This portrait of Cassie and Tyler is the companion portrait to A Portrait in Oranges from last week—these two rescued Labrador retrievers belonged to the same person. She had decided she wanted two portraits, one of her cats and one of her dogs, as much alike as possible so they could hang together, but their individual personalities could also show.
Like the close relationship between Amaretto, Simon and Merlin, Cassie and Tyler were also best friends. Cassie was the lead dog so Tyler could act like a big playful puppy, but the two were very close and had to be playing with or at least touching each other all the time. They were mixed breeds but advertised as retrievers, but the results of bad backyard breeding showed only in some physical features and health—they were Labs through and through. Trained as search and rescue dogs, they were social and outgoing, adored water and any type of play involving carrying something. She gave me photos and I took a couple of rolls when I visited, then I took some of Tyler separately because he was so black that I couldn’t balance the exposure with very light-colored Cassie and kept losing his details.
We decided to place them near water since they are Search and Rescue dogs and love to swim, even if it’s only a kiddie pool in the back yard. I could use some of my photos from parks and natural areas I’d visited and along with the dogs paint a landscape with them in it. What could be better? I had also been studying classic dog portraiture and took away a good bit of visual information about poses, backgrounds and color palettes. I used a photo of the lake in Cross Creek Park in Avella, PA, near the Meadowcroft Rockshelter. My photos were from an autumn day when I’d visited, but I also used other photos I’d taken for some of the details. I wanted the tree-covered hills with variable leaf color, but I also wanted a day where big clouds drift across the sky casting huge shadows. I photograph things like that as well and was glad for the images when I went to paint this portrait.
I had to go out in the field, literally, not all the way back to Cross Creek but closer to home to see the dry autumn grass in close up, and then to work it around Cassie and Tyler’s paws, including the shadow from Tyler, something I’d never done to that point in any portrait or painting. How do you paint grass without painting every blade? Well, I worked that out in this portrait—just paint the ones you need. And how does the grass overlap their paws or their torso as with Cassie lying on the ground? The photos I’d taken of them were from summer, but I could still study them for clues.
And to that date, I had not painted such a large and detailed landscape, though I’d been studying the details for decades, noting things I liked for some reason, like the weeds silhouetted against the water, and the reflections on the water that showed both the surrounding landscape and the movement of the water.
And like the portrait of Amaretto, Simon and Merlin, this portrait is also a favorite since Labs are such a favorite breed, and seeing them outside in their natural element always makes people smile.
I apologize for the lack of some detail in some of these photos. I’d photographed this through the glass, which was fine for the overall portrait, but it all tends to fall apart when you crop out detailed areas. Still, it’s better to photograph through the glass than to take the whole thing out of the frame and have to put it back together; I am a picture framer, and I will avoid that at all costs.
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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.