5″ x 5″
oil on aluminum
Painting pet portraits is a journey of discovery
Years of training in traditional painting techniques and my past pet portraits form the foundation for each new piece I make. Yet with each portrait I still learn new things. Mixing just the right color still feels like making magic, and finding the precise technique to create a new texture of fur or feathers is an enchanting challenge all its own.
A perfect example is my recent cat portrait of Shiro, a fluffy white fellow with piercing blue eyes. In this case, the key technique to capture the luminosity in those beautiful eyes, as well as the soft sense of fluff, was glazing.
Glazing is a little like magic
Evidence of glazing is found in the earliest examples of painting. The idea is to apply transparent layers of oil paint atop the dried lower layers. I use Gamblin’s Galkyd media for the upper layers of my paintings and when glazing, I increase the medium enough to create transparent layers, which offer a sense of optical depth. This is one reason why painting always look better in person than when reproduced. In reproductions all the colors are flattened out and the transparent layers are lost.
Glazing is typically used in just a few key areas of a painting. The areas of optical depth attract the viewer’s eye more than surrounding areas of opaque paint, so it’s a great way to help direct the eye of the viewer around a composition and create focal points. Gamblin has a list of pigments that are ideal for glazing on their website. I used Phthalo Blue, Phthalo Green, and a touch of Indian Yellow in Shiro’s eyes.
We absolutely love the picture. You rendered him so beautifully! We have a special spot in the house to hang the picture so we can look at it every day and it looks amazing.
Thank you again. It is such an honor and a treat to have a piece of your art and it is so special that it is of Shiro who we love so much.
Thanks so much for the commission, Dawn!
See more examples of my paintings on the Pet Portraits page and learn about the commission process on the Commissions page.
Portrait of Robbie
oil on aluminum
16.75″ x 15″
“Portrait of Robbie”
It was a lovely Seattle day when Robbie sat (in a tree) for his portrait painting. Robbie was patient and sweet and easy to work with, and the reference photos came out beautifully. I was thankful that it started off so well, as it was among the most challenging portrait commissions I’ve painted.
Traditional oil portrait painting technique sees me through again
It took flexibility and patience to finish this commission the way I imagined it, and without years of experience, I could have been tempted to call it done early. With the wide variety of textures in this portrait, the challenge was to paint each texture at the right level of detail to keep the eye moving through the painting without distracting from Robbie. I also experimented a lot with composition, moving major elements of the background during planning stages and early on in painting.
With so many different areas to work on, the confidence in the process of painting by layer kept me from getting ahead of myself. It’s not an accident that the same process helps keep color consistent. For instance, the second coat of paint for the sweater took four different painting sessions (having a one year old son has reduced my painting sessions to around two hours). The next two coats were thin glazing layers and each layer was finished during one painting session. That meant I was able to add highlights, shadows and more texture to the entire sweater with the same mixture of paint and not have to keep remixing days later. Similarly, finishing one entire layer before moving to the next layer, allows the whole painting to have a consistent look. As a bonus, painting in layers is a necessary part of fat-over-lean painting, which helps prevent cracking over time.
Thanks to Amy and Robbie for the wonderful experience
With all this talk of challenges, I want to say that I am so thankful for the opportunity to make this portrait painting. The color palette, composition and facial expression all came together in a tapestry of textures to find Robbie, with his budding confidence and thoughtful gaze. Amy was a pleasure work with, and Robbie made a wonderful subject both to photograph and to paint. Thank you both for the honor and opportunity.
Kind words from Amy
It was lovely to see your studio and where all of your creative energy flows yesterday. I have hung the portrait… and it is wonderful. Thank you again, and know that I am plotting the next commission.
If you are new to my site, please visit my Gallery to see more examples of my work. Visit the Portrait Commissions page to learn how to have a portrait painted just for you.
Family Portrait of Heather, Courtney and Olivia, oil on aluminum, 6″ x 4.75″
Inspired by a 17th century artwork through 21st century social media
I’m always on the lookout for new ideas not only for what I’m painting, but also for framing. When Richard Christie, picture framer of the Cotswolds in the UK, posted an image of a painting on Instagram, I gasped aloud. I had been debating how to frame the miniature family portrait above and I instantly knew this was “The One!”. My delight was due to a beautiful frame worthy of a truly spectacular little painting (pictured below) of “A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle”. Painted by Hendrick Avercamp over four hundred years ago, it’s the inspiration for the frame I made for the commission, “Family Portrait of Heather, Courtney and Olivia”.
