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Nick Oliver - the iPad artist bringing a novel touch to pet portraits

PUBLISHED: 00:26 24 February 2014 | UPDATED: 10:55 11 January 2016



Nick Oliver

If you got your first tablet for Christmas, you’ll be amazed by what it can do. Artist Nick Oliver has gone a step further. Barbara Waite reports

Nick Oliver at workNick Oliver at work

When David Hockney embraced new technology and produced iPad pictures, the art world sat up and took notice. He certainly wasn’t the first to create touchscreen images, but at 74 he seemed intent on proving you can teach an old dog new tricks.

And Nick Oliver, a late starter to the world of computing, has taken that a stage further and developed a unique way of producing pet portraits.

The father-of-two from Standish trained as an illustrator and worked in the technical drawing department at British Aerospace, but has always drawn and painted as a hobby. He enjoyed creating highly-detailed pet portraits in coloured pencil, but decided that a looser approach was the way to go.

‘I have been honing my style ever since the moment I bought my first computer 12 years ago. I really got hooked on it and the possibilities that it offered. It is a tool to creating fresh and original likenesses,’ he said.

Black horseBlack horse

He follows the same principles a watercolourist would use. The original photograph is broken down into simple patterns of shape, tone and line but instead of using the traditional paint and a brush the computer takes over.

‘The work I do is not simply pressing a button and letting the computer do the work. It is a multi-layering technique where I flood an area with colour using ‘brushes’ I have created to produce strong highlights and shade,’ explained Nick.

‘It’s time consuming, and the pictures are built up slowly in layers, but the technique I use gives them a liveliness and spontaneous edge. It’s important to focus on the nose and eyes as these are what bring the portraits to life,’ he added.

The 49-year-old’s new career is in its infancy, but already word is spreading among the dog trainers and groomer around his home in Standish. Nick, who has produced greeting cards and once did a cartoon strip for the Bolton Evening News based on his young family, is adamant that using a computer is not cheating.

‘After all, the first person who swapped a stick for a stick with hairs tied on the end was using the latest technology so to my mind it is definitely art and can’t be classed as cheating. It is not merely using a pre-set program, my method involves decision making and an artistic eye.’

He charges £65 for the high quality portrait and also includes a high resolution digital file which can be used by the customer to print on whatever and whenever they want.

In the dog eat dog world of pet portraiture, Nick is blazing a trail to bring it bang up to date.

To see more of his work visit

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