I just finished the commissioned dog portrait I have been working on since February. I did a post about it then when I had just begun the painting and I thought it might be fun to post the stages leading up to the final. She has such a beautiful intensity about her and I must admit I am going to miss having her around the house, so to speak. I do tend to get attached to my portraits and it can be hard to let them go at the end!
I begin with a series of sketches, this one made the final cut.
The next step is stretching and priming the canvas. I like to begin on a mid-tone ground and work out the light and shadow with white and umber instead of working down from a white ground.
The next step is always the trickiest for me as I begin to add in color and form. I have to keep the final vision in mind as I know the painting takes on a life of it's own at this stage. I go back and forth a lot at this point so that I don't have to make any big adjustments later on. I spend a lot of time sitting and staring at it, sometimes weeks to be sure to catch little things that aren't quite right.
At this point I added in the collar and also brought the tone of her fur way down so that I could then go in and add more light. The back and forth of dark and light is what gives the painting a sort of glow. I learned this classical approach to painting early on in art school and it has stayed with me ever since.
Then on to the final stage where I added back some lighter tones to her ears and fur and of course put in her fuzzy little whiskers and it was finished!
I am working on a commissioned dog portrait at the moment that I am thoroughly enjoying. The owner of “Luckie” found me on Etsy nearly a year ago and inquired about a portrait even though my listing was a bit outside of her budget. She was so kind and so clearly in love with her beautiful dog that we had an instant rapport. I truly wanted her to have a portrait of her beloved dog and we worked out a simple, classical approach that we were both happy with. It is going to have a rich, dark background in the style of renaissance portraits that will compliment her golden coloring. In the past I’ve had many clients who desire lots of background detail and even props in their portraits that frankly, I love doing, but of course all involve more work. The personality of the subject is often revealed through the use of props. For example a rugged outdoor dog would naturally have a familiar landscape in the background and conversely some lush drapery and a soft cushion would describe a dog that prefers the comfort of an indoor life. That being said there is nothing like a clean simple portrait which focuses purely on the subject and allows their personality to shine through. It is always this challenge that appeals to me when beginning a new portrait and ultimately the appreciation of a happy dog owner that makes this such a worthwhile occupation.
This is the the portrait in progress. I always begin with an underpainting in sepia and white to block out the light and shadow before I begin to add color.
This portrait which was done a few years ago is a good example of how a landscape helped to portray a true outdoor dog who loved exploring the woods near her Connecticut home.
This portrait is a good example of a very pampered Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who loved the comfort of her home in Palm Beach!
I just finished a custom portrait of 2 dogs that was such fun. My client wanted her dogs to look as though they had lived in Dickensian London or perhaps roamed with the Gangs of New York. I do enjoy a challenge. I decided to go with an all sepia portrait giving it the look of a vintage photo about which my client was very enthusiastic. It is so satisfying to work with other animal lovers in an effort to portray their special pets as they see them!