Toothy Grin

Last month I was honoured to be flown up to Brisbane to do a demonstration of my pastel portrait technique. My hosts were the great people at Discount Art Warehouse and I had two hours to work on this portrait of a boy from Namibia. I call it “Toothy Grin”

I started it before I went and built up a portion of the right hand side (being left handed and not wanting to smudge, I generally work this way).

This next one is where it was when I took it to Brisbane, cradling it carefully in my lap on the plane.

And now I started working in front of 29 people. I must admit, I like things like this to be interactive and the crowd was brilliant. They asked excellent questions and generally had fun which made the two hours go extremely quickly. It was free for them and I was very surprised to see that almost all of them were still there at the end.

I explained how I work from a grid which I create in an editing program (in this case ‘Gimp’, image editing software) and then draw an actual grid on a piece of paper the same size as the pastel paper I will eventually use. After drawing the main features of the boy I then transfer this to my Art Spectrum Colourfix pastel paper with the aid of white transfer paper.

I talked about choosing colours to work on. Here, the boy has beautifully rich skin and a Terra Cotta base is a really good choice. I can then allow this colour to do a lot of the work for me.

As you can see, despite working from right to left, I also use paper to stop my hand from smudging.

That’s where I finished in Brisbane. Time was up and I’ve been flat out for the last month on other things but finally found some time to get back to it. Sorry to the folks who attended for the delay but the next steps take it to completion.

What you can’t see so well here is that I actually go over the Terra Cotta colour with a Terra Cotta coloured pastel to create a ‘base’ for me to work on. For some reason, this seems to work with me. I seem to be able to blend the colours better and get the results I want. I do a lot of finger blending and Art Spectrum’s Colourfix paper is perfect for this, being a sanded finish. It’s rough on the fingers but I just tell myself to ‘toughen up’!

I’m using a background that is dark behind the light part of his head and light behind the dark part. I’ve also taken him out of the schoolyard where I met him because the background was ugly.

I’ve used pastel sticks (mostly Rembrandts but I’m not picky) for the background and pastel pencils for the boy.

And finally the finished portrait

I like to work with people who exude character. In this case, this kid was simply begging to be painted and I hope I’ve done him justice.

Finally, a big thank you not only to Discount Art Warehouse but also to Maureen, who I had just met at the demo, and her husband Lexi who took me back to the airport in a massive thunderstorm. Great people!!

And finally, funny story. I had a box of pastels in my hand luggage. Naturally these went though the x-ray machine at the airport. The guy checking them seriously had me open the box to check that they weren’t bullets! I mean seriously – do these look like bullets?? (I’ve tried to replicate an x-ray in ‘Gimp’ editing software). I guess I must look a bit dodgy!

President’s Award and Most Popular Piece 2011

I have to admit I am totally surprised and extremely pleased to have won The President’s Award for 2011 in the Wildlife Art Society of Australasia. It’s even more amazing considering the wealth of talent and superb art entered into the same shows I was in. I also won ‘Most Popular’ piece at the Bundoora Historic Homestead “The Art of Wildlife” show for my montage of emus, “The Birdy Bunch” pictured below. This was a fun piece to work on, finding such different ‘personalities’ in emus without turning them into caricatures, but simply showing them as they are in their many guises. It was also fun gathering reference material whilst constantly feeling they would peck my eyes out!

Following guidelines for Jury process

Hi guys, this post is for people who don’t know how to follow the guidelines of societies or exhibitions who stipulate certain requirements in their application procedures because sometimes computers can scare people. I’ve tried to break down some guidlines into simple, easy to learn steps.

Number one, if a society or exhibition asks you to name your images a certain way, they have a reason for doing so. Please follow those guidelines to the letter and things will go smoothly. In the case of the International Society of Scratchboard Artists, if I were to apply for active membership status I would notice that the requirements call for my zebra piece to be titled the following way


The reason for this is so that we never mix up an image from one applicant with another. We need the name, title and size so the jury can do its job. Any organisation can (and often will) dismiss an application with no refund if the guidelines are not followed.

Tip. Read the guidelines carefully, no matter which society or exhibition you are applying to.

Number Two

Not everyone knows how to resize an image. I have shown guidelines below to follow for resizing images in three different programs that you might have or are able to install on your computer for free, and following those three Cathy Sheeter has written one for Photoshop.

Note, this tutorial was written in November 2011. Programs change over time and elements may change but generally these instructions will allow you to work your way through newer programs or updates.


