All my work is in pastel. I use mainly ‘Unison’ pastels and have an enormous range of them in all colours. My pastel box is a thing of beauty in itself! For animals, I work on ‘Sennelier’ pastel board, the surface of which is like a fine emery board. This takes the soft quality of the pastels beautifully and is a marvellous ground for fur of all textures.
For people I use ‘Canson’ paper but offer a choice of pastel, monotone or full colour. For the very young, ‘sanguine’or ‘terracotta’ pencil is a sympathetic and minimal approach which can suit perfectly the flawlessness of a very young face. Older children and adult faces carry full colour more easily.
Because colour is so important to me and light affects colour, I am fussy about the quality of light in which I work. My studio has excellent north light. I never work under electric light.
I work naturally at a scale of approximately 2/3 life size although horses, being so large, tend to be a little less.This means that once framed a portrait will be from 45cm x 55cm for a small dog to 60cm x 75cm for a typical child or horse. I also do full size people portraits which once framed are about 85cm x 105cm.
Generally I travel to my client. I find it is easier and more relaxing both for me and the sitter that way. In particular it is important for children to feel at ease and happy to sit for me. It is also helps me absorb more of them, their interests and their environment. Whilst there are no rules as to how well a child will sit, I find that with very young children, who obviously cannot sit still, I rely more on rapid sketching and the use of the camera to capture the material I need. However, once they are four or five years old I find that they will often sit quite happily for short periods, provided that they have perhaps a story to listen to – and their mum stays out of the way!
Even in the case of animals, I also value highly the time spent with them. Although the camera is a vital tool, I believe there is no better way to understand what an animal looks like than to draw it from life. It is about true, deep observation. I need to get a feel for the animal and its character. This gives energy and purpose to me. It is also important for me to understand the way the owner perceives their animal. Understanding these things is fundamental for producing a successful portrait. Perhaps this is why my clients often feel I have not only produced the ‘look’ of their animal but has captured the individuality of its particular character. That makes me immensely satisfied. It can make quite a bond between us, so much so that I still keep in touch with many previous clients.