Posted in Custom Artwork, Pet Artwork

Guinea Pig Portrait

Piper the Guinea Pig Portrait

A Guinea Pig Portrait in Coloured Pencil by Ellie Burdett

Guinea Pig in Coloured Pencil

By Ellie Burdett

A very special and quite a long journey overseas was the happy result of this artwork…….

This little Piggy travelled over 3400 miles from Brighton, United Kingdom to Florida in The United States of America!

Having posted a quick sketch of my two guinea pigs on a forum on facebook, a very special young lady requested a drawing of her Guinea Pig….well how could I resist?

So…..that’s the inspiration for this artwork…..

I had recently as you may be aware from reading my blog be in pride possession of a full set of Caran D’ache Luminance coloured pencils and was overjoyed to be using these once again for this artwork, knowing and trusting in their lightfast qualities.

All I had for this piece was a small photo of the guinea pig who little known to anyone at that time would be traveling so many miles!


“Tip:  It is only through the experience of actually shipping artwork that you learn packaging methods and postal costs”


“Piper the Guinea Pig”

Guinea Pig in Coloured Pencil using Caran D’ache Luminance Pencils


I started this artwork by hand sketching the guinea pig from the reference photo sent to me using a light grey luminance pencil.  Being left handed I started adding colour from the left of the drawing to the right.

The grey paper enabled me to lay down the white fur of the guinea pig without issue.

Using a very light handed I added the layers of fur, gradually building up the colour.

Using blenders and Zest it I was able to ensure there was a gentle transition between the different colours within the fur.

Finally I added the last two layers of colour which gave real depth and vibrance to the artwork.


Framing & Posting:

Once finished and framed I did a lot of research into packaging and went with the advise of bubble wrapping – in order to ensure the glass in the frame was not broken during transit, I added a couple of rolled pieces of bubble wrap to act as a barrier and shock absorber.  With parcel having made the journey without breaking this was a great choice.

Lastly off to the post office to learn a very valuable lesson on postage costs and off Piper went to America.

Well they say that one good turn deserves another and this was a great experience and has enabled me to ship outside the UK.

Supplies List:
  • Caran D’ache Luminance Coloured Pencils
  • Derwent Blender & Burnisher Pencils
  • Strathmoore Grey Paper
  • Zest it Coloured Pencil Blender
  • Detial Brush to apply Zest it blender
  • Low tack artists tape and photo frame

Customer Feedback:
“This drawing of Piper is beautiful!! We are going to hang it on the wall – thank you”


Thank you for taking the time to read my blog – Ellie Burdett –

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Posted in Custom Artwork, Pet Artwork

Black Cat in Coloured Pencil

Black Cat in Coloured Pencil

George the Cat in Coloured Pencil

By Ellie Burdett

Well here we go – happy birthday Ellie – with a massive smile on my face because my wonderful husband has brought me a full set – yes full set of Caran Dache Luminance Colour Pencils for my birthday.

As yet Im still at the can’t stop looking at them stage and have them in prize position in the art studio.  I can’t believe that I have the god of all coloured pencils (In my opinion of course!).

In the absence of a pet commission at the moment – the only option was to use George the Cat as the model for my first full piece with these pencils. For those of you who don’t know me – George the cat lives with me and was rescued by my daughters who found him deserted on the street outside our house as a kitten.  After much pleading by the girls and hubby with begs of “Oh please we must have the poor homeless kitten before he gets eaten by a fox” I finally gave up and said for goodness sakes go and bring him in!

George has grown into quite a character and I must say a fine addition to our ever growing family of rescued pets – not one day of regrets taking him on, even though he is quite a clumsy moggy and has ruined the hall carpet with his scratching!

So what are Caran Dache Luminance Pencils like working with?

I have to say, I have tried most coloured pencils and these are my personal favourite – I was not disappointed with the results I got.  The depth of colour is second to none, not to mention their fantastic lightfast qualities, they didn’t suffer from wax bloom before I got all the layers and colours that I wanted before I finished.  Some Pencils were softer than others and some harder – this wasn’t an issue as some layers I was able to lay down quickly with the softer pencils.

So long as I did not press hard – they also maintained their points well on the paper I was working on.

