Friday, August 26, 2022

Holly - a pastel painting of an Irish Setter by Dawn Secord

 This is a painting of "Holly" - Meadow Run Walk of Fame.

I met Holly years ago in Southern California.   She was a lovely girl.  I always knew she was competition for my girls when I showed against her.  Some dogs just stick in your mind.   Holly was one of those.   She was really a beautiful dog and I always loved her gentle expression.

When her owner contacted me to inquire about commissioning me to paint her, I was thrilled.   We set about getting reference photos from her owner emailed to me.   As much as I really don't like computers, they are a great assistance when getting photos back and forth.  I remember earlier days - 20+ years ago when I had to take photos of a painting, have the film developed, and then mail the photo of the painting to the person who commissioned me.  Email is my friend!

There was this lovely gentle photo of Holly on the edge of a sofa looking down.   It was her owner's favorite and I loved it instantly.   In the photo, Holly was bunched up a bit in a corner.  For the painting, I took that out and had Holly's head, neck and shoulder only.   She was to pretty to look bunched up.  The head and expression in the reference photo were perfect.  Nothing was changed there.   It is my job, as the artist,

to see what to include from a photo and what not to include for the painting.

I asked Holly's owner to share a little bit about Holly and this is what she told me:

   I always said she was an easy keeper.  Laidback and easy to live with.  Rare.

Thank you to Holly's owner for having me paint her beautiful
girl.   She was a special girl and we all loved her.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Troy Grayson - Labrador Retriever - Original Pet Painting

This is a painting recently completed of Troy Grayson.  Grayson is his middle name - not to be confused with his family's last name.   I always give our dogs two names (Bling is known as Bing Bing at home as an example) so it tickled me when he was named as he is.

Troy is 8 years old now and I've known him since he was a pup.   He actually stayed with us for a few weeks when he was a baby while his owners went on a lengthy vacation.  He is everything we love about Labrador Retrievers.  He is fun, loving, gentle spirited, and a great family dog.   

For this painting, Troy has been photographed several times and we have been waiting for the perfect photo that would show his personality.   When the reference photo had been taken, I was in California for an art show and was staying with Troy's family while there.   It is much more fun to stay with a family than a hotel!   We took photos of Troy for the painting and this reference photo was the one that touched his owner's hearts and would be used for his painting.

Last summer Troy was diagnosed with lymphoma.  He had a roller coaster of a time going through the treatments.   He is in remission and his family couldn't be happier.   Modern medicine? - miracles? - maybe a combination of both.   Thank you to Troy's family for having me paint your special boy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

No Ghoulish Green Monsters Here wins two new awards - 2022 Next Generation Indie Book Awards

 I am so very excited to share that my children's picture book (illustrated and written by me) No Ghoulish Green Monsters Here has won two new awards.  These two awards are:

2022 Next Generation Indie Book Awards - Finalist - Children's Picture Book Illustration (Best Illustrator)

2022 Next Generation Indie Book Awards - Finalist - Best Overall Design (Fiction)

This makes 8 awards received for the book.   The other awards are:

  • Awarded "Silver Award" by Mom's Choice Awards
  • Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)  July 2021 reading list
  • Finalist - International Book Awards sponsored by American Book Fest
  • 2021 Winner - Animal and Pets category, Pinnacle Book Achievement Award NABE (National Association of Book Entrepreneurs)
  • 2021 Children's Picture Book Award - 2nd Place, North Texas Book Festival
  • 2021-2022 Reader Views Literary Awards Winner-Sponsored/Specialty award-The Feathered Quill Be Kind to Animals Awards
It is beyond exciting to have my first authored and illustrated book so well received.  A complementary coloring book has just been released titled, "Sit, Stay and Color with a Dog Bling".   The books are available on the book's website at and

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Oil Painting in Process - lily pad landscape by Dawn Secord - Part 2

Oil painting in progress.  The large oil painting continues. I am also working on a pastel painting at the same time. While the oil paint is drying or setting up, I move over to the pastel painting and work on that. I've put an xpen around the paintings to keep my "squirrel hunters" away from the oil painting. Bling, my worst behaved dog (saying that with an incredible amount of love) keeps sneaking in and resting under the oil painting. Do I move her? Nope. Bling always gets her way. If you are enjoying these painting demos, please consider subscribing to my utube channel. Thanks for taking a peek.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Oil Painting in Process - lily pad landscape by Dawn Secord - Part 1

This is painting in progress.  It is being painted on a gallery wrapped frame.   I need to start working on the sides of the painting as well as the front.

