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Puggle portrait painting (cape implied)

Most of my pet portrait commissions are based on images that come from my clients. I have a couple of blog posts for suggestions on getting photos of cats and dogs that can help get you started. What usually ends up working best though, is to take lots of photos (for dogs at least) when you’re running around at the park. I’m often altering the background of images to simplify it so that the attention is going to the subject of the painting. It’s not often that the background truly compliments the subject. When it does, though it’s something special.

The Historical Portrait Miniature

If you do a search for “Portrait Miniature” you’ll find countless classical miniatures, mostly from the 16th – 18th century. Popular in England, France and in the United States (There are probably a million portrait miniatures of George Washington).

At least a third of the paintings that come up in these searches have a blue sky with clouds in the background. They put it perfectly in an article about the representations of clouds in art by the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery of the University of Western Australia. “The physical position of the clouds, situated between heaven and earth, associates them with a higher order, a characteristic that recurs in art through the ages.” The association is then tied to subject placed in front of the clouds. I’ve been dying to do a portrait like this for ages. And was fortunate that Theo (aka Thelonious Monk ) has the bearing to pull it off. I can’t look at this painting without imaging a cape on her back. I think of it as puggle portrait painting that reveals the true size of the personality held in such a tiny body.

From Tina:

It’s perfect!! Thank you so much!  Melanie LOVES it, and we found a central spot to hang it. Just in time for her birthday and a gift for the ages…both with Theo, and beyond.
Eternally grateful

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Seattle Golden Boy, Golden Retriever Portrait Painted on Copper

After being on my site for 5 seconds, you know I love animals. Especially dogs. I’ve been fortunate to have known and painted several Golden Retriever’s portraits over the years and I don’t think I’ve ever known another kind of animal with a sweeter disposition.

I just finished another golden retriever portrait of Hazel who lived to 19. Painting Joey just after finishing that portrait felt like coming back to the beginning of a journey. Everything’s fresh, bright and this new love is so intense and powerful. I wish Joey a life just as long as Hazel’s, filled with a never ending supply of love for and from his family.

golden retriever portrait painting miniature by Rebecca Luncan

This golden retriever portrait is 4″ x 4″ and it’s the smallest size I’m making right now. I love the intimacy of the size but it’s not so small that I can’t fill the portrait with details (like the Seattle skyline in the background).

Joey’s portrait was commissioned by Lori as a holiday gift for her husband. Please go to my Commissions page to learn how to commission a portrait. Go to the Pet Portraits or Portrait Commissions page (paintings of people) to see more examples of my work.

From Lori:

It’s incredible in person, you are beyond talented! I can’t thank you enough..

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Classical Pet Portraits

I was commissioned to make two paintings for Jason. The first, a gift for his sister of her beloved dog Hazel. Hazel was a golden retriever that had given a lifetime of love. The other was of Turbo, a lot of personality packed into a miniature 4″ composition.

I composed both of these painting with classical dutch portraits in mind. There were so many great photos for me to choose from of these two. I was especially inspired by the warmth in Hazel’s eyes and the intelligence in Turbo’s.

I was sad to hear that both Turbo and Hazel passed between the time when we designed the portraits and when they were completed. It really reinforces my mission of creating pet portraits though. And I love that their portraits will live on for hundreds of years to come.

From Jason:

I got them today! We are in love! Thank you so much, such talented work!!
Miniature pet portrait painting framed by Rebecca Luncan

To learn about how to commission your own pet portrait, please visit the Commission’s page.

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Taking photos of your dog for a pet portrait : Do’s and Don’ts

My King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, Mona, has posed for us to help demonstrate how to get the best photos for your pet portrait.

  1. Take photos outside.

    Cloudy days are ideal and you can shoot at anytime during the day. If it’s sunny out, it’s best to plan to photograph around an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset. Give yourself around 30 minutes for a photo session. The first image of Mona below is from a huge image file, but it’s a blurry image without a lot of detail because it was taken inside.

    photography don't for pet portrait

    Photo taken inside

    photos for a pet portrait painting

    Photo taken outside

  2. Get on your pets level.

    Though my ten year old Mona does look awfully cute and puppy like in the first image below, images taken from above distort the body and feel kind of generic. I find images shot from closer to a dogs eye level feel more intimate and show a clearer picture of who your unique furry friend is.

    photography don't for pet portrait

    photographed from above

    photos for a pet portrait painting

    Image taken from Mona’s eye level

  3. Get up close.

    The first shot below looks great at first glance, but it’s shot from too far away. When zooming in on the face, you can see that the fine details are lost. Capturing the little details if part of what makes your portrait special and if the detail isn’t in the photo, I can’t paint it.

