Free Photo Friday!!!

Hey guys,  I saw this great idea on another blog and thought it would be perfect for mine and hopefully great for you guys too. And since this week I have talked about taking a great reference photo I reckon what better week to kick this off.

Each Friday I will add a high-quality reference image that has been taken by myself so is copyright free for you to use as inspiration for your artwork.  Sounds great hey 🙂

Just follow this link to download it from dropbox.

My Patrons over at Patreon already receive 2 free images a month plus line art etc, so this is an additional image to what I will be posting on there.

I know how hard it is to get good clear reference images that are copyright free for you to use in your own work.  I will let you in on one great site that is worth a look and that is Paint My Photo, everything is copyright free and is well worth the visit.

Let me know if there is anything, in particular, you are looking for and I might be able to help.

Happy painting 🙂

Kerri xx


The importance of a good clear Reference Image

I am extremely lucky to live only 30 minutes away from Australia Zoo, one of Australias most iconic tourist destinations.  I have a yearly pass and am a regular visitor.  I haven’t quite got the confidence to actually sit and sketch the animals but I am working up to it soon I think 🙂  What I am doing at the moment is taking about a million photos of the animals.  I click away all day and then when I get home you can guarantee that only about 10% are actually any good haha.  I think I need more lessons with my camera.

Anyway, this is working for me at the moment so I will continue with it.  I don’t think you can have too many reference images, it’s all just a matter of keeping a good filing system on your computer.  I have just installed adobe bridge so I am keen to try and figure out how to use it as I have heard it is great for this purpose.


I like to take photos of the animal in whole but I will then zoom up and take photos of individual elements such as the eye, feet, mouth etc.  It is also a good idea to get plenty of photos of the animal in various stages of movement,  I guess this is where most artists start sketching to try and capture that feeling but you can still get it with photos, or even better yet,  take a bit of video of the animal in motion as well,  if you really want to get the feel of what you are painting then it’s a great idea and great practice to set yourself up in front of your computer at home and try and do some sketches of the animal you have filmed.  It really helps to get the feel of that animal before you start on your masterpiece 🙂

flower                                                          When I am taking my photos I always try and look for good composition, I know that you can always crop etc on the computer but it definitely makes it a whole lot easier if you have an idea of composition whilst out on site.


I did a one-day photography course earlier this year with Chris Bray Photography at Australia Zoo and it taught me the basics of my Nikon DSLR camera.  It was well worth the money as I have had the camera for 5 years and was only using it on automatic,  now I know enough of the basics to see me taking great photos for my artwork reference.  Hey, I’m never gonna win any awards but I can still get some great photos to work with.

I pretty much stay in Aperture mode (A) on my wheel.  I find that I like most of my shots to have a short depth of field, which means only the subject I’m trying to shoot will be in focus.  Everything else behind and in front will be blurry.  My go to number on this is 5.6.  The only other thing I use a lot is the Exposure Compensate Wheel.  This is brilliant for adjusting the lighting.  Because I am always wandering around the Zoo, the lighting varies a lot.  Some animal enclosures are in the sun and of course, some are in the shadows or inside, so this little dial is a godsend to quickly adjust the exposure.

Its pretty much as simple as holding your finger down on the +/- button and turning the dial.  You will see a scale on your screen that will go up and down depending on which direction you turn your dial.  When the scale goes to the + side you will get lighter photos and when it goes to the – side you will get darker photos.  Just keep checking your viewfinder after each shot until you are happy with the lighting.  It’s quick adjustments like this that are crucial to taking good wildlife photos as the animals always seem to be camera shy so speed is necessary to getting a good shot.

Once I am back home and have some time, I will go over the photos I have taken that day and sort out the junk (blurry etc.) from the promising.  I then import them into Adobe Lightroom and sort out my favorites by giving them a star rating.  I find this is the best way to keep my photos organized.  5 stars are my images that I want to make a painting from so they are the ones that I set to work adjusting the colours, tones etc and working out composition.

To work out the composition of a planned piece, I first look at my photo and decide what size I think will work best for it, tall and skinny, wide, square.  Usually, the layout will jump out at me when I’m looking at the photo, this is partly due to my composition ideas I had while taking the photo, this is where I said it helps a lot to pre-think it during the picture taking process.

I don’t usually draw things small, the bigger the better I reckon haha.  My biggest problem was finding the paper large enough to work on but I have just solved this problem with my latest order of a 1.2mtr wide roll of pastel paper and 1mtr wide sheets of Arches Watercolour paper, so now I am not restricted in any way.

One last  tool I use before I am satisfied with my reference image and before I transfer it onto my drawing surface and that is my photoshop overlays of Composition Guides.  I have 3 of these which are:

Rule of Thirds – Probably the simplest of all composition guides and if you only use just one then this is.   The most important elements of your composition shouldrule-of-thirds be placed along the left or right vertical thirds and/or the top and bottom horizontal thirds. In addition, the four intersections of these lines are called the “power points.” This is where a subject should be placed to give it emphasis, and it is here where the eye is automatically drawn.


Golden Mean – The golden ratio appears in some patterns in nature, a spiral shell for example.  It has been used by the greatest painters to proportion their works and keep it aesthetically pleasing.


diamond-guideDiamond Guide – Probably the most complex but still can be used in most situations.     This one is useful for creating strong lead lines to the focal point.  Imagine where you might place a face, where the eyes will look.


I hope this has given you an insight into how I compose my work and also given you some ideas for your own interesting compositions.

Now don’t say I never give you guys anything, here is my Photoshop File of all 3 different composition guides for you to use on your own layouts.  Just place this file over your picture in photoshop and hide the guides you don’t want to use.   Simple 🙂

The only way I could figure out how to share this photoshop file with everyone was as a dropbox link,  I hope this works for everyone.  If not comment below with your email address and I will send the file directly to you.