If you would like to see more of my paintings, don't forget to subscribe to my Utube channel.    

Sunday, April 3, 2022

After Dinner Walk in Manhattan


After Dinner Walk in Manhattan is a visual story of a couple taking an evening stroll under the magical city lights in the iconic city of Manhattan.

I was commissioned to create the painting using a reference photo taken by a family member.   The completed oil painting measures 6’ tall by 4’ wide.  

When working with a reference photo, it is easy for the viewing audience to assume the artist did their very best to capture the exact likeness of the photo.   Nothing could be further from the truth.   As an artist, I endeavored to capture the essence of the moment that made this photo so beloved by the individuals in the scene.

 Let’s begin with what I did not want to capture in the painting:

·        Objects in the reference photo not needed in the painting:  the shopping bag hanging between the couple, the discarded paper on the sidewalk, the bright red spot reflected off the side of the building to the right of the husband’s shoulder or the bright reddish brown vertical reflected lines on the buildings that ran between the couple from the top of the painting down towards their shoulders. 

What should be adjusted in the painting but not removed:

·        Effects to be adjusted (compositionally) in the painting:  The actual cement breaks in the sidewalk added detail in the lower half of the photograph balancing with the detail in the upper section of the photograph.  The breaks would be much stronger if they were more of a diagonal direction.   The silver blue gray reflective lighting on the building, to the right of the husband, could be extended up towards the top of the painting and down to the husband’s arm creating some interest in those dark empty spaces.  Reducing the width of the vertical red brown reflective lighting on the buildings as well as subduing their brilliance as seen in the photos was needed.  These shapes and vividness of color actually separate the couple by placing a distraction of color between them.   There is a hint of the street light casting a lighter value on the sidewalk in front of the couple.   This will be the most important change.  I have emphasized the street light in front of the couple by giving it a little more detail and ground reflection than seen in the photo.  This last change allows me to push the illusion of depth even more.    The light adds an enhanced warmth to the moment.

What I wanted to see in the painting that did not exist or was almost insignificant in the photo:

·        Effects to be added that do not exist in the reference photo:  The bottom half of the painting, being a middle to lighter value actually draws the viewer out of the painting.  This lighting effect was created by the flash of the camera taking the photo.   Compositionally, we do not want the viewing audience to exit the bottom of the painting but rather find a way to be led back into the painting to find new and enticing artistic shapes, colors or subjects to rest their eyes upon.  To do so, I’ve made the bottom of the painting darker to strategically guide the eye back upwards.   For color harmony, I’ll be adding more red browns (burnt sienna) to the sidewalk to tie into the reflective light bouncing off the buildings.    I’ll also be adding some gray blues, blues, and a few splashes of turquoise to balance the color throughout the painting for color harmony.

Getting Started:

When I begin a large oil painting, I create a graph on the canvas using a pencil or vine charcoal.   For this painting, I chose to use a pencil.   Once the graph is measured out on the canvas, I begin the pencil sketch.  It is a simple sketch and not a great amount of detail.  This sketch will be used as my map to keep the perspective correct.

The second step is to take black oil paint and cover my sketch.  As the painting begins, I will not lose the lines of my initial sketch once they are protected with the oil paint.   This oil paint sketch is then allowed to dry thoroughly.  The next step is to apply an underpainting.  My color of choice is burnt sienna using a wide brush.   The brush strokes are varied, as is the thickness of the paint, to give depth and a slight color change later in places I may choose to let the underpainting remain visible.   Often times, but not always, I will choose to let some of the under painting show through in the finished painting.   The underpainting affect can play a big role in the painting.   Letting the black oil sketch dry thoroughly will eliminate the black paint from being smeared by the burnt sienna when the underpainting layer is being applied during the underpainting phase of the process.

