Welcome to our pet portraits studio where we create all of our pet portraits! As you may already be aware, my name is Melanie and I draw all of the pencil portraits and my husband Nicholas is the oil painter and he paints the traditional hand painted dog portraits.
We have been in business, so to speak since 1996 and have always worked from a room wherever we lived. In March 2014 we decided to convert our 20 x 14 foot workshop into a fully functional studio, a place that we could work full time all year round. The workshop is situated in a lovely position in the little wooded area of our garden. It's away from the lane and cottage so it is extremely quiet, so it's perfect for a productive days work as an artist. We had builders to renovate the workshop for us, they insulated from floor to ceiling, laid floorboards and tongue and grove on the walls. They installed a new triple layer felt roof and replaced all windows and the front door with double glazed units. We have a heating system so we are cosy 24/7. It's bliss! If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you can see see photos of the renovation process along with photos of the inside. You can just about see the studio in the trees below.
We have created a wonderful work environment for both of us to work in. I use a tilted drawing desk which you can see below. I use a Macbook Pro connected to a monitor for working in the studio, which means I can then take my laptop with me back to the cottage and also work by the fire in a cosy environment.
Nicholas prefers to stand at his easel and I took this photo while he wasn't working so that you can see his work station. He has an oak kitchen trolley which houses all of his paints. It's the perfect height to mix paints, hold his brushes and lay his pallet on when not in use.
Nicholas uses a variety of ways to view the reference that he works from, a combination of printed photos and his iPad which you can see is bolted to the beam in the photo below.
We wanted to create a relaxing area to entertain clients when they visited so devoted one corner of our studio as an entertaining space. It also has our vintage plan chest which holds all of our paper and canvases and doubles up as a packing station too.
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. 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.
The photo below is of Nicholas signing one of his cat paintings. All of our paintings and drawings are completed by ourselves in our little studio, hence our fairly long waiting lists.
The photo below show the studio with our photography lights which we use to photograph artwork. you can also see our little dog Lily sleeping.... but at the same time, keeping a watchful eye over everything!
The plan chest is a great place to store paintings and drawings and take photos on. The photo below is of me photographing a portrait that headed to France for a dog food packaging label.
Lily has lots of beds in the studio. She will sleep on anything though, if you take off a coat or jumper and lay it on the floor, she will try it out as a bed! Everything is owned by a Tibetan Terrier, you might think its yours, but it never is!
Living in Wales we have very long, dark winters. So we have lots of warm lighting in the studio to provide a lovely ambiance and you can see the fairy lights in the photo below. As mentioned above, we have two professional photography lights which are a necessity when taking photos of the artwork, especially where we live. Wales is known for its cold, dark and rainy days, so good lighting is imperative.
When it is spring and summer though and the weather is lovely we take full advantage and have breakfast and lunch out in the garden outside the studio as you can see in the photo below. The trees act as wonderful dappled shade when it gets too warm, the birds and wildlife love them.
Here are a few photos that we took during the renovations, which took approximately 9 weeks from start to finish. The first photo shows the bare bones workshop shed and the first job was to take up the floor and insulate it. The ply wood in the third photo will be going on the ceiling once it has all been insulated.
You can see in the photo below that the insulation is being put on the walls. The tongue and groove was then added.
The central photo shows Lily admiring the work. You can also see the new double glazed windows and a new additional window for light.
We had a new triple layer felt roof and double glazed door installed which you can see below, along with the new windows. It was all getting very exciting at this point and we could start to imagine how it might look when we had finished.
The undercoat is on the walls and the worktops are being prepared and the kitchen area and a sink was being been installed. We varnished the floor about 4 times..almost too good to walk on!
We only use the highest quality materials for our portraits. The materials we use use need to be long lasting, archival and of extreme high quality. This is why we constantly try to source the best materials available to us here in the UK. We use a linen canvas by Winsor & Newton for our oil paintings and usually order from Jacksons Art Supplies here in the UK. A good art material website with plenty of choice.
I visited Florence Italy in 1993 and bought back with me a selection of papers to experiment with and try. Out of all of the different papers, the Italian Fabriano range was perfect for me. There are quite a few different types of Fabriano, my favourites is an off white, heavy weight, hot pressed variant which has a deckled edge as you can see in the photo below.
I couple this with a variety of brands of pencils by Derwent, Faber Castel and Mars Lumigraph. You can see a few pencils in the photo below, along with a photo of one of my pencil portraits behind too.
Nicholas' brushes and pallet are a very important element to his paintings. Everything is fine tuned to the way he works and paints, even down to his pallet of colours which are very personal and unique to each artist.
Nicholas creates all of his pet portrait paintings using traditional oil paints. He 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.
Our studio is always busy and we order canvases bespoke for each client. We had just had a delivery of canvases for our next batch of work, so I took a quick snap. There is always something happening in the studio, its never a dull day thats for sure!
We hope that you have enjoyed looking around our studio and if you would like to commission either myself of Nicholas for your own portrait, please do drop us a line at any time. We are very much looking forward to working with you soon.
I opened the portrait (once I got through the bubble wrap!) as soon as I got home on Friday night. It is brilliant! I thought I would know what to expect as I had seen the final stage etc and they were fantastic but the actual portrait exceeded all my expectations. As you know, Naz had to be put to sleep in March and it broke my heart. As daft as it sounds, I feel that he is back with me in a small way when I look at the portrait, so thank you.