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  • Writer's pictureKevin Roeckl

Rare portrait in progress - start to finish

January 5


I'm starting a new grisaille portrait of red Doberman “Rare” for Katie G. 


Grisaille (pronounced greez-EYE) is a single-color artwork: dark and light tones of one color, on a mid-tone background. In this case rust-brown on tan paper. 


Rare is portrayed working, in her tracking harness. I started with Rare's tail. Her face, which will be the last part of the portrait I do, will tell you everything you need to know about this girl….


Colored pencil portrait of a Doberman in shades of brown, in progress

Prismacolor pencil on Fabriano Tiziano paper

17 x 21 inches


The reference photo I'm using was taken by Debbie Christoff - Pawsitive Impressions Photography.


 

Rare portrait in progress 2

Katie and Rare had one of those truly rare “soul-mate” connections; that special heart dog that you will miss for the rest of your life. From the time Katie and I began talking about Rare’s portrait, she was clear what photo she wanted me to use. In telling me about how devastated she was losing Rare she wrote, “… Rare beat a LOT of specials and took most, if not all, of her majors at Doberman Specialties, which is quite coveted. She was a sight to behold in the breed ring. But her true passion was scent work. She was absolutely obsessed with it. She still got all charged up about it to the day she died…all I had to say was “find it!” and THAT look came out. My heart died with her.”


In going over the details of the portrait I asked Katie whether she wanted me to straighten out the tracking line that is wrapped around Rare’s foreleg. In the photo Katie’s feet and legs are behind Rare, going in the opposite direction from Rare, as though Rare had switched direction in front of her….searching for the scent. Katie replied,


“The harness/leash stays as you have it here. This was the ONLY time Rare became animated and gave off this intense expression, from the minute the harness was on or if she even THOUGHT it was coming on. It is her LOOK, eyes and expression that hypnotizes me.” 


Colored pencil portrait of a Doberman in shades of brown, in progress

“Rare”

CH Old Drum’s Vintage Whiskey Ridge CGC ROM 

3/2/2011 - 5/30/2023


 

Rare portrait in progress 3

Continuing work on the portrait of Rare. The tracking harness is now finished.


You may notice that the color has changed from the previous step. I make these digital pictures by scanning the actual artwork at high resolution. I got a new scanner and it took me a while to work out the software to scan accurate color. This is closer to the true color of the artwork.  


Colored pencil portrait of a Doberman in shades of brown, in progress

 

Rare portrait in progress 4

Just have Rare’s face to finish. Capturing the expression on her face is the most important part. If you read "in progress 2" above, you understand why. The intensity and the passion. 


I also have to add a shadow beneath her body to “ground” the figure in the background, when it’s a plain color rather than a background scene. Otherwise the figure looks like it’s “floating” on the background. 


Colored pencil portrait of a Doberman in shades of rust-brown, in progress

 

Rare portrait in progress 5

I wanted to share this close-up since you don’t usually get to see the pencil strokes in small online pics of the whole artwork.


Detail of colored pencil portrait of a Doberman in shades of rust-brown, in progress

This is a “Grisaille” portrait: a single-color artwork on a mid-tone background. Grisailles can be any color but for Rare’s portrait I chose rust-brown on tan paper, since she is a red Doberman. Technically I should have used just two pencils: brown and white. But I actually used 5 pencils. Rust-brown and a darker chocolate-brown for the majority of Rare and the harness, with a very dark chocolate-brown for the darkest shadows like the front of her chest. The highlights are beige (a very pale “rust”), not white. White was used only for the highlights on the harness hardware and collar.


Here are the 5 pencil colors I used. Fabriano Tiziano is the name of the art paper.


Tan paper with colored pencil swatches in five colors

 

Rare portrait in progress 6

I didn’t notice until I got to her face that her nose is cranked to one side — intensely searching for the scent of that track she’s on. It was a little challenging to capture that slight twist in her muzzle. But so important to portray her expression correctly. This face, the intensity of Rare’s expression, is what makes the whole portrait.


Read Katie’s words below for why that was so important to her.


Detail of the Doberman's head in a colored pencil portrait, in progress

After losing Rare at age 12 Katie wrote:

“I have been fortunate to have had a few ❤️ dogs, but nowhere near what this girl came to mean to me. She was totally my dog and my shadow. The sweetest dog anyone could ask for. She never complained when her rear legs no longer could hold her up, only the few raspy barks because she was frustrated that she could no longer will them to allow her to stand. She never complained at all the times she would stumble and fall, only look at me with her apologetic face and try her best to get back up. This, my champion girl, the dog who loved the breed ring and her breeder/handler Ali Doughty. All the laughs we had traveling and Rare’s antics. 

But…it was her eyes…the piercing stare she would give me as she laid beside me…her beautiful dark eyes…they will haunt me forever.”


As we discussed the photo of Rare in her tracking harness that would be used for the portrait, Katie told me:

“Rare beat a LOT of specials and took most, if not all, of her majors at Doberman Specialities, which is quite coveted. She was a sight to behold in the breed ring. But her true passion was scent work. She was absolutely obsessed with it. She still got all charged up about it to the day she died…all I had to say was “find it!” and THAT look came out.


...This was the ONLY time Rare became animated and gave off this intense expression, from the minute the harness was on or if she even THOUGHT it was coming on.

It is her LOOK, eyes and expression that hypnotizes me.” 



- RARE -

CH Old Drum’s Vintage Whiskey Ridge CGC NAJ ROM WAC SCN SHDN


 

Rare portrait finished


Grisaille colored pencil portrait of a Doberman in a tracking harness, in shades of rust-brown on tan paper

Prismacolor pencil on Fabriano Tiziano paper

16 x 22 inches

From a photo by Debbie Christoff - Pawsitive Impressions Photography


⭐️ Grisaille is a single-color artwork, my most affordable portrait type. As you see from Rare’s portrait, grisaille can be very beautiful, while also keeping costs down. Learn more about my Grisaille portraits.







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