Custom Christmas Card

20 11 2009

My latest commission was for a Christmas card. They wanted something different, but personal too. They love their dog, Sparky, and decided to feature him on the card! I also decided to take a few pictures in-progress to show you how I complete a drawing in colored pencils.

They provided me with a few different photos and this is the one I chose to work with:


They wanted me to spice it up and make it look “more Christmasy”. So I did a sketch for them that looked like this:

Which they loved. (Sparky really does like to open presents too!)  I figured we could put text on the inside that said, “No peeking” or something along those lines.

Here is the final sketch:

It’s more refined than the initial sketch I gave. That was just to give them an idea of what I was thinking. This final pencil drawing is fully shaded on illustration board and made to the correct size and proportion of the final piece.

Then, I put a thin layer of gesso right on top of the drawing. I usually spray fix the pencil, just so it doesn’t smudge with the weight of the brush. I use a cheap foam brush, so I don’t get any brush marks and it goes on nice and evenly.

As you can see, the drawing underneath the gesso is still visible. The gesso is thinned slightly with water and when it dries it’s slightly transparent. You don’t want to thin it too much because then it defeats the purpose of putting gesso down altogether. …but on the other hand, if you don’t use enough water, it becomes opaque and you lose the drawing you just did. This might take some experimenting to get the right mixture. I use gesso because I like to thin out the first few layers of colored pencils with turpentine to give it a more solid feel. A lot of times with colored pencils you can see the white of the paper through the wax. (sometimes, I use the color of the paper to enhance the colored pencils, such as in this piece) Using a solvent, such as turpentine, with eliminate the white show-through.

As shown in the photo above, the red bow has been thinned with turpentine, and I’ve just laid down the green on the present — see the white of the paper through it? That will be a smooth surface after painting it with a solvent.

This pic is a little smaller than the others, but you can see that I have my reference shot to the left and the present is just about complete. Sparky is sitting patiently waiting his turn to be colored!

And here is the final product!

Original illustration created in colored pencils on gessoed board, approx. 6″ x 6″.

Contact me if you’d like your own custom portrait and/or custom greeting card for the holidays or anytime!




4 responses

21 11 2009
Linda P.

It looks great, Sarah! I like the message, too, it’s not a generic message but one that fits the subject and client! Perfect.

23 11 2009

As always, looks great! It was neat to see the steps involved to see a project from start to finish. I can’t wait to see it in person. 🙂

2 12 2009
Jenn D.

Wow! Your client must have been thrilled with the result. The dog portrait is very expressive and I love the text you composed too. Thank you for discussing your process! It’s so interesting to see how everyone expresses their vision.

18 01 2010

Thank you for explaining the process. I saw your work this weekend at Petals and Paws and think you are very talented.

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