With this portrait of Diesel, like every portrait, the first creative decision is how to present her.
Often this decision is easy, there is usually at least one photo reference that stands out. If I'm really lucky, that one photo will not only have a great pose with personality, but the lighting will be right (best lit from the side, hardly ever good from the front), and the focus nice and crisp. When that happens, I just roll with what's before me and try to enhance the drama and personality as I paint.
Most of the time, however, reference photos are a mixed bag.
In this case, I found an interesting photo of Diesel in a wheat field. The problem was it was a springtime shot and looked a bit dark, the photo having been taken on a cloudy day. Additionally, the photo lacked the energy I usually look for in a main reference image. So while the photo itself gave me the idea for a setting, it didn't have much excitement beyond that. As a result, it didn't tell me much about Diesel.
The idea of Diesel in a wheat field is a great one. So I used the idea as inspiration moving forward.
Going with that concept, I needed to find an image with good lighting. Just my luck, there was one such photo of Diesel looking out a car window. I thought that with a little work I could sketch out a version of this well-lit Diesel in a wheat field, and change the season to late-Summer.
Now, all I needed was an image in the middle-value range so I could get a better sense of her coloration.
This photo of Diesel laying on a car seat gave me what I needed. It showed that her fur, while black in places, actually had a lot of bronze tones.
That helped a lot.
So this portrait was inspired by three distinct reference photos. I proceeded with sketching Diesel in the bright light, looking slightly up, and placed her in the wheat field with the tall stalks wrapping around her in the warm summer sun.
I'm very pleased with the result below. I love the energy and the warm optimism this image radiates. Having eventually met Diesel, I can say this portrait presents her as she is: A very sweet girl.