Memorial portrait testimonial

I short but touching post this time…

Last week I sent an A3 portrait to a gentleman who had commissioned a drawing of his wife who had sadly passed away.  I hadn’t heard from him the day it should have arrived which I thought was a little strange.  I often get an email or phone call to say thank you.

The following day a card arrived through my letterbox…

“Got the portrait this morning and I am delighted with it.  It’s as if you knew her.  You captured her lovely laughing eyes, and made it so full of life.  Although I still miss her so much, seeing her face smiling at me every day through your drawing will help so much”

It goes without saying that these words pulled at my heart strings.  I feel very privileged that the commissions I draw I can mean so much to someone.  This is certainly a card I will treasure.

Last minute portrait requests

Apologies for the distinct lack of posts during the last few weeks…

My previous post said that a last minute portrait commission had come in which had to delay the new horse card images from being drawn.  That was shortly followed by two more last minute commissions and as I hate to disappoint anyone, well put it this way, the pressure has been a tad intense to say the least!

On top of the portraits that were already booked in for May and June… an A3 adult portrait, an A4 adult with dog portrait, an A4 adult with baby portrait and last but by no means least, a heart melting A4 baby portrait, I also had to squeeze in another A4 dog portrait, a beautiful A4 wedding portrait and currently I am in the middle of a fantastic A3 portrait of two gorgeous puppies… very cute!!  After this week is over things should go back to being relatively calm again… I hope.

July will be spent drawing my first A1 size portrait… of a tree of all things.  I can’t wait to show that one off once it’s done!  Then, after I have completed a commission that’s come in all the way from Texas, it will finally be the new horse card images turn.  Poor Jade and Hannah who won the horse photo competition.  It will be well worth the wait, I promise.

For anyone out there who is interested in booking a portrait at short notice, please don’t hesitate to contact me.  I usually ask for about three months notice (more during the run up to Christmas) but if there’s anyway that I can squeeze in your booking, then I will.

And be reassured…. although I would do my utmost to help if I can, I would never accept a commission if I wasn’t able to give it 100% and meet the deadline required.

Card Design Photo Competition

Well that’s another Facebook photo competition done and dusted.  This latest one was to find another horse image to add to the collection…

Horse Photo Competition Poster 2014

Like with all of the previous photo competitions that I have run, the amount of entries has been mind blowing.  It’s very flattering indeed that so many people want to take part.

The winning photograph (or on this occasion, the winning photographs, as it proved impossible to select just one!) will be hand drawn and reproduced as high quality A6 blank cards.  They will then be officially released on sale for the beginning of 2015.

These are the two lucky winners for this competition…

Horse Competition Winner - Jade Storey - Tasy      Horse Competition Winner - Hannah Bown - Finn

I love drawing eye’s, always have done.  I couldn’t resist Jade’s photo of Tasy and can’t wait to draw her.  All of that detail will be fantastic to get my teeth into!  Also, I haven’t got a close up, cropped design within the Horse Collection as yet, so I thought well worth giving it a go.

Hannah’s photo of Finn also stood out from the crowd.  Despite it being the typical horse head shot that you tend to see on cards and prints here, there and everywhere… there’s something in his expression that grabbed me.  Those eye’s look like they have a story to tell which is right up my street.

I had hoped to draw Tasy this week but portrait commissions come first.  I had a last minute booking request a couple of weeks ago so the card images have had to go on the back burner for a while.  Not for too long though I hope, as I still have two new cat images to find and draw before the Christmas commission rush starts which is usually sometime in August.  Could be a bit of a squeeze as I’m already fully booked with portraits up until the end of July.

Busy, busy, busy… just the way I love it!

Memorial Portraits

I often get asked to draw portraits of people and pets who are longer with us.

Although they are harder to do, emotionally, they are such an honour to draw… knowing that your work will be the perfect reminder of such a special person or animal.  Something that will be treasured forever.

By far the toughest commissions that I have done over the years are of new born babies who have either been still born or who have died shortly after birth.

