• Amy Elizabeth Fine Art

Pastel Pet Portrait Artist UK- Creating a Golden Retriever Portrait in Pastels

Amy Elizabeth Fine Art- Pastel Pet Portrait Artist UK- Derbyshire


I recently filmed a time-lapse of me creating a golden retriever portrait in pastel pencils, so I thought I should write a blog post and show you all how a pet portrait from photos gets created!


I do have a soft spot for golden retrievers, with their gentle laid back temperaments, and their ability to be trained for a variety of uses, including for being guide dogs, gundogs and assistance dogs. Like their names suggest they have a lovely golden coat, which can range from light golden to dark golden in colour. They are a joy to draw in pastels, with their delightful colour and long silky coat, it is a breed that looks fantastic when created as a pastel pet portrait from photos.


I filmed this time-lapse of each of the main parts of the pastel pet portrait being filmed individually, the eyes and nose. I always start my pet portraits by drawing these features, as they really are the most important parts. This time I drew the nose in first. This golden retriever had a black nose. Some golden retrievers have lovely pinky brown noses, which are much more different to draw than black ones.



Here you can see I start with the initial outline drawn out, I then layer up the pastels to create the shape and texture. Dogs noses have a lot of texture to them, but you also want to show the shine that that have, using lighter coloured pastels on the areas in the photo that the light is catching. Here you see I put in the darkest shades first, which allows me to see the overall values of the pastel drawing. To make something look realistic (which you will want if you have commissioned a realistic pet portrait from photos(!)), you need to get in the full range of colours, from the very darkest to the lightest. Over the time I draw the dogs nose in pastels, I keep refining bits more and more as time goes on. I start with a big line round the nostril, which obviously isn't what you want in the final portrait! However, I keep going over it until you are left with the final lighter highlights.


Next I move onto the eyes. The fast majority of dogs, including golden retrievers have lovely brown eyes.



I start with the basic golden retriever eye drawn out, all I need to do now is add the colour! I like to fill in the highlight in the dogs eye early on. I feel that having a bit of reflection in the dogs eye is good for making a portrait look more "alive". As I create pastel pet portraits from photos, using pictures taken by my clients, I have a lot of guides and blog posts on my website regarding getting a good photo of your dog, specifically for the purpose of commissioning a pet portrait. One of the things I talk about is making sure that the lighting in the photograph lights up your dogs eyes with a bit of reflection. This is done by making sure the sun is facing towards your dog. If you want to read more dog photography tips, both for in general, and regarding commissioning a pet portrait from a photo, then click the link to see my blog posts in my pet portrait photography section.


As you can see in the video I fill in the colours of the eye and then work around them, building up both the shape and colour. Around the eyes of a dogs face is an area with a lot of shape to it, both to the eyes and around the eye socket. This needs to be shown properly when created in pastels in order to create a realistic pet portrait.



Here you can see I continue the process with the second eye. I generally start with the right eye then move to the left, mainly because I am left handed, and it is better to not lean on parts of the pastel portrait that are already completed.



In this next video I start to fill in round the areas that are already almost complete. As you can see I layer up the colours. An area that can start out one colour, ends up looking quite different once i have finished. A golden retrievers coat is made up of quite a lot of different golden brown shades, it is important to include them all in order to get a realistic end result. There are areas of fur that are significantly lighter than others, this is where the light is hitting the dogs face, like on top of his head. Showing that there is a sense of light is important in the final pet portrait, it makes the image look less flat, and therefore more 3D.



Here is the final video showing me creating a golden retriever portrait in pastels. Here I finish off by adjusting the colours slightly and adding those finishing touches, such as the whiskers.


A dog’s face is accentuated by his whiskers. They frame the eyes sort of like eyebrows and emphasise the muzzle when a dog “smiles.” But whiskers are more than just facial enhancements; they serve an important function. Whiskers are specifically tuned to help guide a dog through daily activities. They are often an aspect of a dog that you don't visually really pay any attention to, however I think I pet portrait just looks a little bit strange, until they are added. They are always the last little bit I draw, as I complete them in coloured pencil, even on a pastel portrait, as it easier to get a sharp point on a coloured pencil for drawing really fine lines.



A pastel pet portrait from photos, of a golden retriever dog in a realistic style. It has golden fur and a black nose. BY Amy Elizabeth Fine Art | Pet Portrait Artist Derbyshire
Pastel Pet Portrait Artist UK- Golden Retriever Dog in Pastels Derbyshire Pet Portrait Artist

So there you have it, what do you think? If you're a golden retriever owner, or know someone who would like a pastel portrait of their dog, I would love to hear from you. All you need to commission a pastel portrait from me is a high quality image of your dog.


My name is Amy and I am a pastel and coloured pencil pet portrait artist based in Derbyshire in the UK. I create pet portraits from photos provided by my clients. As a keen photographer I like to try and make sure that clients have the best possible photos of their pets. To check out my step by step guide on how to take a photo for a pet portrait click here.


To subscribe to my email list, for updates on any exhibitions, current original pieces of art for sale, and to receive a free pdf guide to taking great photos of your dog, click on the photo below.


Amy Elizabeth Fine Art | Pastel Pet Portrait Artist UK | Pet Portraits from Photos | Derbyshire