Today’s dog is another Bella. Quite different from the other Bella, she does, nonetheless share her taste for coordinating backgrounds, and looks simply beautiful against the golden sand and complementary blue skies of the south coast. There were three gorgeous photos to choose from, and a fourth, taken that very morning, whilst Bella was looking for foxholes on the Sussex Downs. And this last, according to her owner, was the one that perfectly captured her. There was only the tiny problem that she was barely visible in it (it’s the green photo above, and yes, there is a dog in it). Obviously that would be an insane photo to choose. Insane….

So, I set to work.IMG_5666Here’s the sketch of Bella, or should I say, one of the sketches. That’s right, the first sketch I drew was from the insane photo (it’s seen lurking on the previous page above). I think it was her smile in that one, and the absurdity of attempting a portrait from that photograph. I shook myself, gave myself a good talking to, and ploughed on.

Sweet, and playful, it’s true, but I didn’t feel like I was quite there yet. I had unfinished business in the bushes, and I knew I wouldn’t be done, till I had hunted out those foxholes myself.

There are no photos in the making of the next Bella. I didn’t stop to take any. I have a raft of commissions to tackle, and messing about in the undergrowth is really not what I should have been doing. But then, there was one Liberty print with large leaves already on it, perfect for the foreground, and another – a William Morris print, by the look of it – and I couldn’t resist.

And here she is – the illicit Bella:IMG_5778Doesn’t she look happy – like she was always meant to be. And those colours and sharp outlines were tugging at my memory. The Morris print is as English as the South Downs, yet lusher in the colouring. There was something almost jungly about it. And then it hit me: “Surprised” by Henri Rousseau, aka the tiger in the National Gallery.

Uncanny, isn’t it. I mean the likeness, but actually, I always found the Rousseau painting itself a little spooky as a kid – something about the precision, maybe? I’m not sure.

Anyhow, if you think that’s spooky, it turns out, when I showed Bella’s owner the two finished portraits, that she had always loved that Rousseau painting when she was a kid. It’s like I read her mind from one stray photograph! – that’s how good I am.

And here they are, spooky and sane. Take your pick.IMG_5792


If you would like a bespoke portrait of your own pet have a look at the commissions page.

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