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
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.
Every year Seattle’s last surviving newspaper, The Stranger, does a feature issue all about pets. Art critic Jasmyne Keimig interviewed four different artists who immortalize animal friends and I was delighted to be among them. Read the full interview on the Strangers website.
Thank you to the folks at The Stranger that continue to produce such a well loved local paper and for the yearly focus on animals. And a big thank you to Jasmyne for putting so much into writing a lovely article. I’m honored to be included!
They used an image of my portrait of Shiloh, oil on aluminum, 18″ x 12.5″ for the article. Go to my Pet Portraits gallery to see more examples of my work and go to the commissions page to learn about having your very own painting made.
Animals hold a special place in our hearts. If you’re looking for a gift for someone who has everything, a portrait of their dearly loved animal is bound to be something they will cherish. I recently finished this portrait painting of an American Quarter Horse and shipped it off to Tennessee. It was commissioned as a Christmas gift for a much appreciated CEO from her work colleagues.
Layer by Layer
My paintings are created with a traditional fat over lean technique to ensure that they will last for hundreds of years. By using layers and glazing, the paintings have a rich depth that you don’t get with just one layer of paint. Adding more and more oil to each additional layer helps the paintings dry more evenly and they are also much less likely to crack (even after hundreds of years!). Paintings on metal made using this technique still survive in pristine condition from the 1500’s.
My latest commission is a cat oil portrait on aluminum. Sean commissioned me to paint Fifi as a gift for his wife. Soon after commissioning the painting however, he let her in on the secret and they both got to enjoy the fun of anticipating the finished creation. We choose an oval format and 6″ x 8″ ended up being the perfect size.
Painting fluffy cats takes lots of patience, but it’s so rewarding when the final layers start to come together and you can start to “feel” the light fluffy fur. I use 4-6 layers of paint and and combine transparent and opaque areas to get the effect.
We choose a solid wood walnut frame with ornate detail on the outside and inside lip to give it a more formal look. I love how the brown of the frame compliments the green in the painting!
Painting received, it looks amazing!!! I am super excited! Thank you again for all your work!
Lucy is special one. People would see this cat pet portrait painting on the easel and just fall in love.
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.
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.
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.
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.