These portraits usually involve trying to draw the baby, ignoring any medical equipment or skin discoloration.  It’s hard as I always draw people exactly how they are in the photographs that I’m given.  I don’t like to try and imagine what they might look like behind tubes and wires.  In these cases I always offer to scan the drawing while it’s in progress, giving the parents every opportunity to add changes where they feel it’s necessary.

It’s strange, but after the initial glace at the photo’s I’m sent, I usually don’t notice all the distressing aspects of it.  That may sound wrong and I don’t mean it to… the point I’m trying to get a cross is that I see the the baby as he or she would have been if it wasn’t for the tragic circumstances.  Content and healthy.

I often talk to them too while I’m drawing them… may be that’s just my way of dealing with it.  And when I hear from the grateful parents after they have received their finished portrait, I usually shed a tear or two… I’m only human, after all.



Card Designs

“How do you find the images for your card collection?” I hear you ask.

Well, way back in 2005 I spent a several months finding volunteers to model for me… the hairy, four legged variety that is.  Luckily I have some friends who happened to have some lovely photogenic cats, dogs and horses at the time, so I didn’t have to search too far at first.

The collection was tiny in 2006, when I released the card range to potential trade customers.  Only nine different card designs in total.  Small but sweet, as they say… sweet enough, I’d hoped, to entice trade customers to stock them within their small shops, tea rooms, galleries etc.  Luckily, people were interested in selling them and in return, their customers bought them… the rest is history, as they say!

The more cards I sold, the more designs I could afford to add to the collection.  That being the case though, the trickier it became to find other models to widen the range.

Sometimes I’d be fortunate enough to get commissioned to draw a portrait which happened to suit the collection perfectly.  All the customers who I’ve asked over the years if I could use their portraits for cards have been delighted that their faithful four legged friends have been honoured in such a way… especially as they receive some of their pets cards in return.

The wildlife collection proved a tad harder to source.  Luckily, a couple of years later, I stumbled across a great couple ( who sold their amazing photo’s of British wildlife at a country fair which I also exhibited at.  I’ve licensed their photo’s from them ever since.

Now, finding images for my cards is so much easier…

Greyhound and Lurcher Photo Competition Poster

It took almost two years, but at long last I have found the perfect use for Facebook.  I post photo competitions on there and hundreds of images come to me.  The only tough bit now, is choosing the winners!

Here’s a sneaky peep at one of next years new arrivals.  He’ll be 1 of 8 new characters joining the existing range of 53 card designs. The collection has certainly grown a bit over the years!

From photo to portrait…

Gemma Rogers - Woody and Ted - Winners poster


Winner - Stage 1 of 4 Winner - Stage 2 of4 Winner - Stage 3 of 4 Winner - Stage 4 of 4


Blank Cards

Blank Cards

I started my range of blank cards way back in 2006.  My portraits, by this point, were proving very popular so I thought a collection of cards and prints would compliment the commissions side of my business a treat… and so they did.

Over the years the range of cards have increased a lot.  There are now over 50 different designs from dogs, cats, horses, farm animals, wildlife and even 3 baby designs (you can guess what life changing event happened in my life around about that time!)

At first I exhibited at numerous large Trade Show’s… the “Spring Fair” being one of the most memorable.  Then as my list of trade customers expanded throughout the UK, I then hit the road once again with my “Card Agent” hat on.  This also proved a great success although it was extremely hard to keep up the momentum when demand for portrait commissions increased yet again.

So now I have a helping hand or two in the form of professional card agents… far much easier!

Drawing tips

Donkey Portrait Two - Stage 1  Donkey Portrait Two - Stage 2  Donkey Portrait Two - Stage 3  Donkey Portrait Two - Stage 4

I often get asked to share any hits and tips that I have about drawing.

Well the main one would be…

Draw what you see, not what you think you should see –

Sounds obvious I know, but believe it or not, that’s where most people slip up.  I very rarely look at what I draw as eye’s, nose, mouth etc.  It’s more a case of lines and shading.  It’s only when the portrait is almost finished that I actually look at it as a face if that makes sense?

Look at your drawings reflection in a mirror –

If you’ve made a mistake but you can’t quite put your finger on where it has gone wrong, looking at it through a mirror accentuates the error so it’s easier to put right.