So to the paper – having had a brand new hobby craft store open just down the road from where I live – obviously I was unable to resist the temptation to go in on a hunt for paper.  I have had some difficulty getting my favourite paper which is hot press smooth paper (or grain satine as it is commonly known) – the other matter is one of price ouch for that paper.  So with all that in mind and with the swaying factor that there was some Faber Castell multi media paper on sale in hobby craft – naturally I thought thats my pad! (note; I was very impressed with this paper it held up very well)

“Tip:  When working with coloured pencils its important to remember to keep a light touch – this ensures you don’t loose the tooth of the paper and lets you get more layers on before you develop any bloom from the pencils – once either of these two occur – you just cannot get on anymore colour”

Black Cat in Coloured Pencils

So off to work with George the Cat using Caran Darche Luminance Pencils on Faber Castell Multi-media Paper


So the first job was to use some low tack artist tape to secure the sheet of paper to the drawing board (another  hobby craft half price find)

I was really concerned to ensure my original drawing was very accurate as when using colour pencils any errors I have found are massively accentuated eek.

With this in mind I decided to draught out my drawing onto draughting film and then once happy with it I used graphite transfer paper to get the drawing onto the Faber Castell Paper.

Adding Colour with Caran Dache:

So to get a black cat……hmmmmmm

After a great deal of research on the best method to get black in coloured pencil off I went and got out the blue and purple pencils!

I did have my sister in law visit and say: thats really nice – but why is it purple and blue?

After a nervous laugh I explained that ultimately George the Cat would end up black (I hoped lol)

Starting with the Phalo Blue Pencil I layed down a light layer of colour working in the direction of the fur, following this a layer of purple.  Lastly I layered down black with particular focus on the direction and shape of the fur. A second layer of black was layed down to enhance to look of the fur and add additional contract to the look of the drawing.

On lighter areas of fur I used lighter shades of blue and purple with grey over the top.  With this contrast in the fur I was able to get a more realistic look to the drawing.

I then used the Caran Dache colour blending stick to that had been sharpened to a point to blend the colours again in the direction of the fur.  I did like this look, however felt the colour was still a little lacking.  With a big breath of dutch courage, I pulled out the little bottle of zest it colour pencil blender and a detail paint brush and brushed away.  Thank god for the dutch courage as this was a great move – the zest it blender really deepened the colour of the black but also let the purple and blue creep through giving the fur real depth.

Finally, I did a little more with the light blue pencil to add highlights and followed up this with the trusty brush and pencil touch up texture with titanium white to  enhance the highlights in the eyes.

All in all, I massively enjoyed this project and look forward to my next coloured pencil venture.

Supplies List:
  • Caron D’ache Luminance Coloured Pencils
  • Faber Castell Multi Media Paper from a Pad
  • Hobby Craft low tack artists tape
  • Hobby Craft Drawing Board
  • Brush & Pencil touch up texture and titanium white
  • Zest it coloured pencil blender
  • George the Cat!
  •  Photo reference from Maddie my daughter (a great photo by the way – so clear an artists dream)
Black Cat in Coloured Pencil

A big thank you for taking the time to read my blog and I hope you enjoyed it

Ellie Burdett

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Posted in Acrylic Painting, Custom Artwork, Pet Artwork

Springer Spaniel in Acrylic

Painting a Springer Spaniel in Acrylic

creating a custom pet portrait in light-fast acrylic paint on canvas

By Ellie Burdett

The goal this week is to paint a pet portrait in acrylic paint on canvas, not an easy task if this is your first attempt at a fur baby, however totally achievable.  There are tips and tricks to painting pets in acrylic for the beginner artist to complete this project.

This tutorial aims to take you through the steps needed to complete this project at home from choosing your reference photo to  the processes I found useful on this project.

The very thought of painting a pet portrait can be quite daunting after you get over the original excitement, however taken in a step by step approach it helped me get from the idea stage to the completed project.  I spent a lot of time trying and a few fluffed attempts before finding a formula that worked for me.

