Giving a pet portrait gift is surprisingly versatile, both for the occasion and for the type of recipient. Commission gifts fill fill about half of my commission schedule and they’ve been presented for anniversaries, Christmas presents, Valentine’s day gifts, birthday presents, graduation gifts, and retirement presents. I’ve made them as for gifts for spouses, siblings, parents, children and coworkers. It’s hard to go wrong when presenting a carefully composed portrait of someones special creature (furry, feathery and human variety).
From her to him, then from him to her!
This pair of portraits were completed over a year apart. Rachel contacted me seeking a portrait for her fiancé’s birthday of their dog Jefferson. He must have enjoyed receiving the painting, because soon after receiving it, Donte contacted me secretly to make one of Franklin, the newest addition to their family, for her. He gave her the painting for their anniversary. From her to him, then from him to her. Isn’t that just the sweetest?
The reference for my pet portraits are usually images provided by my clients. And the better the reference image, the better the painting will turn out. This terrier pet portrait is a wonderful example of that.
Tilly provided me with around 20 very high quality images and her vision of seeing Arthur in a red chair or on a red cushion. What made their images exceptional was great lighting and the angle she used.
Most of their images were taken outside, or with a very strong outdoor light source from a window as we see in the final painting. Good lighting is incredibly helpful in capturing accurate color, detail and texture in my subject. This is much easier to accomplish with dogs and horses than it is for cats and rabbits. But it’s a great example of how much a window can bring in the much needed light.
Tilly also captured Arthur from his eye level in most of the images. This makes for less distortion and creates a more intimate portrait.
You can see in the above images, how the original images are altered to design the composition. I work with background shapes and colors to compliment the subject. It’s also important to move the viewers eye around to each area of the painting, while keeping the focal point on the personality of the subject. You’ll notice that I moved the line of the chair from above, to below his nose, adding to the feeling of Arthur’s alertness.
There are slight changes from the mock-up to the final painting, but these are minimal. As I work, the colors and form of the subject come together and I allow intuition to guide my brush. My main goals are to create a beautiful work of art and to capture my subject. Though it’s very close to the photo, I always try to make it better than the reference if possible.
While painting, I also look at the other images occasionally to help double check for accuracy. I softened the contrast in his fur and made the background less saturated, which seemed to separate Arthur from his background and give him more dimension. It also made his eyes appear brighter not to match the background so closely. The final touch was to make sure to capture the little tuft of hair that stuck straight up in almost all of the other images (my client mentioned this tuft so I knew it was important to have it in the portrait).
“This is perfect! Thank you so much for working so hard on it, I’m absolutely in love- I can’t wait to see it! (in person)”
For inforamtion on pricing, gift vouchers and timeline for your own pet portrait, please take a look at my commissions page.
Sam and I became friends many years ago attending an open-studio gathering hosted by a mutual friend. She loved cats and talked about them all the time, but I was shocked to hear she didn’t have one! She and her husband were catsitters for one and they were very much in love.
After four years, Angus’s human saddly passed, but Sam and her husband were able to adopt him. He went from one very loving home to another. Soon after the adoption was official, she contacted me for a portrait of her favorite kitty.
Hand-Finished Antique Frame
I offered one of my antique frames that my sister found several years ago at a The Castner Picture Frame Company, made in the early 1900’s. You can see my finishing process on a previous post. It’s incredible to watch the transformation they undergo and I love the warm tones in the frame with his fur colors.
INCREDIBLE! Truly amazing. I can’t thank you enough. I absolutely love it and can’t wait to see it in person.
Years ago, I created a pet portrait painting of a cat named Lucy as a gift from mother to daughter. And now, the daughter has commissioned a portrait for her mother and father of their beloved furry companion, Lily, as a Christmas gift.
I often think about how much I love making pet portraits because I get to experience the bond animals have with their human companions. When the portraits are gifts it’s especially exciting, because there’s another loved one thrown into the mix. I’m a more the merrier type! These two commissions in particular, were very special to me. I remember meeting Taylor and her mother when I had just recently become a mother myself. They were so close and loving. It made me feel extra privileged to have a child of my own and I strive to make such a loving bond with him.
Thank you! My parents loved the painting!!
From Drindy: I should have told you how profound it was to receive your piece for Xmas. I weeped when I opened this. It is her essence and reminds us so much of how much we still and will always love her. Thank you for your amazing talent – what a gift it is to us.
I’m very excited to share a detail of my first commissioned painting of a lion head rabbit named Leroy, posing with his friend, a shih tzu named Scout.