And last but by no means least… Putty rubbers! –

A ‘must have’ for any artist who uses pencils, that’s for sure.  You may find it tricky to get used to at first… to say I wasn’t a big fan at the beginning is an understatement!  But persevere as I wouldn’t be without one now.  Not only can you rub out the smallest of areas but they are great for adding texture to drawings, from fluff on blankets to shine on individual strands of hair.

Horse Portraits

Another subject that I love to draw… horses.

I’ve always been a huge fan of these gorgeous animals so whenever I get commissioned to draw one of them, it’s an absolute pleasure.

Pam Duncan - Buddy 1 The Joker - Stage 2 The Joker - Stage 3 The Joker - Stage 4

The most requested portraits are close-ups, just including the head and neck.  I love being able to capture all of the detail onto a sheet of paper… the glint in their eyes, the course strands of mane, even the tiniest of stitching within a bridle.

Eventing portraits are also a favourite of mine… perfect for getting my teeth into!  So many wonderful textures crammed within one drawing… how could an artist possibly resist!!

Horse and Rider Blog

Dog Portraits

Portraits of dogs, horses and people are by far the most requested.

On average, I tend to draw one person or animal almost every week of the year.  Although for the two or three months on the run up to Christmas demand increases along with the pressure!  I’ve never missed a deadline yet though, which in 15 years is something I’m very proud of.

I love getting dog commissions in.  I’ve always had a dog as part of the family so I’m very fond of our faithful four-legged friends.  I’ve drawn all sorts of shapes and sizes over the years, from Cockapoo’s to Great Danes and Spaniels to Wolfhounds.  You name it, there’s a good chance I’ve already drawn it.

From photo to portrait…

Helen Matten - Shadow Stage 1 or 4 (dark) Stage 2 of 4 (dark) Stage 3 of 4 (dark) Stage 4 of 4 (dark)

This gorgeous little fella is called Shadow.  He was an absolute delight to draw.  Those lovely puppy-dog eye’s of his are fantastic.  I love drawing eye’s.  More often than not, I think it’s them that bring the portrait to life.

This portrait had been drawn onto an A4 sheet using a mixture of 2b – 5b pencils.  The photo’s don’t quite do the drawing justice but it gives you a good idea as to how I go about sketching each one.  It’s basically, scribbling the outlines and then filling them in with as much detail as possible.

A good few years ago, a lady once asked me to describe what I do.  I answered by saying that I was a bit like a human photocopier… you give me a photo and I copy it.  She thought I was putting myself down but I can’t say that I think of it in that way.  Not everyone can draw what they see in such detail onto a sheet of paper.  I’m really fortunate that it comes naturally to me and I love it.

Pencil Portraits

Very detailed black and white pencil portraits are my specialty… of both people and animals.

On average, a head and shoulder portrait will take about 25 hours to draw.  I work from photographs, so portraits are easily commissioned from throughout the UK and beyond.

The better the photo, the better the portrait… well, that’s usually the case anyway.  Although saying that, I’ve drawn from photographs that have been a bit on the blurry side and these helped me create some gorgeous soft focus portraits.

Young Lady - Photo A4 Young Lady - Portrait A4

I like my drawings to be as precise as possible.  I very rarely change something within a portrait that isn’t seen within the photograph… except to ignore the odd chocolate smudge on a child’s face or the drool plastered across a dogs nose.  I’ve had plenty of those little tweaks to do over the years.

I often get asked what I like to draw most of all.  This isn’t a tricky question to answer.  I love drawing from any photograph that is bursting with character… whether it be a baby’s heartwarming smile or newly weds laughing during their first dance, a kitten pawing at it’s own shadow or a horse intrigued by something beyond the stable door.  If the face tells a story then I can’t wait to copy it onto paper.

This is one of my most favourite commissions that I have had the pleasure to draw.  As you can see from the photo, it wasn’t the clearest to copy from but boy oh boy, those cheeky smiles sure made up for that.  I loved every minute of it!

Neil Hawkins - Photo - Blog Neil Hawkins - Portrait - Blog