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  • Writer's pictureKevin Roeckl

Jet portrait in progress - start to finish

May 20


I’m starting a new Border Collie portrait. This will be the 3rd one I’ve done for Cathy N.

Prismacolor pencil on "Felt Grey" Canson paper.

Colored pencil portrait of tri-color Border Collie, in progress

 

Jet portrait in progress 2

Click through this album using the arrows at either side, to see the left side of Jet’s face, and his beautiful brown eye, appear in 6 steps.


There is a surprising number of colors in Jet’s face. He is a tri-color Border Collie.

Colored pencil portrait of tri-color Border Collie, in progress

And a close-up of that left eye, showing all the detail of the pencil-work.

The eyes will really make this portrait.

Colored pencil portrait of tri-color Border Collie, in progress

 

Jet portrait in progress 3

Today’s work. Tomorrow, when I’m fresh, I’ll start on the right eye. Eyes are so important in a portrait, but this portrait is all about his eyes. Here’s why:


When Cathy and I began working on Jet’s portrait, she sent more than 200 photos. Many high-quality photos, taken throughout Jet’s lifetime by Cathy and dear friend Allison — beautiful photos of a handsome dog. I studied them and suggested several that would make a good portrait. Cathy considered my suggestions but kept coming back to a particular photo of Jet at the top of her porch steps. She said:


“I feel like I could just stare at this photo forever as he looks right at me. This is where Jet was always comfortable. I would come home from work and he would be there.”

When I hear a client say something like that, I know we’ve got our photo.

That is what I’m capturing for Cathy in Jet’s portrait.

Colored pencil portrait of tri-color Border Collie, in progress

 

Jet portrait in progress 4

I ran through a lot of pencils doing this portrait. Because I had to keep my pencil points extremely sharp to do Jet’s very fine hair. So most of the pencil went down the hungry throat of my electric pencil sharpener.


Whenever the pencil got the slightest bit dull I had to stick it back in the pencil sharpener and chew up more of the pencil to get it back to the sharpest possible point.


This is a closeup taken while working on Jet’s muzzle and nose. I just finished his bottom lip.

Colored pencil portrait of tri-color Border Collie, in progress

 

Jet portrait in progress 5

A dog’s nose.

Filling in the top of Jet’s black nose really made it look like a real nose!


There was such good detail in the reference photo that I was able to get that “leathery” texture of a dog’s nose. Eternally grateful to Allison Y. for the beautiful photo I’m using, and many other great photos of Jet taken during his lifetime for her friend Cathy, which helped me understand Jet’s personality.


 

Jet portrait in progress 6

Jet’s face is mostly finished except for that flow of black hair from his cheek on the right side. But I want to fill his white paw in first so I can do the black hair resting over the top of the paw. It’s best to do white pencil first, and run black pencil up to the edge of it. A very sharp black pencil will make crisp lines of black hair over the white. White pencil would only smear into the black making grey.


Today I finished Jet’s back, and the right ear. Next I’ll work my way down his white shoulder to the paw….and fill in that black right side of his face as I go.

Colored pencil portrait of tri-color Border Collie, in progress

 

Jet portrait in progress 7

Working on Jet’s paw. I filled in his white paw first, then the black hair resting over the top of the paw. It’s best to do white pencil first, and run black pencil up to the edge of it. A very sharp black pencil will make crisp lines of black hair over the white, as you see here. If I had done the black hairs first, then run white into the spaces between them, white pencil would smear into the black making grey, and “dirtied” the pencil. The next stroke I made with the white pencil would have left a grey mark, not a white one.


Part of the strategy of building a piece of art. Learned from experience with these particular materials.

Colored pencil portrait of tri-color Border Collie, in progress

 

Jet portrait in progress 8

Jet himself is finished. Just have the porch to do. As you know, Jet waiting for Cathy at the top of the porch steps when she came home from work, is the “forever memory” that speaks to her heart.

Colored pencil portrait of tri-color Border Collie, in progress

 

Jet portrait in progress 9

When a portrait is finished I send a large, high-resolution jpg to the client for final approval. Sometimes clients request minor adjustments to the portrait. I continue working on it until they are completely happy. That is part of the process of creating a portrait so I want to share that too.


When Cathy saw the final jpg something jumped out at her.

She wrote:

“I have one request. Can you soften up Jet’s whiskers under his chin?

Looking at the original I see he does have many whiskers. Amazing what photographs pick up if you don’t groom your dogs all the time. If you can, soften up the focus a bit so that I don’t see so much.

I love everything else about Jet’s portrait!”


Sometimes something jumps out at the client that I didn’t see because I’ve gotten so used to looking at it. They are always right, it improves the portrait when I make the changes.


Here’s the before and after pic. I softened the whiskers by rubbing over them lightly with the same grey that is behind/around them.

Colored pencil portrait of tri-color Border Collie, in progress

I also asked Cathy about that white whisker sticking out the right side of Jet’s cheek. It was very visible in the photo. Cathy said, “I think you can take that one completely out. I won’t miss that whisker one bit. If I had a scissor, I would cut that one off :)”


 

Jet portrait finished!

This portrait is based on a reference photo Cathy chose that is personally very meaningful to her. Before I show you the finished portrait of Jet, I want to show you a few of the photos Cathy sent me…many beautiful photos taken through Jet’s lifetime by Cathy and friend Allison, a talented photographer.