If you’re new to my work, you may know I paint still lifes and animals, but you may not know that I specialize in rabbit paintings. My ongoing series of Monthly Miniatures started with paitnings of rabbits and there were 18 paitnings in that series. Every year I begin a new series and more bunny paintings are always contenders on the list. I do plan on making more paintings of rabbits for 2021, but not for the monthly miniature series. Perhaps next year. 🙂 Until then, a commissioned portrait of this very loved little guy was an absolute treat for me to make.
This adorable pair, Leroy and Scout, bring happiness not just to each other, but to their human family as well. Laura commissioned this portrait as a birthday gift for her brother. “Both of them bring out the best most lovable side of my brother”. I can see how! I hope their portrait brings out the best most lovable side of you too. ?
I’m in love with the subject for my latest pet portrait commission. Harrison is a flame point rag doll Siamese and those eyes!! Harrison is 10″ x 8″ and is made with oil on aluminum.
During my tiny thanksgiving gathering we talked about things we were grateful for. My clients that commission me to paint their beautiful furry friends came just after friends and family. Thank you. ❤️
I worked as a picture framer during my college years and have continued to frame my own work since then. I frame most of my clients commissioned works and for Harrisons portrait we choose this georgeous bronze colored carved frame. My client has synesthesia and she loved this frame in particular because the swirls looked like how Harrison’s meows sound. Sounds like a pretty incredible experience with the world.
Ahhhh!!! It’s BEAUTIFUL! I feel like you totally and perfectly captured his essence. It’s wonderful! I love how the background brings out his eyes and various fur colors and textures. His little nose is so cute!! And he looks so fluffy!
Thank you so much!!!
Traditional Techniques: Layer by Layer
I made a short video that shows how my paintings evolve, using the time tested technique of “lean to fat”. The first layer starts with big shapes and paint thinned with odorless mineral spirits (Gamsol). This is the lean layer. For the oil, I use Galkyd slow dry painting medium. As the detail increases with each layer, so does the oil content added to my paint mixture. By working in this way, the paint has ideal conditions to adhere to its substrate. It also ensures that the bottom layers of paint will dry more quickly than the top layers which prevents cracking in the future. I also find that this technique gives painting a luminocity and depth that is essential for capturing fluffy fur and pearlecent eyes.
If you’re interested in a pet portrait of your own, please visit my commission page to lean more.
The rooster in this portrait, Jupiter, is the master of over 30 hens in his little slice of paradise at a friends little farm on Vashon Island. My friend Michael has so many beautiful chickens, but this guy demands respect and admiration in a way that only an alpha rooster can. I work from photos and he was happy to oblige. He stayed right in front of the camera, though he never stopped moving.
My work is influenced by paintings made during the Dutch Golden age. Behind Jupiter, I have a background that is inspired by one of Rembrandt’s self-portraits. My intention in giving the painting of Jupiter a formal composition and background is not to anthropomorphize him, but to give him dignity of his own and to signify that this is his portrait, not just a portrait of a rooster.
Jupter, oil on aluminum, 15″ x 15″. Go to my available works page to purchase Jupiter and to view more works in this series.
My latest commission is a portrait of a Rocky Mountain horse named Chief. He has a beautiful dual colored mane and he is such a sweet horse. I’m in Seattle, but have family in Ohio and travel back to visit (don’t know when the next visit will be at this point though!). I got to meet my client who lives in Ohio in person last year and spend a lovely morning with her and a mutual friend taking reference photographs. Horses are tough to photograph and horse people KNOW their horses so you have to get it right! It’s quite the experience to soak in this amazing bond. I hope these two have many many years to enjoy each others remarkably warm company.
Date of Delivery
This painting was due to be completed for Bobbie’s birthday. I was dismayed that it was my very first and hopefully last commission that wasn’t finished on time. I have a clause in my contract in the “Date of Delivery” section that states, “This completion date shall be extended in the event of delays caused by events beyond the control of the Artist.”
My husband and I suffered nasty bout of illness in early March, followed by the challenging transition to working-and-schooling from home.
Being sick while caring for a 4-year-old was really difficult. My husband and I were both sick for the entire month of March, and we took turns resting while we did our best to keep Isaac fed and out of trouble. I wasn’t able to venture into the studio for the entire month and it threw a big wrench in the works for my paintings schedule.
Once we finally recovered, I got back to painting and I have never been so thankful for my health, the sunshine and wonderful clients! Bobbie was so kind and forgiving and I’m very grateful. Wishing you all a very healthy spring. ?
My work as a mountmaker at the Seattle Art Museum has brought me into contact with some pretty extraordinary people. Curator of Chinese artwork, Ping Foong, is one such person. I’m very grateful that she and her partner choose me to make a special portrait of their cat Lila that reflects her love of Chinese porcelains.
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!