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.
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!
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.