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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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Painting of Silkie Chicken in the ARC Salon Traveling Exhibition

First stop: New York City!

My portrait painting of the silkie chicken, Admiral Vox, will be included in the upcoming 13th International ARC Salon Exhibition. The exhibit consists of 89 Contemporary Realist works selected from over 3,750 entries from 69 countries. It is the most prestigious realist art competition in the Americas and perhaps the world.

New York, LA, & Barcelona: three stops over the next six months

The ARC Salon Exhibition will be on view at the Salmagundi Club, 47 Fifth Ave., New York, NY from September 21st—October 2nd, 2018. The public opening event on Saturday, September 22nd from 11am to 3pm. Entry is free. The exhibition will then travel to Sotheby’s, Los Angeles where it will be on view from December 4th—December 13th, 2018 with the opening reception on December 4th from 6pm to 8pm. The show will then travel to the MEAM Museum, Barcelona, Spain from February 8th—March 31st, 2019, with the opening event and award ceremony starting at 7pm on February 8th. To learn more, go to the ARC Salon website

The ideas behind the painting of Admiral Vox

My early memories are few but vivid, with joy and sorrow in equal measure. When I was small, I discovered the aftermath of a weasel attack in the hen house. Yet I also remember the sole survivor, a newly hatched chick who followed me everywhere. As my father succumbed to Multiple Sclerosis, the rest of us took more responsibility for the animals, and I reveled in it.

Now I paint animals, revisiting memories of my dad and the wonder of growing up on a small farm. I compose portraits of animals the same as I do portraits of people, seeking not only likeness but the beauty particular to them.

Admiral Vox is one of my mother-in-law’s flock. Despite his stern expression, he is gentle with people. Here he guards his hens in the dim of his coop, which has been lighted to personify the rooster without embellishment in a classic and dignified pose.

View more paintings in this series

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A special way of giving, and a very special portrait of Lucy the cat

Lucy is special one. People would see this cat pet portrait painting on the easel and just fall in love.

cat pet portrait painting  oil painting miniature by Rebecca Luncan

Portrait of Lucy
5.25″ x 3.75″
oil on aluminum

But this portrait commission started off a little differently than usual. Lucy was commissioned as a graduation gift from mother to daughter. Instead of opening a box and finding a painting, Taylor opened an envelope and found a gift voucher for a custom portrait of her Lucy.

Most paintings don’t start this way, I think because people like to present a finished painting for a gift but part of the fun of commissioning a custom portrait is dreaming up ideas, then looking through the mock-up proposals and seeing the painting develop. We looked through images together in my studio, figuring out both the composition and the perfect antique frame for the painting. Taylor had a strong instinct for which elements really said “Lucy,” and when the design was finalized we were all excited to see it take shape!

I am so happy with how Lucy turned out, please continue reading Taylor and Drindi’s testimonials below and see my gallery of portraits on the Pet Portraits page.

From Drindy:

Oh my goodness. You did such a great job capturing her. So exciting. I admire your commitment to your passion and you are so good at it. So I hope your art work continues to be a priority for you – certainly brings so much joy and beauty to our world.

From Taylor:

I have said this to my mom several times now, but wanted to officially say to you how much I absolutely love and adore my painting of Lucy.  It gives me so much joy and captures her spirit and personality so perfectly.  It’s truly one of those few things I would save in a fire (hopefully that’s never the case) but you get the gist – I will treasure it forever.

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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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Oil and Water Do Mix! A Pet Portrait Oil Painting of a Water Dog

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.

couple posing with their commissioned pet portrait, a gift from their daughter, painted by Rebecca Luncan

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

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Memorial portrait of Jackson, painted in diptych as puppy & dog

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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Hound Dog Pet portrait painting in an Antique Frame

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.

Beagle Hound Dog Pet portrait painting in an Antique Frame by Rebecca Luncan

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.

 

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ARC Salon Winner!!

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.

Honorable Mention

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.

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Portrait Paintings of the Marsden Family

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.

Mother Daughter Double sided, interactive oil Painting on Copper by Seattle artist Rebecca Luncan

Transfiguration 20, Mother & Daughter
oil on rotating copper panels (double sided painting)
7.5″ x 5″ x 3.5″ (framed)

 

Portrait of an artist Double sided, interactive oil Painting on Copper by Seattle artist Rebecca Luncan

Transfiguration 21 
oil on rotating copper panels (double sided painting)
7.5″ x 5″ x 3.5″ (framed)

 

Long haired dachshund oil painting

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.

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Portrait Paintings of Duck Stuffed Animals, by Commission

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.

Duck stuffed animals in yellow chair oil painting

Mama & Papa
oil on aluminum
5″ x 7″

 

 

stuffed animal toy still life painting by Rebecca Luncan

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.

From Tanya:

Oh my,

This makes my day!

I love (them) so much they brought a little tear to my eye 😉