Today’s critique comes from artist Caroline Arnott. You can view more of her awesome work at She has completed this pet portrait in colored pencils and had this to say about it:

“I wanted to create tight knotted fur for the ears but instead did long curls and spoiled it I think. Also, I wanted to replicate the light reflection in the fur to make it not look so flat.  I find that my past drawings have not had enough light/shadow and have not been too happy with the results.”

This is a beautiful piece! You’ve got your proportions drawn out beautifully and you weren’t afraid to get you contrast in there! You’ve done a stunning job! That nose and the eyes, oh my gosh those are awesome!! One of the things I like so much about this submission is that you were aware of the things you felt you could improve on. That is a big deal!! You’ve pinpointed the exact areas which means you’re going to improve on that next time for sure.


First, let’s look at your shading. You’ve left the chin and neck quite white. The first thing I would do is add more of a shadow in this area. You don’t need to go quite as dark as the reference photo, but still darker. You’ve got a deep shadow on the left side around his eye, but not on the muzzle, so a bit of a shadow there will help.

Next, for the shine, if you pull a bit of blue into the lightest grey areas (you don’t have to go with a deep bold blue, just a very light one like Light Ultramarine (polychromos), this will help the shine feel more like shine. When you make all of your highlights on black fur with white and grey, it makes them feel dull. Just a touch of blue will make a big difference.

For the curls on the ears, this is actually an easy thing to do…tedious, but easy enough. What is happening is you are rushing through it and looking at the ears as a whole. Instead, break them down square inch by square inch. Don’t look at it as fur, but as abstract shapes, and copy what you see in the reference photo one tiny bit at a time. The thing with that though, check with your client to see how they like it. I actually really like how you’ve done the ears as it makes him feel more groomed. Some owners will prefer this look, so I would just ask before you get started.

This is an absolutely beautiful portrait, you’ve done a great job! I bet the owners were thrilled!