A pet portrait is a gift that will last a lifetime (and beyond!)
Pet portraits take some time to make. But they are worth the wait. The most important part of the process is the planning stage. I like to get the composition figured out right away and take the time to get it right. Carrie and I worked through several ideas until we found the perfect composition.
I put a lot of care into my portraits for two reasons. The biggest reason is that a true representation of the subject honors the connection my clients have to their pets.
I’m also doing it for myself. It’s important to me that my paintings last and using the proper materials and techniques is only part of the equation. Making a work of art that will be interesting to future generations means future generations will take care it long after we are all gone. Likewise, every time I exhibit my work, win an award, or have a painting published I’m adding to the provenance of all of my paintings. Which means they will have a historical context that will add to the future value of my work. Adding value to my work means it will be taken care of.
The Best Part of a Pet Portrait
All of that longevity is important, but the best part of a pet portrait is preserving a well loved smiling face. It’s incredibly meaningful for me to make the special connection humans have to our pets tangible. My glimpse into the bond shared between Carrie, Derek and Sophie was truly a gift and it was an honor to make Sophie’s portrait.
We received the painting and it’s absolutely beautiful! It’s perfect. Thank you so much! Derek can’t get over how closely you managed to capture Sophie, you’re just SO talented. I hope to work with you in the future!
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.
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
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.
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.
It’s incredible in person, you are beyond talented! I can’t thank you enough..
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.
I got them today! We are in love! Thank you so much, such talented work!!
To learn about how to commission your own pet portrait, please visit the Commission’s page.
This is my second painting of Penny. I made my first portrait of her titled, “Woman’s Best Friend”, for my series Monthly Miniature, Into the country a few years ago (pictured below). She’s was my mother in law’s best friend. Penny posed for me, as many of her barnyard friends had done before her. The first painting sold while on exhibit, but Margot’s partner, Tony, though she should have a portrait of Penny of her very own. He commissioned the portrait for her in secret.
Two Sides of Penny
It’s interesting to see the two painting together. She almost looks like a different dog because her coloring is a little different on her right and left size. This influenced the colors I choose for the background. I like using a contrasting green tone when painting animals with orange/brown fur. Even though Penny only had a little orange spot on her cheek and in her eyes the color combination gives a nice warmth and depth.
The other side of Penny’s face is almost entirely black and white with some soft hints of brown. For my first painting of Penny, I kept this background in the grey tones and wanted to reinforce her stoic profile pose. I also kept more texture in the background to help lead the viewers eye around to her textured curly fur on her chest. Though they both portray the same dog, you can see how these little details make such a big difference.
OMG. I’m in tears.. every freckle on her nose, her ruffly fur, her sweet eyes!! You, my darling Rebecca, are truly amazing!
Please go to my commissions page to learn more about my process, pricing and schedule. And contact me if you’re interested in having a custom portrait made of your very own.
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.
Sarah and her aunt commissioned me to make this pet portrait of Ruby as a gift for Sarah’s parents. Sara is my husband’s best friend, she was the “best man” in our wedding, and I absolutely adore her. I never got to meet Ruby but I’ve heard lots of stories about her. Though it’s been years since she passed, she is still missed by those that knew her. I put a lot of care into each painting I make, but knowing the family personally, knowing firsthand how much Ruby was loved, really reinforces my mission of creating these paintings with a sensitivity to the bond between people and their animal friends. You can see the love that Ruby gave back to her family in her happy smiling face. I hope the painting brings them all much joy. Please take a look at my Pet portraits gallery to see more examples of my work.
A Painting More True to Life than a Photograph
This painting evokes Ruby’s puppy-like zeal the way only an original painting can. Since it’s painstakingly created layer by layer, I’m able to pay careful attention to all the details that make Ruby “Ruby”. Sometimes these details even get missed by the camera. The main image I used for the portrait showed Ruby’s eyes to be dark brown. But in the other images, and in everyone’s memory, her eyes had a golden glow, which I worked to capture. Though I can sometimes get all of the information I need with just one image, working with several and getting lots of feedback is important to my process.
I had the added honor of witnessing the happy couple unwrap Ruby’s portrait. People often write that seeing their portrait for the first time brought tears to their eyes, but seeing them both burst into happy tears was a special moment for me. See them below in a photo taken by Sarah, with the framed portrait of Ruby.
From the Family
You are a very talented artist and you captured the heart and spirit of our wonderful four-legged sweetheart, Ruby. We really love the painting. Thanks again, very much.
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
“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.
My latest pet portrait painting is of a hound dog named Owsley. Mason contacted me a month before Julianne’s birthday and he wanted to surprise her with Owsley’s portrait. It was too late to finish it in time, so we put it in the schedule for the following year. Mason was able to look through photos with Julianne and get a good idea of what kind of a portrait she would like. And because it was scheduled so far out, it was still a bit of a surprise when he gave her the painting. We did a formal portrait for Owsley in the Dutch tradition, similar to my Into the Country Monthly Miniature series.
Portrait of Owsley, oil on copper, 3″ x 3″
Antique Picture Frame
I gave Mason the option of using either a newly manufactured frame or using an antique hand finished one. He choose to go with one of the antique solid wood circular frames from the 1920’s. Thanks to my sister in Cincinnati, I have a bit over a dozen of these beautiful unfinished frames that came from the Castner Picture Frame Company. They were primed, and then stored for almost a hundred years when the frame manufacture went out of business. Each one is carefully matched with a portrait and then it receives its long awaited finishing coats of paint. Finding miniature solid wood frames with such a classic design is almost impossible today. And though I do still have a dozen of these frames left, I’m always on the look out for more. It’s like finding a little treasure to surround the portrait of someone you treasure.
Contact me to see what antique frames are available for your custom portrait and learn about the commission process on the Commissions page.
Finishing up my latest Monthly Miniature of Olwyn Marsden, I thought it would be fun to see a portrait I painted of her when she was little, along with portrait paintings of her parents and don’t forget the dog! Nippy has sadly passed, but his joy of car-rides lives on. All of these paintings are in the Marsden collection. Go to Tim Marsden’s website to see his artwork.
Transfiguration 20, Mother & Daughter oil on rotating copper panels (double sided painting) 7.5″ x 5″ x 3.5″ (framed)
Transfiguration 21 oil on rotating copper panels (double sided painting) 7.5″ x 5″ x 3.5″ (framed)
Nippy, Oil on aluminum, 5 1/4″ x 9 1/2″
The portrait paintings of Tim, Sandy and Olwyn are from a series of interactive paintings. The viewer can spin a small knob at the underside of the shadowbox frame and spin the image to view another painting on the other side. You can see more of these paintings in my interactive painting gallery.
The portrait of Nippy was a finalist in the 2016 ARC Salon Competition.