Firstly, Picture Manager. This program comes bundled with Microsoft Office so most people have it. If you don’t have “Office”, go to my next program.

Open your picture in Picture Manager. If Windows doesn’t do this automatically (by ‘default’), locate your image in Windows Explorer, hover your mouse over the image and do a right click. A dialog box will open and you can go to “Open With” and then click “Microsoft Office Picture Manager”.

You will now see something like this so click on “Edit Pictures” and then go to the right and click on “Resize”.

Put a dot in “Percentage of original width:height” and reduce this until it is about 1000 pixels on the longest side. You will see the pixels changing where it says “New size”.

Click “OK”.

Now, very important for your own sake, save your image by going to “File” and “Save As”. Call it by the name you need to in the guidelines. Then click “Save”

Now you will want to close your image. Click the “X” at the top right and you will be asked again if you want to save your image – DO NOT SAVE IT. This is your orginal image at the original larger size, and you will want to keep that for your own records. If you click “Save” at this point, you will lose your original file and that is not something you want to do. (I know this by bitter experience).


I have also installed “Gimp” on my computer. This is a free image manipulation program a bit like Photoshop. Get it, it’s free and very powerful (unless you have Photoshop). You can get it from here

So, open up Gimp and it will look like this (igonore my zebras in the first picture, they are just on my desktop )

Click “File” and then “Open” and navigate to the image you want.

Go to “Image” and then “Scale Image”

Type 1000 into the longest side (if yours is a landscape like my zebras, do it in “width”). Don’t bother with the other side as Gimp will do that for you. Then click “Scale”

Then go to “File” and “Save As” and save it as the name you need to call it. Make certain it says .jpg after the file name.

You will be able to exit this directly as Gimp keeps your original image.

If you need to save your image below a certain amount of kilobytes, when you do a “save as” with a jpg image, it should give you the option to change the ‘quality’ setting in percentage. By lowering that number it will reduce your file size. Experiment and you will get your image below the required size while still keeping the pixels correct as in the previous steps. To find out how many kilobytes your image is, hover your mouse over your image in Windows Explorer and a dialog box will come up and tell you the size. You could also ‘right click’ and go to ‘properties’.


Finally, I also have a program called Light Image Resizer 4 which allows you to save multiple images at once to a predetermined size, very useful. It’s free and you can get it here

Open it and it will look like this

Click “continue” unless you want to buy their pro version.

Navigate to your image and open it.

Like I said, you could re-size quite a few images at once if they are all in the same folder.

Where it says “width” and “height”, type in 1000 in both boxes. This will keep the longest side to 1000 pixels and the other will reduce accordingly. Make certain it says “Create Copies” next to ‘action’. This will keep your original files. Click “Process” and “Save”

Close your program

Important!! Go to your image in something like Windows Explorer or whatever you use to navigate to your pictures. You will notice your original is still there but you have another image alongside it at the reduced size. Change the name of this one to whatever is required for the society or exhibition application procedure.

There, three different ways to get your images to the right size.

Above all, follow the jury requirements. This is not ISSA being precious, these are tips to make your passage into any society or exhibition easier as some are extremely tough.


And finally, if you have Photoshop installed, my friend Cathy Sheeter has written this tutorial to resize in that program – thanks to Cathy

This is Adobe Photoshop CS 5, but the previous versions and adobe elements should be pretty similar.

Open your large file

Under the heading of image will be something that says Image Size

Change the longer of either width or height (depending on your image) to the required size. If the prospectus tells you that the image must be a certain dpi (72, 100 or 300 are somewhat common) change the area in pink to that number first, then adjust the pixels above. Make sure that “Scale Styles” is clicked so that the ratio of the image does not change.

Once resized do a “Save As” so you do not over-write the original file with the new smaller one (you might need the larger image again in the future). When you do the ‘save as’ re-name the file in the required layout – for ISSA is would be SheeterCathy-Beemused-24×25.jpg When you go to close the image it will ask if you want to save it and hit NO this time.

If you realize that you have made a mistake on either naming or sizing shortly after you submit to the show write to the contact person, apologise for your mistake and ask them if there is a way for you to re-sumbit your images with the mistakes corrected. If you are polite and notice your mistakes before a deadline many shows will let you re-submit your images so that they may be considered for the show or jury. If you do NOT notice your mistakes most often your images will be discarded without consideration!

If you need to save your image below a certain amount of kilobytes, when you do a “save as” it should give you the option to change the ‘quality’ setting. By lowering that number it will reduce your file size. Anything over quality 6 should give an image that is fine for viewing without much loss in quality.