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May's Pet Portrait Spotlight

I'm going to do a monthly post on a chosen pet portrait, maybe more than one sometimes. I will show you some work in progress, some thoughts behind the work, materials used, and the reference images provided where possible.

The month of May's spotlight belongs to Geppetto , it was easy to choose him as I was commissioned to draw not one but two portraits of him. These are currently now being packaged to go all the way to their new homes in the US!

This is the perfect duo of portraits to look at if you are unsure on which "style" of commission you would like. It shows the differences really well.

I love drawings cats- they are by far my least popular subject so when I get to do them I truly love every moment.


Here's some work in progress from (almost) start to finish of the first portrait.

Materials & process info:

  • Background- for the background I used pan pastels, which are a soft pastel compressed into a powder form, a bit like a blush you'd use on your face. Although dont use these on your face haha! These are applies using anything that resembles a sponge, you can get tools from a brand called "sofft" which I love to use. These are blended over and over. The circles/bokeh effect were simply by adding some white pigment to the tool and blending in circles, getting brighter and more white as I went along. Ta da!

  • Subject- I used no soft pastel background for geppetto himself, this was purely pastel pencils from the following brands; Faber Castell, Caran D'ache, Stabilo & the odd Derwent. These as always are applied in many layers until you reach the desired effect- there is no right or wrong here.

  • I used a paper called Pastelmat which is my go to 110% of the time for pastels. It holds onto the pigment and you do not need to use a fixative spray. Fixative sprays are the devil.

I chose pastels for this portrait as the background choice, plinth and colours all needed a lot of coverage and I wanted to get that soft focus effect on the background- best done with pastels. It also gives a bold and colourful overall look which is super popular and will give you a portrait to hang on your walls which everyone will stop to look at.

Pastel pet portrait of a longhair cat by Rosie Norman

Here is the final scanned image of Geppetto- I scan every portrait where possible so my clients also have a digital copy.

It also shows a more accurate representation of colours & detail than the photos taken with my phone. I do not edit my scans unless I am adding a watermark- so what you see is as close to the true portrait as possible.

a framed Pastel pet portrait of a longhair cat by Rosie Norman

And here he is signed & framed. I really enjoy framing the portraits myself before shipping- it really finishes off a portrait.


Then.... Geppetto's owner ordered a second portrait. This time in a completely different pose- his signature snoozing pose.

For this portrait I decided to opt for a softer look, as the owner wanted 2 portraits I was keen to ensure that they were getting two truly special portraits and to make them different in their own ways so the overall package is extra special.

Materials & Process info:

  • Subject- I used coloured pencils for this portrait- I find it easier to create a softer look with these than the pastels. I find the pastels can be quite bold and I wanted a contrast between the first portrait and the second. I was very lucky that I was given quite a bit of free rein with both works. Brands used; Caran D'ache (both luminance and Pablo ranges) and Faber Castel Polychromos.

  • Background- I just added some simple shadow with the coloured pencils, only very gently to create some shadow and to "ground" the subject.

  • I also used a different paper- Fabriano artistico HP in the thicker option. This was just down to personal choice on the day I started. Most suited to coloured pencils and for a softer look.

Some work in progress: