Tuesday, April 16, 2024
commissioned portraitdogdog portraitfeatured artworkpastelpastel paintingpet portraitportrait

Commissioned Portrait: Rambo

"Rambo", pastel,
“Rambo”, pastel, 15″ x 18″, 2005 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Meet Rambo, a portrait I painted in 2005 as a gift for a woman to give to her fiance.

I’ve focused on the large and scenic portraits because everyone likes those best when they flip through my portfolio book or review my website, but I’ve done a number of simple portraits that feature just the subject’s face and shoulders, enough to show the most important and often most memorable features of a beloved animal companion. This has been popular with larger dogs so that their people can see nearly life-size details in their face and fur without having a life-size full portrait on their wall.

This portrait style is called a “bust” view, taken from the sculptures that showed a royal figure’s face and “crowning glory”—a crown or headdress, royal jewelry, war medals, uniform or costume, all of which were heavily concentrated on the upper body.

In this case, my customer knew she wanted Rambo to be just about life size because her fiance would want to be sure to see the details of Rambo’s face. When we worked out the size and cost of various types of portraits we decided to paint just Rambo’s face, pretty much life size. She had a few photos that showed me more about his size and color and personality, but one, below, stood out as the best view for the portrait we wanted to do.

photo of dog
Reference photo for Rambo.

But I was confused by Rambo’s color. I knew he was a German Shepherd, but where was his mask and blanket? I’d seen white German Shepherds who seemed a little smaller and maybe a little fluffier and generally softer around the edges, kind of like big puppies, and this was what he looked like to me. But I’d never seen a tan and white German Shepherd, and Rambo is more than tan, his fur tended toward red in the darker areas.

Fur color is highly subject to lighting conditions and indoor, outdoor, flash, time of day, texture of coat can all affect the overall color. Even in natural daylight outdoors, which captures natural colors quite well, full sun overexposes highlight areas and often warms a color by adding yellow tones, and a print on film, as this photo is, will often have a red tinge in conditions like this. I scanned the photo she’d given me and adjusted the colors to what you see here and started with that but still wasn’t sure it was accurate.

Especially when I’m working with breed animals and when I never get to meet the subject, I will research other animals of the same breed to find the breed standards, or at least of similar coloring so I can see a range of colors and come to a generalized base color.

Rambo is a White German Shepherd, recognized as its own breed of Shepherd. Without getting too deeply into canine genetics and breed standards, white in animals, when it’s not albinism, is not an actual color like black or red or brown. It’s a masking gene from both parents which causes the white to partially or completely cover over the actual genetic fur color, kind of like genetically giving an animal a coat of white paint. In some cases, like Rambo, it doesn’t quite cover over all the color underneath, and the fur can vary from white to palest cream to tan and this light red. Probably also influencing Rambo’s coloring is the coat color also found in German Shepherds called “liver”, which looks like a deep brown, and the dogs are solid or have white paws or other white markings, like Rambo’s.

And aside from all the technical genetic information, I needed to see some similar dogs in similar lighting conditions to get other details right. Rambo’s portrait is 15″ x 18″, and my photo was 4″ x 6″, so the details of his face were quite small and flashed out by the sun or filled in by shadow so even things like his eyes and tongue were either too dark or too light. Even if it looks like a simple commission with one photo, I usually need to know a little extra in order to feel confident that I’ve got the details right.

But most important is that face, and the look in their eyes.

detail of portrait of dog
Closeup of Rambo’s face

I just wish at the time I’d realized a 2MP digital camera wouldn’t stand the test of time, but you still get the idea.


Take a look at other portraits and read other stories

Read articles here on The Creative Cat featuring current and past commissioned portraits.

Read about how I create commissioned portraits.

Commissioned Cat Portraits

portrait of black cat on wicker chair
Samantha, pastel, 1994 © B.E. Kazmarski
Commissioned Dog Portraits

portrait of two dogs
Sophie and Ellie, pastel, 2009 © B.E. Kazmarski
Portraits of
My Cats

pastel painting of cat on table
After Dinner Nap, pastel, 1996 © B.E. Kazmarski

Visit my website to see portraits of my cats, commissioned cats, commissioned dogs, people and a demonstration of how I put a portrait together from photos.

Download a Brochure

cover of brochure
My Portraits Brochure

My brochure is an 8.5″ x 11″ two-page full-color PDF that half-folds when it’s all printed out, showing examples of portraits with an explanation of my process and basic costs.


Purchase a Gift Certificate

sample portrait certificate
Sample Commissioned Portrait Certificate

I always offer portrait certificates, but can only extend that automatic 10% discount through Etsy, but you are more than welcome to purchase a gift certificate right here.

I offer gift certificates for portraits in any denomination beginning at $125.00, which is the basic cost of a portrait; the recipient is responsible for any amount the portrait costs over $125.00.

The certificate itself is 8.5″ x 11″ and features a collage of portrait images with the recipient’s and giver’s names, printed on parchment cover stock. The whole thing is packaged in a pocket folder and includes a brochure, a letter from me to the recipient and several business cards.The certificate package can be easily mailed or wrapped as a gift and shipped directly to your recipient.

I can also make it downloadable if you’re in a hurry.

Portrait certificates are a minimum of $125.00 because that is the minimum cost of a portrait.

Certificates are good for up to one year after issue.

You can purchase gift certificates here or from my Etsy shop if you are also purchasing other animal-inspired merchandise.

Enter the recipient’s name
Enter shipping address

You only need to enter an address if it is different from the address I’ll receive through PayPal. These are often surprise gifts and need to be shipped away from the home address to make sure they are a surprise.

Subscribe to My E-newsletter


Browse some rescued cats and kittens!

Click here to nominate “www.TheCreativeCat.net” for a Petties Award.

petties 2013 logo
Read more about the Petties in this post.

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.

© 2013 | www.TheCreativeCat.net | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski



From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

2 thoughts on “Commissioned Portrait: Rambo

  • That is absolutely stunning, Bernadette!! You caught his eyes, his colour, the texture .. everything!


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this:
Verified by ExactMetrics