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A guide to the commission process

My customers are often commissioning a portrait for the first time, so to help, I have summarised the process in a few steps below.  I'm very happy to answer your questions with no obligation, so please get in touch by email or contact form.  If you decide to go ahead we'll chat about your thoughts on pose, composition and size. This is also a good opportunity to tell me a little about the subject's character if you choose to.  



Whether commissioning a dog or child portrait, it's important to select a high quality, clear and close-up photo for me to work from. I recommend taking new pictures specifically for the portrait using a digital camera or alternatively choose from your existing images. Please don't resize your images; send them in the largest file format as this will be the most detailed version. For a guide to taking and selecting suitable photos please see the sections below.


Once I've received your photos we can discuss the best image to use and the composition/size of the portrait you would like.  I typically work on paper 10"x12", 11"x14", 12"x14" but larger sizes and square sizes are also available. The smallest I recommend is 10"x12" which is ideal for a single child or dog 'head and shoulders' portrait; an older child or adult might suit a larger size. Bear in mind that if you choose to add a mount, this will increase the size of the portrait when framed.


When the details have been finalised I'll give you an estimated completion date.  I ask for a £60 deposit to secure your booking in my calendar.  Portraits are usually completed in 3 to 4 weeks depending on size and whether using pencil or coloured pencil; the latter being a longer process.  I can send you a progress image if you would like to see one. It's easier to make changes at this point, so this is an opportunity for any small adjustments. When the portrait is complete, I'll send you a digital proof for your approval.  For information on technique & materials click here


For UK delivery, I use Royal Mail Next Day Special Delivery, a tracked and signed-for service.  If you live locally you are welcome to collect in person.  International orders are sent via secure service, allow 3-7 days. More on postage. 


I'm always grateful to receive feedback and, if possible, a photograph of your portrait in situ once it has been framed.

Testimonials and photos may be added to the website or posted on social media.

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A good photograph is key to a successful portrait

To create a highly detailed portrait I need a sharp, colour, digital image to work from, ideally taken with a camera rather than a phone or ipad.  I will enlarge and print the image and will also reference it on an ipad, zooming in to look closely at small areas, so high resolution is essential! 

Pictures taken with phones (or downloaded from social media) often don't have the quality needed, but if you have a favourite that can't be replicated, or don't have a camera, I'm happy to check your images and will do my best to work with them if at all possible.  However, as a general rule, if you zoom in on your photo and the details appear pixelated or blurred, it will not have the clarity needed.  The better the photo the better the likeness produced!

Scroll down for more tips and examples of dog and child portraits with their reference photos.


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Capturing a reference photograph



Photos taken outside on a light, cloudy day will give the best results. Avoid direct sunlight as this can cast hard shadows and make your subject squint. Avoid photos that have been taken indoors under artificial lighting or with flash as this can change natural colours and add unwanted shadows. If you choose to take your photos indoors, position your subject in front of a window on a bright day. Images that are underexposed will be too dark to show detail.  


Consider different poses; for example, you may wish a child to simply look at the camera smiling; or prefer them to be looking up, down, or away in a more pensive pose; or head resting in hand/s. A 3/4 angled position works well and it's usually best if the subject is not directly face on or side on to the camera, as they can look a bit flat. Ensure all aspects of the face are in focus and that eye shape and colour are clearly visible. Remove hats, hairbands, jewellery or pet collars if you prefer them not to be included.


Aim to get a good close-up and fill the frame, ensuring tops of heads etc are within the frame. For example, a popular choice is a head and shoulders pose and for this you don't need to include any more than the upper body in your photo.​​ Check the background to make sure your subject stands out against it.


I appreciate that keeping a child or dog still for photos can be tricky!  So I suggest you take lots of pictures, 20 to 30, and then narrow down your choices, discarding any that are out of focus. I'm very happy to look through a number of

images to help you find the best.

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Technique & Materials


Having given thought to composition, tone and colours, I create a light line drawing, placing key features and hair/fur structure. Then I work on a small area at a time, often beginning with the eyes. Using a layering technique, I put graphite or colour down, very lightly marking up lights and darks. When the first layers are down I add detail, building up graphite tone or colour many times over, referencing the subject's photograph closely throughout.  In terms of colour work especially it's a lengthy process, with each small area taking 2 hours or more to complete.


All materials are professional grade and acid-free. I use Faber-Castell and Derwent graphite pencils, Faber-Castell Polychromos, Caran d'Ache Luminance/Pablo coloured pencils.  These colour brands have highly concentrated lightfast pigments to ensure your portrait lasts a lifetime. I use a range of high quality papers such as Legion Stonehenge, Strathmore or Bristol and pastelmat board.  I usually work on white/offwhite but may suggest using a toned grey, if for example, a pet has a large amount of white or very light fur. 

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Giclée Prints & Framing



If you would like to order prints of your portrait, I can arrange this for you.  Giclée prints are very high quality, using archival quality pigment based inks and archival paper. The original artwork is photographed, then finely tweeked using editing software to ensure genuine colour matches before printing on an advanced inkjet printer. The result is a highly accurate reproduction of the original artwork. I outsource to a local giclée printing specialist and would personally oversee the process. Prices vary depending on size, available on request. 



It's essential to use the right materials to ensure your portrait is preserved for many years to come. Pencil artwork is delicate and ideally should be mounted and framed behind UV deflective glass in order to preserve the graphite/colours and the condition of the paper. Using a mount will prevent the drawing from coming in to contact with the glass, which could cause any moisture on the glass to be absorbed into the paper. Alternatively, you can opt for a recessed box frame where the drawing is set back from the glazing.

I believe choosing a frame is a very personal choice based on your home decor style and personal taste. As the range of options I could offer would be limited I don't provide an online framing service. Your local professional framer will have a wide range of frames and mounts to ensure the perfect match for your portrait.

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