Nicholas and myself use traditional oil paints and graphite pencils for our commissioned cat portraits. We have experimented with most materials over the years, however we feel that these two mediums, oil and pencil really suit our style of working for our portraits. They are also perfect for portraying cats with their soft fur and shiny eyes!
Our cat portraits take many hours of work to complete and so it is imperative for us to only work with the best quality materials that we can find. After all, the paintings and drawings we create for you, will hopefully be displayed on your walls throughout your lifetime and handed through your generations too. We are all aware that we live in a throw away society, however our aim is to create a piece of artwork for you and your family that will stand the test of time. Something that will be treasured.
Nicholas creates all of his cat portrait paintings using traditional oil paints. They are a modern oil paint, nothing like the oil paints the old masters used to use. Many of those contained harmful substances including lead, not to mention the solvents with harmful fumes. Our paints are thankfully non toxic, odour free and clean up really easily which is a huge plus. We use the professional grade paints from brands like Winsor & Newton, Holbien and Rembrant.
Our studio is kept really clean as we both work in here using different mediums so it's really important that at the end of the day paint pallets are cleaned and brushes are washed.
Nicholas uses a number of sizes and brands of brushes for painting his cat portraits and I have taken a photo of one of his pots of brushes below. He has three different collections of brushes and this is his new set which we keep fully stocked at all times. You may be surprised to see the very large brushes in the photo and these are used when he has really large paintings with soft backgrounds to paint.
The pallet Nicholas uses when he is painting his cat portraits is a wooden weighted paint pallet. This means he has the choice of either laying the pallet on his paint trolley, or holding the pallet in his hands while painting. He uses his pallet in two ways. The first is with removable plastic glass and cling-film on so that it's easy to clean at the end of each day. Alternatively he can remove the glass and use the wooden area on the pallet depending on what he is painting. The photo shows his pallet bellow with a few of his colours and the climbing, you can see all of his layers of colours underneath too.
We exclusively use Harris Moore Canvases for our cat portraits. We wouldn’t use any other canvas maker as they are truly the best in the UK. They make their canvases from Italian Linen and stretch them on Hardwood, tulip wood stretcher bars and so the canvases will last a lifetime and more. We order our canvases from them bespoke for each cat portrait we create. This means our clients can have any size and shape required. The photo below shows two of our smaller sized canvases, an 11 x 11 and a 12 x 10, both perfect sizes for cat head portraits!
The photo below was taken when Nicholas was putting the finishing touches to a cat painting commission and you can see how small his brush is on the canvas. He always uses long handled brushes as he stands at his easel when painting. This allows him to hold the brush further up if the handle if required. We usually purchase most of our art materials for our cat portraits from Jacksons art both the pencil drawings and the oils paintings.
Moving onto the pencil portrait materials now. I specialise in drawing cats in graphite pencil and I find this a wonderful medium to use. It suits 'me' and the way I work. I have loved using pencil right from the early days at school. We had the opportunity to use paints and colours of all types, however my go to medium was always pencil. I use a variety of different brands including Derwent, Steadier Mars Lumograph and my favourite Faber Castell which you can see pictured below. They don't stay looking new like this for long, these were brand new and just out of the packet.
The photo below is a close up of one of my cat pencil portraits and you can see my Faber Castell Pencils laid over the drawing to help give scale. The paper I use is called Italian Fabriano and its a good surface to work on for my cat portraits. I again purchase the paper and my pencils from Jacksons Art here in the UK and would thoroughly recommend them.
The other materials I wouldn't want to work without are a good quality putty eraser (I use Faber Castel brand), a Helix hand wound pencil sharpener which I purchased from Amazon and a few different mechanical pencils for fine detail and shading.
I sometimes use a battery operated eraser for lifting out areas such as the highlight in the cats eyes and cats whiskers although if I'm prepared enough during the drawing I try to leave these as the white of the paper without the need for erasing. This is how I created the whiskers in the cat portrait below. i shaded around each one, rather than shading the pencil over the entire area and then lifting the graphite off after.
The photo below shows my drawing desk with me sitting working on a cat portrait. Although a drawing desk isn’t really classed as materials, I couldn’t work without it. It has varying positions you can set the slant at, which is perfect for my needs. its large enough to accommodate most of the sizes of my drawings and when I have a larger portraits to do, i clamp a large piece of ply to it to make the overall surface larger. You can also see from the photos below, that our studio is nestled in between trees, our view out through the back windows is amazing. The hedge line is speckled with tress and they continue into the filed below us and then it flows into a grassy meadow. Perfect for bird watching and we feed the birds just outside our windows. If you would like to see our studio in more detail, have a look at our Garden Studio page.
Looking after your cat portrait, whether it has been created in pencil or oil, is pretty easy. You don’t really have to do that much. As long as the portraits are framed and displays on your wall, they should’t get into too much mischief! If you are concerned though, I have collated some tips on how to look after your cat portrait below.
The most asked question is usually regarding transporting the portraits when moving home. it is really important that you protect them during transit. If you have a pencil drawing it is most important to protect the glass. A blanket or sheet wrapped around any framed cat portrait will protect it well, or alternatively bubblerwrap or foam wrap if you have it, will help guard against any knocks or bumps. Once the portrait is wrapped in a soft or suitable material, we would then recommend packing them in a picture cardboard box. You can then label the box so that your movers know there are valuables inside.
If you are packing a cat portrait in oils, a good initial protection would be a large plastic bag or bin liner to cover the front of the painting, pulled tight and taped at the back so that nothing can touch the front of the canvas. This will protect it from dust and debris. Once it is wrapped, if you can find some sturdy cardboard to lay on the front and then wrap in a sheet or large towel, or bubble wrap if you have it and place in a cardboard box. This should keep the portrait protected on its journey.
If you are wondering where to hand your cat portrait, it is advisable to avoid bright lighting. A diffused lighting or picture light might work really well for you. Using diffused, low-intensity display lights will give the right feel.
It may be an idea to choose a place for your painting which isn’t directly over a hot radiator which is used frequently or over an open fire which you are aware the surrounding area gets hot. If you have an open fire it would be advisable to hang your portrait in a different location.
If you are looking for instructions on cleaning your cat portrait, paintings may be dusted lightly. I often recommend a feather duster as this avoids any lint getting stuck to the canvas. Never use any cleansers, detergents, or other chemicals. Following these simple guidelines will insure that your art remains fresh and beautiful for a lifetime!
I hope you have enjoyed reading about our materials for our cat portraits and if you would like to take a look at our studio, head on over to our Garden Studio page to see where we create all of our paintings and drawings!