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How to draw a pastel portrait of a Guinea pig

As a #petportait artist, I am often asked to do #memorialgifts

It's not often I get to do one for a #guineapig so I was quite excited to try this one.

Materials used

  1. Strathmore Hotpress watercolour paper 5" x 7"

  2. Colorfin Armadillo Art and Craft Panpastel Ultra Soft Artist Pastel Drawing Set

  3. Faber-Castel FC128224 Creative Studio Soft Pastel Crayons (24 Pack), Assorted

  4. Colorfin PP69100 44 Piece PanPastel Soft Tools Combination Set


For my smaller portraits, I currently use Strathmore 140-305 Ready Cut Watercolor, Hot Press, 5" x 7" paper which I bought on Amazon in 2020.

I know this seems pretty unorthodox but I had the paper sitting around and I decided to use it. I tried it out for the first pet portrait of my cats RJ and I loved the effects of the pastel pencils on the paper. It's the perfect size to put on a desk at work (where my RJ portrait is) or in your bedroom. Plus it has a much shorter turnaround time to complete portraits for clients which is a huge bonus when drawing pet portraits is your #sidehustle.

Pan pastels

In doing my research on improving my technique and being more efficient, I found out about Panpastels. They are now my favourite way of creating the base layer before adding details. For those who are unfamiliar with Panpastels, think compact powder! It's basically loose pastel powder that you can brush on your paper. It's amazing for adding colour to large areas. In general, I use Colorfin Armadillo Art and Craft Panpastel Ultra Soft Artist Pastel Drawing Set. This particular set has more earth tones with the grey and black hues that are often found in dogs and cats. For Meko, I used burnt sienna, black, raw umber and Payne's grey for the base.

Soft pastels

Unfortunately, this set does not have any green so I used my soft pastels for the grass. I like using Faber-Castel pastel pencils so I used the Creative Studio Soft Pastel Crayons. I followed the basic form of the blades of grass using the greens as well as the deep purples, blues and yellows then blended them in using a small sponge


I currently use this sponge set - Colorfin 44 Piece PanPastel Soft Tools Combination Set - (again purchased from Amazon) to blend the soft and pan pastels into the background. These sponges have been so helpful in not only blending but reducing the mess on my fingers!

Now that we have all the materials, let's get to the drawing!

Step 1: Sketch of the guinea pig

One key rule of drawing great portraits is have a great reference photo. What is a good photo? One with sharp details, and accurate colors. This image of Meko has sharp details of the fur, great light and contrast.

Meko -reference photo. Courtesy MacKenzie Ramsay.

The preliminary sketch is crucial. An accurate drawing of the guinea pig and/or the background makes using pastels later much easier. The drawing of Meko below captured the main features - the eyes and ear. The grass in the foreground was just as important as it gives the viewer the perception of depth. I also included the dark areas in the sketch, such as the shadow under the ear.

Meko - preliminary sketch

Next phase is adding the base colours. Meko's color scheme is fairly basic - primarily yellow, green and black with a touch of pink. For this phase I used a mix of soft pastels and Panpastel. Notice I didn't add the grass in the front. I added this last as this helps with the needed perspective. Notice I drew in the same direction of the fur. If you don't, you end up with a blotchy mess when you blend.

I then used the larger sponges to partially blend the colors. I am a not a fan of over blending so I gave this a few rubs and left some of the raw strokes show through. If you feel more correctly with more blending, then as we say in Trinidad "Big up" (that means "Go right ahead")

Meko Work in Progress part 1

After this, I added more details with pastel pencils. I wasn't going for absolute realism here so I used well placed darker lines here and there to accentuate the fur, the ears and the grass. I did place some more focus on the eyes as I often find this makes or breaks the portrait.

Meko Work in Progress Part 2

The final piece exceeded my expectations. The little girl who received this as a surprise birthday gift from my daughter was blown away. She had this little guy for a while so she was pretty sad when he died. She has since moved from London ON and I hope that this gift not only reminds her of her pet but of the childhood friendships she made while she lived here.

Meko - final Pastel portrait compared to original photo

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