Posted by: antique_frames, A Winter Scene with Skaters near a Castle. By Hendrick Avercamp about 1608. Seen in the National Gallery.
Bringing out the details with subtle framing
Dutch style frames are a particular favorite of mine because I find that they lend a formality without adding distraction. The dark, wide and simple profile brings my eye into the details of the image and helps keep it there. I’m also happy to find that the geometric shape of the frame draws my eye around the arms and hands of the loving family encircling one another.
Detail of hands, oil on aluminum
Instagram for inspiration
I have a wide array of interests and they are all covered on Instagram. Among the folks I follow, there are visual artists, picture framers, musicians, weavers, farmers, and family members. You never know how or when inspiration will hit and it’s always fun to take a break and see what people are up to. If you’re on Instagram I hope you’ll check out my account!
Corina, oil on aluminum, 2.25″ x 2.25″
It’s never too late…
Sixteen years after Corinna passed, she is still fresh in the mind of her favorite person. I have been very honored to be given this commission to create a memorial portrait that pays tribute to a sweet and loved little creature.
An image taken in the mid 1990’s and lots of very helpful tips about her unique colors from Aaron, helped me bring her to life on my small disk of aluminum. She has such unusual eyes and fur and I loved mixing such a lovely combination of colors. As the painting began to unfold, I couldn’t help but imagine petting her soft little nose. Thanks you for the commission, Aaron. I hope that this painting helps bring fond memories of your loved little Corinna to you often.
Oh Rebecca, it’s wonderful! That’s Corinna. Expression, subtle pink color, eyes, everything. You did it! I’m blown away. It’s more like her than any photograph. I can see, or feel, that it has a little extra love in there. Thank you.
My latest french bulldog portrait painting traveled across the country and has arrived in his new home.
I’d been looking forward to working on Henry’s portrait and it went almost too quickly! The wait list for one of my painting is currently about eight months. Though it seems like a long time, the anticipation is part of the fun both for clients receiving the paintings and for me to get working on them. What better way to spend your day than to look at that cute little face? I already miss him in the studio.
I found three miniature antique plaster frames and they are to be used for the portraits of two dogs (Oliver and Henry) and a cat (Corinna). For my pet portraits, I mostly work from photos taken by my clients, so I can take commissions from just about anywhere in the world. These three little paintings will split ways and make their independent journeys to California, Pennsylvania and Virginia. If you’re interested in a portrait of your own, please visit my Commissions page to learn about the process or contact me to get started today.
Henry, oil on aluminum, 2.25″ x 2.25″
Just received my portrait of Henri. It’s so small and so perfect! I love it.
Thank you again, Rebecca
Portrait of Wilson
oil on aluminum
11″ x 14″
I was asked to make a painting of Wilson as a surprise Christmas gift and I loved the assortment of high quality images that I was given to choose from.
Photography is a skill to be mastered just like any other, and his owners have certainly been working hard to perfect their craft. Wilson is a willing muse and he is quick to give the camera his winning smile when asked. He is clearly a very happy and well loved pooch and I enjoyed the opportunity to capture him in oils from images taken when he was out hiking, one of his favorite things to do.
Check out his Instagram account where you can see an assortment of adorable photographs while you follow him on all sorts of adventures.
“I wanted to…let you know that the painting was the perfect gift. Olivia absolutely loved it! I can’t thank you enough for the work you did on it. It goes without saying that you have some very happy customers (Wilson included!)”
oil on aluminum
4.25″ x 3.25
Remember when I said I had a dozen more mock up’s for rabbit paintings?
Thanks to Nicholas Dorman, painting conservator at the Seattle Art Museum, I was able to squeeze a few more paintings of rabbits into my busy schedule last year. As you may know, I currently split my studio schedule equally between personal and commissioned artworks and these paintings were a combination of the two!
The paintings were commissioned for his wife, whose maiden name is Rabbitt and their two children, whose middle names are also Rabbitt! I sent him all of those rabbit mock up’s that were on the back burner while I was working on a new monthly miniature project and he picked his favorite three. I feel so humbled and honored that he wanted to add some of my paintings to his collection when he gets to travel the world with the museum to conserve so many amazing paintings.
Setting Sail, pictured above, was inspired by a pose my rabbits struck in the studio. I like thinking of this one personifying Nick and his wife contemplating their adventures. Nick’s art history background influenced the other two paintings he chose for his son and daughter. The paintings were inspired by historical works by Hans Hoffmann and Matthias Withoos. I replaced Hans Hoffman’s hare and Matthias Withoos’s mushroom with my house rabbits who share the art studio with me.
