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.
Doug, Gloria & Sarah
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.
Portrait of Jackson
oil on copper
6″ x 6″
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.
I am thrilled to announce that my painting, “Admiral Vox” has been chosen for both a Gallery Award and as Honorable Mention in the 13th International ARC Salon.
Gallery Award – Arcadia Contemporary
I’m excited to be chosen as one of the artists for a Gallery Award by Arcadia Contemporary. Rehs Contemporary Galleries, Inc., New York City, and Arcadia Contemporary, Los Angeles, will both be having an exhibition for selected winning artists in 2018 or early 2019. Each gallery selected a group of finalists who supplied the gallery with additional images to help them make their decisions. From those finalists, the galleries have each chosen artists for a group exhibition and sale. Each artist who participates will be completing a series of new works specifically for these shows. Keep an eye out for the exhibition dates on the blog, or sign up for my Newsletter to get monthly updates on my Monthly Miniatures and exhibitions.
Click the link to see all of the finalists and winners of the Animal Category in the 13th International ARC Salon. It’s an honor to be included in this group! This category includes all animal art; any paintings, sculptures or drawings where an animal or animals are the central focus of the work.
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)
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.
Portrait commissions can be “animals” of all sorts
I am always up for a challenge, so when I was approached about painting stuffed animals, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I knew the subject matter would present new challenges, but it was such a sweet idea. And it was a challenge indeed! Polly was easy to compose, but Mama & Papa Duck took two photo shoots and numerous mock ups before it finally all came together.
The paintings are gifts for the two children who befriended and loved these stuffed ducks. Through the love and infectious imagination of children, these special ducks became living beings for everyone in the household. These two sweet and quirky portraits capture this fleeting and precious time of childhood.
Mama & Papa
oil on aluminum
5″ x 7″
Portrait of Polly
oil on copper
3 1/2 x 4″
If you’ve got an idea for a commission, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I welcome ideas for artwork of all your loved ones (paintings of toys included!). Take a look at my commissions page for more information about my process. Also, please take a peek at my recent black cat pet painting, Portrait of Tank, a painting of the beautiful black cat that is also part of this lovely family.
This makes my day!
I love (them) so much they brought a little tear to my eye 😉
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.
…we love tank’s portrait
It was hard to convince my mother it wasn’t a photograph
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.
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.
Portrait of a Gentleman and Portrait of a Lady, oil on aluminum, 5″ x 5″
Making portraits of rabbits is serious (and silly) business
Living with animals means forming unusual patterns of communication and quite powerful loving bonds. These two bunnies reside in my painting studio and we’ve become quite good friends. I’ve made many paintings of them over the past several years, some silly and some serious. These two paintings take the prize for the most formal in the bunch, however, yet these portraits are also as serious and silly as the rabbits they portray.
17th century Dutch portraits heavily influenced how I composed these portraits. Vermeer’s, “Girl with a Pearl Earring” is a prime example of this type of painting. My fascination for this genre can also be seen in my Into the Country monthly miniatures, created at the same time as these two.
The paintings explore our relationships with animals and their relationships with each other. I’ve spent most of my career painting portraits of people and my portraits of rabbits reflect that. There is an irony in a formal portrait painting of a rabbit because relationships between animals are seen as less legitimate than between humans. And more so this diptych since it anthropomorphizes the bond between this pair. Yet these two rabbits did dearly love each other and the feeling that an animal is “part of the family” is certainty not uncommon. So beyond being both silly and serious, they also feel at once ironic and genuine.
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.