Commissioned Portrait: Pongo’s Dalmatian Dots
Portraits of animals with irregular and asymmetrical markings are always fun because everything is unexpected as I work. Obviously a Dalmatian’s spots are going to be everywhere, and drawing them is like charting the stars. I love their hound-dog features, the long but deep muzzle, soft flopped ears and liquid brown eyes as well as their muscular physique under their sleek, crisp fur.
Pongo’s person had won a certificate in a shelter auction and was very excited to have a portrait of her ten-year-old Dalmatian, knowing that sometimes their lifespan wasn’t too much longer than that. He was still quite active and in good health so she had and took a number of photos of him. She wanted a fairly simple portrait of her dog, all of him, but just enough background to show him off, no scenes or toys. As do many dogs, Pongo loved the outdoors, and like a good Dalmatian, he was very happy and playful. Initially, we had decided to use the pose in the upper left of the reference photos, below, which both of us really liked, but we also liked his quiet side in the lower right. In the end, the second choice won.
In the end, I used elements from other reference images, using the summer grass from one as well as the reflected highlights from another since the chosen pose was quite dark. I love the pose as well as the simple background, and because of the lighting, late in the day and angled, his white fur reflected both the green of the grass and the blue of the sky from the left and above. As with many others, I didn’t get the detail shots I’d like to have now, but the image below shows more detail of his face and chest.
Honestly, I love color and often add touches of accent colors in highlights and shading, but I don’t think my portrait was quite as intense as this, though the goal was to make a striking portrait, one of the reasons we wanted all the grass; the camera I was using then had a tendency to overdo it a bit…
And how do you draw every blade of grass without drawing every blade of grass? You just make it look like you drew every blade of grass! And I owe it to the dog portraits I’ve painted that I worked that out to a system of strokes, shades and colors worked in layer after layer, blended with fingers and the side of my hand, and worked out with more strokes.
I did finally get to meet Pongo after the portrait was done. I was set up as a vendor at Panhandle Tails for National Trail Day in 2007 and Pongo would be attending along with his people and his canine siblings, so I got to meet the whole family and hand over the portrait. I’m so pleased to have given them a lasting memory of a dog who meant a lot to all of them.
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2 thoughts on “Commissioned Portrait: Pongo’s Dalmatian Dots”
The pensive pose is a terrific choice, Bernadette.
Pongo, I am smiling for you. . . . Such a good dog!
Thanks, Meg, I like to do the unusual poses now and then.