    Photo taken from far away

    photography don't for pet portrait

    Far away image zoomed in

    Photo taken up close

    photos for a pet portrait painting

    Up close image zoomed in

  4. Light up their eyes.

    A little light reflected in the eyes gives your pet a lively alert expression. Mona looks like she’s kind of sad or very sleepy without that light. Even on a cloudy day you should be able to get a reflection. If you’re having trouble, try to position the sun behind you.

    photography don't for pet portrait

    No reflection in the eyes

    photos for a pet portrait painting

    Reflection in Mona’s eyes

  5. Take lots of photos.

    When trying to get the perfect shot, I took over sixty images. Be patient and try lots of different angles. Block out 30 minutes to take photos and even if you feel like you got the perfect image 5 minutes in, keep shooting for the entire time.

  6. Get a helper.

    Not all dogs are as docile as Mona and having someone there with toys and treats helping pose your dog is a tremendous help.

  7. Bonus tip.

    Don’t forget to brush your dog’s hair! Mona had some tangles I missed before we took our photos. 😉

I look forward to seeing your images!! If you’re having trouble or if you’re unable to get new photos, contact me. Good luck!

Visit my Pet Portraits gallery to see some of my past pet portraits and see my tips for taking photos of your cat for a portrait. And now I’m going to have to make a portrait of Mona! Check back in a few months to see which image I end up choosing.

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Portrait of Fifi

My latest commission is a cat oil portrait on aluminum. Sean commissioned me to paint Fifi as a gift for his wife. Soon after commissioning the painting however, he let her in on the secret and they both got to enjoy the fun of anticipating the finished creation. We choose an oval format and 6″ x 8″ ended up being the perfect size.

Oil painting detail of pet portrait of fluffy cat by Rebecca Luncan

Detail of Portrait of Fifi
8″ x 6″
oil on aluminum

We choose a solid wood walnut frame with ornate detail on the outside and inside lip to give it a more formal look. I love how the brown of the frame compliments the green in the painting!

Framed cat pet portrait by Rebecca Luncan

Framed cat pet portrait by Rebecca Luncan

 

From Sean:

Painting received, it looks amazing!!!  I am super excited! Thank you again for all your work!

Client with pet portrait

Sean and Fifi pose with Fifi’s portrait

 

Please visit my commissions page to learn how to commission your own pet portrait.

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Lucy Reclining, getting the perfect images for a cat portrait painting

Most of my pet portrait commissions are made by referencing photos provided by my clients. I like to get a big range of images, not only to reference the painting, but also to get a sense of my subjects personality. Cats are notoriously difficult to photograph but getting the perfect images for a cat portrait painting is easier if you follow a few tips and have lots of patience. From these images, I pick the ones that inspire me the most and do a couple of mock-ups for the client to pick from. 

I have pulled some of the images from a recent commission of Lucy to help you get an idea of how to take photographs. Take a look at my tips below and if you have any questions about commissioning a portrait, feel free to contact me. 

1. Get on your cats level

Images for a cat portraitPhotographing your cat from a their eye level tends to make the image feel more intimate and it shows your cat without distortion. Cat’s do like to climb so you don’t always have to get down on the ground to achieve this.

 

 

 

 

2.Natural Light

Images for a cat portraitNatural light is ideal and its best if the day is slightly overcast. Cats are usually indoor creatures, but steering them towards a window will achieve the desired effect. Not only does natural overcast light help avoid harsh shadows, it gives me a more accurate representation of color for the fur and eyes. Try to pose them so that they get the light to twinkle in their eyes for a lifelike appearance.

 

 

3. Hi Resolution / Fill the Frame

Images for a cat portraitHi resolution images are a must but if most of the picture is just background, I’m not going to get any detail (unless the landscape will be a part of the painting!). Never compress images before sending them and fill the frame with your cat as much as possible for the most detail. Getting the correct texture of your cats fur and the subtle color changes in the eyes is impossible if the image is blurry. Filling the frame with your cat gives me all of the details that are so fun to paint and to look at. Use the zoom feature on your camera to help you get close without attracting too much attention.

 

4. Take and send lots of images!

Primary reference image for composition

You can not send to many images for a cat portrait! Molly sent me dozens and it helped me get a sense of Lucy’s personality and get a feel for all of her different expressions. It also gave me flexibility in designing the composition that we chose for the painting. The primary reference image that inspired my portrait of “Reclining Lucy” didn’t fit any of the above suggestions. The client and I both loved how the pose and expression captured her so perfectly though. And since Molly sent me so many great images I was able to reference other images for accurate colors and fine details.

 

 

5. Help!

If you’re having trouble, getting someone to distract them helps you focus on photographing. Toys and treats can also be useful to get them to go and look where you want.

What a Mock-up looks like

Images for a cat portraitMy mock-up’s are constructed digitally and they help give a sense of what the painting will look like. This mock-up was submitted with the note that the color and fine details would be taken form another image (the one used to demonstrate “natural light” above).

For more information about commission, please visit the commissions page

 

 

 

From Molly:

We got the box today!  OMG, I absolutely love Lucy

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A Happy Father’s Day Pet Portrait of Man’s Best Friend

Black Lab’s are the quintessential family dog and a pet portrait of man’s best friend makes the perfect Father’s day gift. Black Lab’s are full of energy and aren’t really suited for apartment living, but few breeds can outmatch their friendly personalities. Such sweet personalities makes them very easy to love back.

