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  • Emma Gillo

Example of the Commission process.

When I begin a portrait I will always start with some sketches first. This helps me with the composition, whilst giving the client an idea of how the finished portrait will look, in terms of size and composition at least. For the portrait of Bella, the golden retriever, I began with this charcoal sketch.

I had positioned her too close to the edge in this first sketch, and from this early example the client decided she would like the finished drawing to be square.

So onto the next stage, positioning Bella onto the finished canvas.

The client had supplied me with a lovely photograph to work from which always makes my life a little easier!

This is the first sketch on the finished paper. The actual sheet is much larger than the client wanted, so you can see that I have marked the edge of the finished piece, creating the square composition that the client had requested.

I am always a little nervous of sharing a drawing at this stage as it is really just an outline and takes a little imagination, and trust from the client, that the finished portrait will be ok!

In this sketch Bella is starting to emerge! I'm working in the darker tones, bringing out her nose and eyes. It always amazes me how much the drawing changes as the tones are added and how something I thought was right turns out to be too big, or not quite in the right place! You can see here how effective the graphite wash is - the effect is a little like a watercolour painting only in greyscale. It creates a really soft background to build upon.

She's really starting to take shape now, you can see I've altered her forehead and made her ear bigger, as well as adding in more detail on her face and her fluffy coat! You can also see how I've built upon that soft layer from the previous image, adding in more linear details and expressive marks.

Here is the full finished drawing - from this you can see how lovely the square composition is for a head and shoulders portrait.

Bella completely finished and in close up!

In this close up you can see the finer details of her whiskers and fur. I eventually used graphite, wash and pen to create this portrait.

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