Happy Painting 🙂

Kerri xx


Art Exhibitions – do I or don’t I?

Art Exhibitions – are they a necessary evil?


These are the questions I keep asking myself as I get ready for my first ever exhibition at Hillier & Skuse Gallery on the Gold Coast.  I have never really been able to get a large enough body of work together to hold my own exhibition but this has come along and there will be around 27 different artists all exhibiting in the same gallery.  This has given me the opportunity to try an exhibition out with my limited number of works and see if it pays off.  The cost for a 2mtr wall space is $300 along with the gallery keeping 20% of all sales.   Now as I am new to this I am not sure if this was a good deal or not but I am thinking it is, although time will tell if many people actually visit the exhibition.  What sold me on being part of this is it is running for nearly a 3 month period across christmas and is at a gallery in the queensland tourist capital of the Gold Coast.  With the large amount of artists involved in the exhibtion also comes a large amount of their family and friends that will visit plus each individual artist should be doing there own marketing campaign.   It is also going to be marketed by the great art tv show “Colour in your Life” so with all these pluses i would expect plenty of visitors through the door.

Now I volunteer at another Art Gallery local to me and the price for hiring it out is $150 per week.  So over the same amount of time as the gold coast exhibition the cost would build up to be much higher.  I know that this price if for the entire gallery but for someone like me who has really only been painting seriously for a couple of years then my body of work is not big enough to fill an entire gallery space.  Actually another bonus with this Gold Coast gallery is that we can change our paintings throughout the course of the exhibition which not only helps out the artist to get more work hung but also makes it more exciting for visitors.

The only downside I can see is that my work is possibly tied up for a long period and if nothing sells i am out of pocket $300.  But in saying that I have no other plans for my work to be hung elsewhere anyway and hopefully it will be worth $300 just for getting my name out there a bit.  I know I will have plenty of business cards on hand with all my details and links to social media etc.

I think my biggest worry about signing up for this and over the period of the exhibition is to be able to produce enough works.  I really don’t want the same work hanging in my space for the entire 3 months and if by chance any of my pieces sell, I need to make sure i can replace them.  So if anything, this will actually give me a kick up the arse to get more work finished and out the door.

I will keep you all posted with how I go with this as a first time exhibitor.  Any questions or if you have any tips for me just leave a comment below.  I would love to hear your opinions on Art Galleries and Exhibitions.

Next week we will be looking at Reference images and what equipment I use etc.

Happy Painting 🙂

Kerri xx


Art Technique – Fur

Okay so here we go,  I will try and explain how I achieve a Fur look to my  animal portraits.

I think this is much more achievable in Pastels than most other mediums due to their softness, bleopard-furut the basic principals apply to all.  To start with you need to figure out your Light, Medium and Darks.

In this L14569146_10208432480422850_566614716_neopard Drawing I used basically these range of colours in both pastel pencils and soft pastels.  I always use about 20 different colours but these are the basic Light , Medium and Dark range.

Once I have figured out what colours I’m using I then put down a fairly solid cover in the Medium range.  This then gives me a base that I can work the fur up with by adding the various darks and lights as pictured below.fur-stripFor thick fur you need to look at the shapes within the fur, try not to look at it as heaps of fine lines,  you really need to try and section it into clumps and work on a small area at a time.  For short hair I find that it works best to build up the colours with short strokes but always make sure that these strokes are going in the direction of the fur.

Remember that fur strokes are not perfect so this is crucial in making your fur look realistic.  Try not to use repetitive strokes in a straight line.  Although if you step back and it looks too straight you can always go over this to fix it.  The beauty of Pastels 🙂


This above demonstration is very basic but you can see the use of the dark, medium and light in giving the fur depth.  You can build this up and up by increasing the amount of difference between the darkest darks and the lightest lights, however too much can make it look clumpy, kinda like wet fur, which the bottom demo is getting close too.  For softer fur you wouldn’t use the extreme ends of the dark and lights but rather use a smaller range of middle colours as below.

img_7888I will try and explain better in the steps as shown above.

  1.  Lay a ground of a medium colour with some darks.  You really need to study your reference image here as it is crucial to get an idea of where the darks will be right from the outset, you will make your life a whole lot easier.
  2. Its a bit hard to see in the next image but still using a medium tone colour (a bit lighter than the background) you can start to mark out where the clumps of fur will go.  Again this is another important stage.  Be sure not to make the marks too uniform.  Pay close attention to which way the hair is moving.
  3. Once you are pretty happy with your sections of fur its time to start adding some dark to give the fur depth.  So this is added where the clumps of fur would recede into the animals skin, causing shadows.  So basically anywhere you think a shadow would form you can add some dark.  Make sure you go lightly here as it is best to build up the layers rather than try and get it dark in one go.
  4. Next for the lights.  The lights should go on the top and ends of the fur clumps,  wherever you think the light would be hitting the fur.  Again go lightly so you can build up those layers.
  5. In this step I have added another medium to dark colour.  Now you have your darks and lights marked in you can start to see where the fur is falling.  By adding some other medium to dark colours helps to create a more realistic look.  So at this stage I just lightly add a few strokes here and there as I think is needed.  Remember to always step away from your work to judge this.
  6. The final layer.  This is where I would add my lightest highlights just on the sections that I think the light would be hitting the strongest.  I will also add some squiggly fine hair lines here to really bring out that realism.

Ok well if you can’t understand what the hell i’m talking about here just leave me a comment and we’ll chat haha.  I think I have kinda covered all the do’s and don’ts that I can think of so until next week.

Happy Painting

Kerri xx