a friend, so I couldn’t ask her for some good photos of him without giving it away. This meant I scoured her Facebook wall for photos of him, and used several different images of random quality as a reference for the drawing. Ideally a couple of really high quality photos are best, but if I have several lower quality photos, I can usually use bits and pieces of each to get the features needed for the portrait.

Again with this portrait, I used a lighter style, with softer layers of first pencil to get started and then slowly building up layers of colored pencil in black, blue, a couple of shades of brown, and even silver, to get the subtle colors that make Simon such a handsome boy.

Emphasizing the eyes I think brings some expressiveness to the drawing and gives it a bit of personality.

The original is 11×14 on Bristol board.

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Pet Portrait – Dude


Dude - Tricia GriffithThis portrait was done as a rather belated Christmas gift to my in-laws. They have a rambunctious young black lab who goes by the title “The Dude”. He’s a local celebrity, having been born missing one of his rear paws. He is quite social and loves to make new fans.

For this portrait I really started working on the new style I have been visualizing. I still used colored pencil for the drawing, but I really didn’t want it to go down in heavy layers. This was a challenge because with Dude being all black, the temptation was there to keep on going until the black was really, really black.

Instead, I treated the colored pencil a bit more like I do the graphite, and just kept a lighter touch. It it still several layers, starting with the darker areas and slowly building up. I could have easily kept going, but reminded myself of the style I was looking for and stopped before the black became too heavy.

The brown eyes are quite dramatic against the monotone black of the fur, and perhaps in the future I would keep them a bit lighter, but I like the contrast, and it almost gives it the feeling of one of those black and white photos where a bit of color has been added.

Overall I am quite happy with the result!

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Pet Portrait – Barney

Barney - Tricia GriffithBarney belongs to the same family as the six kitties portrait. So for this one, I set aside my thoughts of changing the style of my portraits in exchange for keeping the “feel” of the drawings the same for all of the portraits I’ve done for this client. This means a bit of a heavy style of work with colored pencils, which I think detracts from the “realness” of the portrait, but makes for interesting effects with the coat colors and markings.

I started Barney out with a light sketching of his head shape and the placement of things like his eyes, nose and ears. Then I also loosely penciled in some of the notable highlights and lowlights in his fur, marking areas where the brown fur would be, and the shiny highlights on the black fur.

With black pets, I like to start in a way that might seem a little bit opposite of how it should be; I start with a black colored pencil and use light strokes to color in where the highlights in the black fur will be. I then work with a bit heavier stroke in the darker black area, spending several hours slowly building up the layers of color.

For Barney, his reddish gold Rottweiler markings started out as a gold colored pencil, filling in all the places where there would ultimately be the final reddish gold color. Then I built up the layers of color in a few different shades of browns and golds until I got the desired effect.

I find dog noses kind of hard to draw, they’re an oddly shaped thing. So this time I did a Google image search for dog noses and found several close up shots to use as reference, I think this helped the overall final appearance of the nose. I also did some searching for eyes to try to better capture the color and light of the eyes, which to me are probably the most important feature of the drawing.

At the end, I did a bit of playing around with layers of white and pale blue to try to capture that shiny bluish effect that a glossy black coat sometimes seems to have, and then I added a blue background to kind of pull it all together and also to match the background of previous portraits I did for this client. I am quite happy with the final result!

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Pet Portrait – Bella

Bella - Tricia GriffithI actually completed this portrait shortly before Christmas, but since it was a gift, I held off posting it until I knew the recipient had it! I had the joy of a wonderfully clear, large digital photo to work from for this portrait, so I didn’t have a lot of the preparation work that I did with the six kitties portrait.

The medium for this drawing is primarily graphite. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t get too heavy handed with Bella’s portrait, because this actually the first time I’d drawn a pet with such a cute little curly mop of hair on her head, and I admit that I saved it until last, being a chicken. Bella’s colors in real life are kind of a neat silvery/chocolate color that probably has a name, but escapes me at the moment. I felt that it lent itself well to the graphite medium.

Once I got the curls done, I wanted to bring them out against the background a bit more, so I used a charcoal pencil to create a background that I think helps bring them out a bit from the background and also adds a bit more depth. I did go through the entire drawing with the charcoal and pick out some detail with the charcoal, which I think helped the background not become the only crazy charcoal bit of the whole drawing.

This is a bit heavier than some of my pencil drawings, but I think it’s because I was being a bit bolder than I usually am. My pencil works tend to be fairly conservative, so this was really sort of an interesting mix between my colored pencil style and my graphite style.

The good news is, the gift recipient was happy, so I’m happy!

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Pet Portrait–Six Kitties

Karen's Cats - Tricia GriffithI confess to procrastinating a bit on starting this portrait. Not only was it six cats, but it was from some rather low quality photographs. This kitty family lives in a different state, so it was not really an option to go take some better photos. It is also a bit daunting to figure out how to PUT six cats into a portrait and not have it look like a class yearbook.

I solved part of the problem with the photos by experimenting with scanning them. I scanned them at a really high DPI (we’re talking 1200 DPI!). It made a HUGE file, but with that, I was able to enlarge the images, crop them down to just the cat and adjust them a little bit in Photoshop. They were still pretty grainy, but at least a little bit easier to see their markings.

Next, I used my friend Google Search to find cats that looked similar to these kitties. Long haired tuxedo cat, calico cat, lynx point Siamese, and a few other search terms entered into Google Images helped me find cats with similar markings. Then I used those images to help me get more of the technical details like facial structure, eyes and that sort of thing that just weren’t clear on the photos.

To decide how to place them on the paper, I basically just did a rough sketch on scrap paper and decided how to place them. It was partly influenced by how the cats were positioned on the photographs, as far as how they were sitting and what direction they were facing.

I used pencil to sketch in the basic outlines and markings, and then used colored pencil to put in the colors. When coloring animals, I vary the process depending on the colors. Black animals, I start by lightly filling in the shapes of the darkest black areas, then I slowly build up and fill in, the highlights of their fur essentially being the last thing I fill in. Animals with browns and other colors, I tend to start with the lightest colors first. So, golds and light browns go down first, followed by layers of darker colors. With luck, this captures the appearance of a lighter colored undercoat that these animals tend to have.

Overall I am fairly happy with the final result. I tend to get what I feel is a bit too heavy handed with colored pencil and the final look is not as realistic as I like, but I like how the coloring of the fur comes out. I feel like I am able to retain a bit more realism when I do portraits only with graphite. Watch for future works while I experiment with how the colored pencil animal drawings might look more realistic.