Dog Portraits – Drawing Nero

Nero | Custom Dog Portraits

Dog portraits!

I’m ashamed to say that although creating custom dog portraits is a huge part of my life post-covid, I don’t even own a dog!  It’s a sad, sad fact and one I hope to rectify soon.  Currently, I get my doggy fill by drawing beauties like this little guy…

I don’t know many people who wouldn’t claim to love dogs, but I should probably confess now that I am also partial to the idea of goats, pigs, chickens, ducks, horses…anything non-human to be honest.  Even cats!  And before you cat-haters pipe up, they didn’t choose to be a cat, so give them a break! 😉

(Maybe I should start a sanctuary?!)



Meet Nero, one of my recent custom dog portrait commissions.  Nero is a gorgeous pup who unfortunately was pretty poorly at the time of commissioning.  My customer provided me with some stunning reference photos (90% of the battle when creating a custom dog portrait).  I chose this one because it showed the lovely markings on his face.  ( Please see reference photos page for tips and tricks on getting that perfect posey pic!)


I’d love to talk about methods as though I am some sort of art expert.  I’m not.  I don’t know what i’m doing.  Most of the time.  In life.  Let go of control and just go for it (she says).

After giving it some thought, I guess my method is defined partly by the hair texture and partly by the quality of the source photo.  For example, if the picture is sharp and the hairs short and course, I usually use an embossing tool to scratch the bright hair into the paper.  Elsa the cat is an example of this method.  I will scratch in the very bright hairs first and then draw the deeper shade in over the top.

Elsa | Cat Portrait | Pet Portrait
Elsa – Embossing Method.

If the picture is a little less clear or the animal has long shiny fur, then I will use smooth paper and avoid embossing.  In this method I focus more on getting a generalised feel for the flow of sections of har.

Pet portrait artist | Dog Portrait

Mable – No embossing

Shadow and Highlight

In this dog portrait, Nero has the sun shining right across ih face.  This usually makes for a dodgy reference photo.  Sometimes it becomes hard to determine what is shadow and what is dark fur tone.  I went easy on the shading to begin with and then send a WIP photo to the customer.  Turns out I was definitely being too cautious with that black fur! (Tip: Always start lighter. You can always add more graphite, but rubbing out large sections of very dark pencil gets pretty messy and can damage the paper.  Not sure who I think I am giving tips, but hey ho…something I learnt along the way! ;p)



In most cases I will advise against a complicated background as it detracts from the subject.  Of course, if it is specifically requested or is essential to the picture then I will include it.  However, it often adds hours of work that are disproportionate to the final effect and can get pricey.  To have a suggestion of the ground is always important to avoid the ‘floating dog’ look!

If you fancy something to entertain your visual senses, check out my time lapse video of the creation of this drawing:


Commissioning Custom Dog Portraits

If you are interested in commissioning your own custom pet portrait, now is your perfect opportunity.  With more hours on my hands due to lack of performing work / lockdown and beastly covid, I have lots of spaces.  Prices are very reasonable and I can work to your requirements.  Click here for more information about pet portraits and check out my shop for wildlife prints.


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