Sally commissioned me to paint Pi (short for Pirate) as a gift for her husband for Fathers Day. She sent me lost of great photos, which gave me an insight to how lucky Pi is. Dogs love with such a wholehearted passion and it was clear that Pi is loved back just as much.

Pet Portrait of Man's Best Friend Black lab miniature oil paining by Rebecca Luncan

Portrait of Pi
oil on aluminum
5″ x 5″

We choose a solid wood frame manufactured by a company in Canada, Inline Ovals. Learn more about my commission process on my commission page and see more examples of pet portraits in the pet portraits gallery.

From Sally:

…it is SO amazing. It’s my favorite piece of art in the whole house:)

Anders was surprised and he loves it too. I def scored points. Thank you SO much!!!

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Golden Retriever Paintings Memorialize Jackson, painted as a puppy & adult in a diptych

Clark worked hard to make this pair of portraits happen! They were an anniversary gift, and getting all the old photos of Jackson scanned and mailed in secret took time and cunning. Clark was up to the task though, and he supplied me with lots of great images. Although we talked at first of painting Jackson as an adult, he sent me a few pictures from his puppy stage as well. I couldn’t resist mocking up a puppy portrait—the images were too adorable! Clark was tempted too, and instead of one portrait, he commissioned two paintings, each from a different stage in Jackson’s life.

Framing the Portraits

puppy pet portrait oil painting framed by Rebecca Luncan

“Jackson as a Puppy” oil on copper, 6″ x 6″

I sent Clark a selection of frames to choose from and he picked a 1 1/2″ wide natural wooden frame. The color brings out the warmth of Jackson’s Golden Retriever silky coat, and the pair of portraits look great together. Take a look at my Pet Portraits Gallery to see more examples of my work, and visit the Commissions page to learn how to commission your own pet portrait oil paintings.

pet portrait oil painting of golden retriever by Rebecca Luncan

Portrait of Jackson
oil on copper
6″ x 6″

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Portrait of Tank, a Black Cat Portrait Painting

Commissions and Personal Work: One Fuels the Other

I split my studio time about equally between commissioned work and personal work. With a one-year-old and a part time job at the Seattle Art Museum, I guard my painting time carefully. My priority is always to finish commissions on time, and that sometimes means putting off other paintings.

With plenty of ideas to begin with, paintings can be put on the back burner for years. A series of nine paintings of black cats was one such series but between my commissions and a backlog of other personal work, that project is at least two years away. You can imagine I was very excited to receive a request to paint this portrait of the black cat, Tank!

I love how the painting came out, and it gives me the feeling my black cats project is not so far away. It eases a sense of urgency and being short of time, by getting some of my ideas out of my head and into the world. In so doing it also helps to inform my future work. When I finally paint my black cats series, (future Monthly Miniatures perhaps?), I will have a better idea of what I want to explore, having already ‘pulled back the curtain’ and taken a peek.

I am thankful for this invitation to paint Tank and the opportunity to explore the mystique and beauty of black cats! I am so lucky to do work that lets me feel so thankful, so often.  If you have a black cat, I would love to paint his or her portrait. Read about commissioning a pet portrait at my commissions page. Tanya and family also commissioned two duck stuffed animal paintings that were both a delight to paint.

From Tanya:

…we love tank’s portrait
It was hard to convince my mother it wasn’t a photograph
Many thanks

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Miniature Dog Portrait Painting, Softening Loss with Joyful Memories

When I first started painting pet portraits, I never imagined I would paint so many in memoriam. It’s a hard thing to explain why a painting should feel more significant than, say, the photo it’s based on, but I think it’s the care put into making it. I love that all the smiling dogs and bright eyed cats that I’ve painted will be just as happy and alert in their portraits for hundreds of years to come. They will not only bring a moment of joy to their much loved companion, but also to countless generations of viewers after all of us are gone. It’s an honor to make these paintings.

Hicks was one such special dog. I painted his portrait for Megan, whose husband was very close to Hicks. Our time with our pets is brief, but the love we experience is profound. We dread the moment of loss almost from the first, and it is always too soon. I know how it feels to lose a dog so well loved, and I think that is why I never get tired of painting memorial pet portraits.

I have a little portrait of Buster, my favorite companion who I lost six years go, hanging where I can see him every day. His portrait honors our connection and keeps his memory warm in my heart. It also gives me occasion to talk about him more, and tell stories of special memories. Painting it and having it helped me turn my grief at his passing into a celebration of our friendship. If you are considering a similar gift for yourself or a loved one, let me personally encourage you. If you have any questions about it, you may read my Commissions page or reach out to me directly.

From Megan:

Oh my gosh. It’s amazing!! I have tears in my eyes writing this. My husband loved it. It is so beautiful. I can’t thank you enough.