From there the fun starts.   I begin painting in layers.   Some areas may only have one layer allowing more transparency to show the under painting.   Layers are applied until the desired affect is achieved.   I don’t know what is going to be done until I start the painting.  I pray before each painting is started.   My paintings happen as I paint.   I do not plan the layers or how much time will go into the layer.  I simply go with what feels right and let the painting evolve.

Compositionally, we hear of the “Rules of 3”.    Very seldom do I sit down and plan the rules of 3.  It happens intuitively.  With this painting, there are 3 areas leading directly towards our main subjects.  The lines in the sidewalk were painted so they lead you up into the painting and subjects.   The reflective lights on the upper left corner were slanted down towards the subjects.  The vertical lines in the center and to the right of the subjects brought us to the subjects.  The vertical lines of the sidewalk intersecting the building also created a “stop” to keep the viewer from leaving the painting when gazing down vertically.  Aside from the rules of 3, at the bottom of the painting, the darkened values create a directional change to bring the viewer back up into the painting.

The street light gave me an amazing opportunity to create a space of light in front of the couple allowing the viewer to look through and around the couple and ultimately, out in front of them.  This effect greatly enhanced the feeling of depth in the painting.   I brought the reflected ground light out on the left side of the couple significantly to break up the feeling of the vertical lines of building reflections about the couple.  This rounded area of light enveloped where the couple was walking.   We do not know where they were headed, but we do know it is warm and inviting. 

The camera reflection from the back of the couple made the couple look like they were floating.   In the painting, I added shadows under the couple’s feet to eliminate that floating feeling.  Their feet are established on the sidewalk and the shadows provide us with a feeling of forward movement.

For the husband’s hat, I applied a number of coats as well as a scumbling of the paint using a dry brush to create a thick fabric texture that was true to the hat.  I had the hat on hand for authenticity.

This was a wonderful journey from beginning to end.   

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Born to Run - Painting in Process of running Irish Setters

Here is my new print, Born to Run. The painting features 5 Irish Setters running. This painting has been a project since 2019. The original is for sale and the reproductions will be available in a limited edition of 195 prints in two sizes as well as 19 Artist's Proofs. The reproductions will be released in May or June and are available for pre-sale on my webpage at There is also a fun Utube video discussing the process of the painting.
As always, my prints are professionally created and are museum quality.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Painting of a Boston Terrier using soft pastels

This is a painting of a Boston Terrier named Honey.    I took a number of photos of Honey for this painting.   We took photos inside the house and out in the yard.   The favorite photo to be used as the primary reference was a photo of Honey out by the pool.  At the end of this post is a video of the painting in sure to take a peek.

In the primary reference photo, the left side of Honey's face (which is the right side of the photo and painting) was shadowed by the direction of the sun.    In the painting, I've lightened up the cast shadows shown in the actual photograph.  Those strong shadows were not only distracting, but important details were lost.   For Honey's eye, I lightened the shadow on her right side of her face to be able to see both of her eyes in the painting.   In the area under Honey's chin, I lightened the shadow so there would not be a dramatic line in the painting that you could see in the photo.   I did the same on her body.  These three examples of changing the photos, for different reasons, allowed the viewer to see more and to see less in the final painting.   As an artist, I need to be able to see what will enhance the painting and what could weaken the focal point - in this case, Honey.

Other changes from the photograph were the elimination of the pool step rail and the lounge chair you can see in the background of the photo.   Those items were distracting and had no important role in the painting.  One other change from the photo is that the chair cushions Honey was resting upon were upside down.  The painting shows the cushions facing the right direction.   I could not see what the actual cushions looked like right side up, I just improvised. 

Thank you to Honey's owners for having me paint your precious girl.   She is as gorgeous inside as she is on the outside.

Below is the video of the painting in process.   

This is a painting in process of a Boston Terrier named Honey.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

A painting of Darby - an Irish Setter

 It is always exciting to receive a request from someone to paint for them. 

