This is the start of a Pet Portrait of my neighbours dog for their Christmas Present. The little critter is called Schnell, a Wire Haired Dachshund. He's a very sweet natured dog, full of character but ugly as sin. I suspect he may be the cross between a Giant Rat and an Oven Scourer. He's had a tough life - been run over by a tractor (twice) and mauled by a larger dog, he's got a little arthritis and only stands a couple of inches off the ground so there's not much clearence on a muddy day. Of course, being a dog, he doesn't seem to notice these things.
To start the pic I took loads of photos and chose the one that best showed his character. I traced the main bits such as eyes and nose to make sure that they were in the correct place and then pencilled in the rest. Tracing wasn't essential as I could have done it freehand but it saves time and this way you know you've done it right. Now I've started I'm not sure if I chose the right paper. The stuff I'm using is thinner than normal cartridge paper though I have used it for other work. I guess if I've screwed up I can start again. The beginning of any picture is often the hardest part because it doesn't look like anything then. You have to have a little faith that's it's going to be ok or have somewhere private where you can swear if it goes wrong.

Pens (the ones I use)

I figured you might be interested in how I build up the pciture so below are some pics of the pens I use as they are slightly different from normal pens. I've heard them called Mapping pens, Technical pens and Drafting (or Draughting) pens and they tend to used for technical drawings such as schematics. They are basically a hollow cylindrical nib with a small hair running down the center to help feed the ink which comes from a cartridge or from a resevior depending on the type you have. I use the cartridge type as it's easier and lot less messy but the other method, which involves syphoning ink from a container, probably saves you more money in the long run. There are various makes but the ones I have always used and would recommend are Rotring Rapidograph. (is there any chance they might be reading this???)

The size of the hollow center varies from over 1mm to 0.1mm. In fact it's not the 0.01 that's the smallest in my experience but the next one up which is a bit weird. The small nibs allow dots and lines so small that it can take ages to shade anything and the fine lines can often resemble pencil marks. It also involves a lot of repition leading to a kind of self hypnosis if you've been doing the same thing for an hour or so. In this case, Schell's nose had the darker areas filled with a bigger nib and the rest was built up with smaller nibs. I rarely fill anything in solidly and most black areas are actually thousands of small dots repeated over and over.
The White pen in the first pic is a standard Gel Ink pen which is produced by many companies and can be found in most art or stationary shops. The ink is translucent as in you need several layers (most of the time) to make the white solid but this also has it's advantages in that it makes things grey sometimes. Handy for different tones of fur. On larger areas the best way to achieve white is to leave the page as untouched as possible but for small areas like a Specular (the glint of light on an eye or mirror) a gel pen is very handy.





Here are some pics of the Gorgon which I believe is about 99% finished. I might need to add a bit more shading to the face and brow as well as tidying up the edges but otherwise I think she's done. It was my hope at the beginning to make all the snakes the same but in the end I decided that, being fantasy, accuracy wasn't so important and the snakes could all be slightly different. The snakes themselves are based on Garter Snakes which are small and slender as opposed to the majority of Gorgons which seem to represented with larger, chunkier snakes like Rattle Snakes.  I don't know if she resembles anyone - snakes for hair aside of course. I thought at one point she looked like Ashley Judd and now maybe a little like Anjelina Jolie but that could just be wishful thinking.

The idea came from the film Labyrinth and in particular from a scene with a weird plant thing on a wall which had lots of small branches each ending in an eye and these branches all moved as one to get a look at Jennifer Connelly while she was there. I like the idea too, that if the Gorgon was looking at something, all the snakes would be hanging down the back of her head and would be dying to see what she was looking at. 

Once it's been scanned professionally I'll put it in the Fantasy Art section and come up with a price. Anyhoo, hope you like it!