It is about trial and error and finding what works for you.  the worst thing you can do is to not try or give up if at first your attempts are not as you perceived they would turn out.  The thing to remember here is the more you paint – the more you will learn and lets face it acrylic painting is vey forgiving and it is easy to just paint over any bits your not happy with (tip: make sure the layer underneath is totally dry before you do this or the previous layer will lift)

“Tip: Always start with a good reference photo – this I have found is the difference between success and failure”

The Reference Photo:

Stating with a good reference photo is the key to success here.  Things to look out for here are clarity within the photo.  An image that shows the pet is just not enough, the photo needs to be up close and personal and show the direction of the fur.  Another important feature of the reference photo for the painting is to ensure that there are no areas of shadow that may obscure any detail of the subject.  Particularly as a new artist, you need to pay more attention to the reference material than your actual painting.

On the section below there are a few examples of good and bad photos – notice how some are in shadow on the face and the detail is difficult to pick out.

A quick note on permissions: always get the photo owners permission to post the photo and artwork online as I have done here.


Poor Reference Photo

Although at first glance a beautiful photo, it does not give the clarity required for the detailed work needed for an acrylic painting. There are areas around the side of the face merging into the ears where the detail is not clear.

IMG_0675 (002)

Good Reference Photo

Although this photo appear less than attractive at first look with a bin in full sight, it is worth noting that the image has all the required detail and focus for painting. The background can be changed to enhance the subject.

Creating the back drop:

Choosing a background to your painting is the first job on the agenda…I found it very productive to work from back to foreground.  Colour choice is also important and I have found it useful to ensure your background both matches and complements the pet you are intending to paint.

I personally like a little twist and creativity in the background adding my personal artistic style and atmosphere.  I have found that just painting the pet, although great does not give a completed look to the artwork.

In my painting, I choose a cloudy grey scale background and I have added at the final stages some floating feathers to give some additional foreground focus and interest.

I started by painting the whole canvas deep grey then added the clouds by first hand painting the base of the clouds in grey, graduating to lighter grey towards the top.  I then airbrushed around the clouds in black creatix paint with a final layer in white over the tops of the clouds.

If like me, you have no formal art training – it is worth having a quick internet search on “the rule of thirds” this helped me with the elements of painting composition and position.

Transferring the Sketch to the Canvas:

It is an absolute must to spend time on the sketch stage of your painting to ensure your drawing is as accurate as possible as when painted any errors in size or scale will be exaggerated.

Once happy with the sketch a quick and easy method to transfer to the canvas is by using transfer paper.  You can find this at most art/craft stores and is readily available online.  By using transfer paper, it eliminates the mistake and correction process on the canvas.

Layering the Paint to form the Pet Portrait:

As you can see from the photo above it is then a process of gradually adding layer of paint in the direction and pattern of the fur.  A big lesson I learnt here was not to concentrate too much on the strands of fur at first and just get the general colours blocked in.  Once the general colours are blocked in, you can get to grips with the fur detail.

When painting fur use shorter strokes for the short fur and longer strokes for the longer fur.  Another tip for fur is to painting clumps rather than single hairs. When painting the clumps, I started with darker grey tones and graduated to lighter grey tones.  I added the lighter grey tones and whites to only the tips of the clumps, this gives the illusion of depth.

When considering colours during the painting process, do not focus too much on colour choice…it is more important to get a variation in tonal value.  Colour can be adjusted during the final stages with a very thin glaze (this can be either the paint thinned with water or a glazing medium).

An example of this can be noted as following completion of the pet portrait, I added some feathers to add an element of interest.  The base colour was grey tone and the next colour was unbleached titanium white with final highlights in titanium white.  Having painted the feathers I noted that I needed to pull some of the unbleached titanium white into the body of the dog to ensure that they blended into the portraits theme and did not stand out as a stand alone feature within the painting.  This was achieved by glazing a wash over some of the fur.

Tip: Glazing can change the look and feel of a painting and enhance the colours.  Glazing is a great way of adding depth to the painting.  The light will refract though the layers beautifully.

Supplies List:
  1. Artina Canvas
  2. Liquitex Basics Paints
  3. Creatix Paint
  4. Liqitex Glazing Medium
  5. Pro-arte brushes (Flat, filbert & no 1 rigger brush

I hope you have enjoyed this blog and thank you for taking the time to read through.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post or email.

Ellie Burdett – Self Taught Artist

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