I asked Cathy to tell me about Jet before I worked on his portrait. She wrote a sweet story of Jet’s life. I’m sharing that with you to show you who Jet was before you see his portrait:


“Jet”

Conant’s Falcon Flyer CD


My boy Jet, a very sweet soul.

A boy that was always happy to hang out with people.

Reference photo of Border Collie, Jet.

He loved toys and a ball was all he needed to invent a rolling game of some sort. Like letting it roll from the top of the stairs then retrieving it only to go back up the stairs for another roll.

Reference photo of Border Collie, Jet.

The top of the stairs was Jet’s favorite place to watch time go by as he waited for me to come home from work. Those are beautiful memories I hold to my heart.

Reference photo of Border Collie, Jet.

Jet was the son of Robin, one of three puppies she had, two girls and one boy.

(puppies with Kevin’s portrait of Robin, 2016)

Reference photo of Border Collie, Jet.

Jet and his sister, Storm were very close throughout their life. Never an argument between each other.

Reference photo of Border Collie, Jet.

Jet and Storm would play and tug, and many times Jet would defer and give Storm the “win" of the toy. He was a very polite boy.

Reference photo of Border Collie, Jet.

As litter mates they were very connected and comfortable sweet souls together. They complimented each other.

The two of them were the easiest dogs to care for and keeping them both from Robin’s litter was the best decision I ever made.

Reference photo of Border Collie, Jet.

Both Jet and Storm had the best Auntie in the whole world who loved to visit them and care for them and she took many, many photos.


I wanted Allison to be a part of their lives. Allison had a strong bond with Jet and Storm that made us all happy to be a part of. The photo that I have chosen for this portrait was taken by Allison, "Jet’s favorite place”. (The top of the porch stairs, photo not shown.)

Reference photo of Border Collie, Jet.

Jet was a bit shy when he was young but with littermate Storm’s help they pulled through that fear period as they grew. Allison did many walks with them both while I would train Robin so that she and I could get that UD title we were chasing and we did it. I had hopes of Jet being my next dog to compete in AKC obedience but I soon realized he did not seem happy doing what I was asking of him. I was able to help him reach the first level of AKC obedience - the Companion Dog title and we both were happy with that. Then I stopped and let him be a wonderful companion.

Reference photo of Border Collie, Jet.

My loyal companion at his best.

One of Jet's most favorite games was the “bathtub" game he created.

When I would take a shower and he would hear the water start then he would run to find a ball and drop it in the bathtub. My job was to lightly kick the ball in a manner so that it would roll just high enough at the end of the tub for him to catch it. After the catch he would drop it back for another roll and catch. We had a lot of fun with that game and we sure miss that game with him.

Reference photo of Border Collie, Jet.

Jet was my snuggle boy. I allowed him to sleep in bed and he would always choose to lie at the top of my head with many pillows. Storm and Robin had their own favorite places and we were one happy family.


We are so blessed to have had all the moments of his wonderful life.

Thank you to Kevin to bring forward all those memories that will be shared in those eyes of my beloved Jet.

Reference photo of Border Collie, Jet.

From Kevin:

Cathy wrote about “those eyes of my beloved Jet” because of the reference photo we settled on for the portrait....

Reference photo of Border Collie, Jet.

There were many photos of Jet on the porch with his chin resting at the top of the steps. That was where Cathy saw him every day when she came home from work. Out of all the beautiful photos of handsome Jet, she kept coming back to a particular one.

Cathy wrote:

“I feel like I could just stare at this photo forever as he looks right at me.

The portrait will definitely give me the notion he is waiting for me. (A tear to my eye just thinking of that).”


The portrait of Jet:

Reference photo of Border Collie, Jet.

Based on a photo by Allison Yap.

Colored pencil on grey Canson paper, 16 x 20 inches.

After seeing the finished portrait, Cathy wrote:


“I am very happy!!! Over the Ocean all the way to Hawai'i Happy!

This portrait is so beautiful and a handsome boy he is! He will be viewing us with those beautiful eyes everyday and his fur is so fluffy and soft I can imagine putting my hands on him.

Thank you!


I am so happy and honored to own another Kevin Roeckl portrait.

I love them all..Alina, Robin, Storm and now Jet.”

 

The final step...

"Jet" portrait delivered today to Cathy in Hawaii.


This is why I pack my portraits really well with at least 4 inches of fill on all sides. 😮

Portrait shipping box with a damaged corner

Cathy sent these photos and wrote:


Our "Jet" portrait has arrived safely!

Wynter, pictured below wanted to say “Hi” and checked out what was in this big box. Plus Raven and Wynter barked (as usual) to send the mailman on his way. LOL

"Jet" portrait being unpacked, with a Border Collie sitting in front of the box

You obviously have so much practice in packing your portraits, and I just love the care you put into packing! Down to the part of turning in the tape so I can grab the tabs. You make it so easy to unpack!


Colored pencil portrait of Border Collie "Jet" unpacked

Thank you so very much for this most beautiful portrait. It’s even more gorgeous looking at it close up.


I’ve always considered the final step of creating a portrait to be packing and shipping it. But the final step actually is the client receiving it…unpacking the box and seeing their portrait in person for the first time.

 

"Jet" is the third Border Collie portait I've done for Cathy.

You can see my portrait of Jet's sister Storm HERE.


My portrait of Jet and Storm's mother Robin is the background of my DOGS Gallery webpage.

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