A Rabbitt in the Forest, after Hans Hoffmann, oil on aluminum, 4.25″ x 3.25″
A Forest Still Life, after Matthias Withoos – March, 2016, oil on aluminum, 4.25″ x 3.25″
Thanks so much! I love the paintings…They really are beautiful.
From his wife:
We absolutely love the rabbitt (rabbit) paintings! Thank you so much!
Portrait of Maddie at the Beach, oil on copper, 4″ x 4″
My commission schedule is booked out almost a year in advance, but if there’s a special occasion you’d like a portrait for and it’s coming up soon, it doesn’t hurt to ask!
I like to leave a little wiggle room in my schedule to accommodate one or two unexpected commissions each year that need to happen right away. The timing for this painting worked perfectly, and I’m really happy I was able to make it as a special gift for a very special person.
This painting was presented to Michele as a tribute to ten years as a hardworking, knowledgeable and efficient registrar at the Seattle Art Museum. But for her colleges to commission such a gift to commemorate her time at SAM, it’s also a tribute to the genuine warmth and love that she has always been so quick to share. We coordinated with her daughter who she sent me several images, and this one immediately stood out to me as “the one,” both a portrait of her very loved granddaughter, and an image of a young girl, going confidently to the ocean on a glorious sunny day. I hope Michele’s new adventures are just as sunny, and I know she will go into them with confidence and brighten the lives of all she meets.
My thanks to everyone at SAM and to her daughter for the commission, and for your trust that I could make a gift worthy of Michele. And thank you, Michele, for all your help and support, both professional and personal over the past ten years. Enjoy and visit your old friends often!
From Michele’s daughter
“Wow, Rebecca. I don’t even know what to say… this is so beautiful. My mom is going to love it. We are so blessed that you’ve used your incredible talent to commit such a wonderful memory into an ever-lasting work of art. Thank you.”
“Amazingly talented, kind, sweet, wonderful. …I will always admire you when I look at the portrait…”
Oliver, oil on copper, 2.25″ x 2.25″
What could be a more perfect gift for someone you love, but a tiny painting of someone they love?
Many of my commissioned portraits are given as gifts. And while I enjoy creating each and every painting I make, those made for an unsuspecting recipient are made with an extra element of excitement and joy in the air. The charming Oliver was carefully captured in oils as a gift for his owner’s birthday. His owner’s sister, who commissioned the painting, was a big fan of Ollie, and I’m very grateful for the commission. Check out the painting of Oliver, as well as a few other animal portraits, in their beginning stages.
See Oliver’s first coat of paint in one of my On the Easel blog posts featuring works in progress. I work in a traditional lean to fat method that ensures my paintings will survive for hundreds of years and this first thin coat is essential to the process. To see more finished paintings, please take a look at my pet portraits gallery and my human portraits gallery. And if you’re interested in commissioning a portrait for of your own, take a look at my commissions page to learn my process and contact me to get started!
“I LOVE him!!!! Ollie looks perfect. Thank you Rebecca for all your patience and guidance. You are a talented artist with a true eye. And best of all I KNOW my sister will love it! It’s a given….”
And here’s what her sister posted in Instagram:
“Nine on the Beach”, oil on aluminum, 14″ x 14″
A first-person perspective captures the intimacy of a unique moment.
This image is so rich in textures to explore, from the surface of the water over the rippled sand, to the skin and all the various textiles. But what really makes this painting special is the story that inspired it and brought nine people together for a day to remember.
When I was first approached to make this painting, I admit I was a little skeptical. My client mentioned that he had taken the image the previous weekend and wanted a portrait made from it, with some slight modifications. It seemed like such a casual request to warrant countless hours making a painting that will last hundreds of years. I was compelled enough by the image to do a mock-up and give an estimate, yet I was curious, what made this image so special?
When my client accepted the estimate, he gave me the backstory:
This image is from this past Saturday when we scattered my Mother-in-law’s ashes at the beach and I shot this photo when we were all standing in a circle before the ashes were scattered. My idea of this painting is to give my wife a gift and a memorial from a really beautiful day. Part of what I like are how different all of our feet are, dress shoes and suit from the service bare feet, etc. The idea of the seagull is a representation of Jean in the middle of us.
The story was so moving that it completely transformed my perspective on the commission, from being slightly skeptical to feeling deeply honored. What a stunning reminder of the power of a story to give meaning, that a few words of insight into a shared experience can make an image so deeply moving.
What a beautiful memorial, and what a loving husband to bring the idea to life.
The final painting, framed and ready to gift wrap