When Vickie and Tom contacted me about painting their dog, Darby, I could not wait to see the photos.   The photos came in and I fell in love.  Darby had the sweetest expression.    My favorite photo (immediately) was the one where his ear feathering was gently sweeping across his neck.

What I usually do is look at the photos sent to me (or taken by me if I've met the dog/cat/horse) and put the best "painting candidate photos" together as a collage.  That way we can look at the photos all together instead of toggling back and forth between the favorite photos.

To my delight, Vickie and Tom picked my favorite photo.   This is not always the case.  Sometimes, the pet's owners pick better than I do.    It is most important for the owner of the animal being painted to love the reference photo.   That reference photo is a map for the painting to be their dog and not any dog - in this case, Darby the Irish Setter.   The other photos sent to me for consideration are more reference material.  Those photos come in handy when the reference photo is lacking something that I need to verify.   Examples would be coloring, eye color, nose shape, etc.  I can never have too many photos.

I asked Vickie and Tom to tell me a little bit about Darby, and this is what they shared: 

He was the sweetest perfect little Irish man, with his call name, Darby, and his AKC registered name, Fleetwod Farms Wind at Your Back.

I hope this painting warms their hearts as they pass it daily in their home.   Thank you for having me paint your perfect little Irish man.  It was a pleasure and an honor.


Friday, December 31, 2021

Belgian Malinois Part 4 - Oil Painting Demonstration by Dawn Secord

Above is video 4 of 5 - a large Belgian Malinois oil painting in process. Click on the photo of the computer screen to see the video.
If you enjoy this demo, please subscribe to my Utube channel for more videos - here is a link to the channel -

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Belgian Malinois Part 3 - Oil Painting Demonstration by Dawn Secord

This is part 3 of an oil painting demonstration of a commissioned dog painting. The art collector wanted a close-up painting of the dog's eye. The photos were taken by the artist, Dawn Secord, and the reference photo for the painting had an amazing reflection in it. The photos were taken to achieve this.

Dawn Secord is an artist, writer and illustrator. Her most recent illustrated book, No Ghoulish Green Monsters Here, is her first authored children's picture book. The book is available on her website at DawnSecord (dot) com or aDogBling (dot) com

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Under Sun, Stars and Sails written by Marsha Hall Brown, Illustrated by Dawn Secord

Over a year ago a book came out written by well-known author, Marsha Hall Brown (retired AKC dog judge), and illustrated by me (the new illustrations - there are historical illustrations and paintings in the book as well).   The title is Under Sun, Stars and Sails.    The cover illustration is one of my pieces.   With the craziness of the past almost 2 years, the publicity for the book was impacted.   The book is an amazing historical story.   I am so glad efforts are underway to proceed with the publicity of the book.

The illustration process was more than fascinating.   I created several maps, pencil illustrations, pastel illustrations as well as the cover painting.   The book follows a sea captain, Joseph Marshall who was a master mariner, and his family from 1851 thru 1861 on their voyage at sea from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.   Mind you, at that time, there was no Panama Canal.   Their voyage took them ashore too.    Their trek across the Isthmus of Panama was by train and mule.  The research required to create the illustrations and maps was a journey in and of itself.   I also worked from photos of artifacts and of individuals.   It was an honor to work on a project with Mrs. Brown again.    She is a wealth of information.    She is humble about her background, not only in dogs but as a descendant of the founding families of Nantucket.    Did you know Macy’s founders were from Nantucket?   Nantucket played such a tremendous role in the 1800s whaling industry.   The book is a must read for American history buffs.  The book is filled with actual photos and inserts of historical letters.  It is a must read for those wanting to experience a true-life adventure.

Mrs. Brown just released a captivating book trailer for Under Sun Stars and Sails that I am more than proud to share.   Under Sun, Stars and Sails was published by Spinner Publications, Inc. of New Bedford, Massachusetts.

To see the trailer, click on the following link:

To order the book, click on the following link:

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Oil painting in process of a Belgian Malinois - part 1

Part one of my painting of a Belgian Malinois.    Bling shows up to give us an idea of the size of the painting.