Do I paint dogs too? Of course! Bodie and Bear Bear will be a holiday gift to a spouse.
This is the first draft of this portrait of the owner’s two dogs, painted in pastel as usual. I love images of our animal companions like this—isn’t this how we often see them, looking up at us expectantly? It’s a little difficult of an angle to draw because it’s often quite foreshortened, especially with taller dogs whose heads are simply closer to the lens. In this case I widened the two dogs’ lower bodies to keep them in natural proportion. I have fur to add to both of them, but that will come last.
This painting is about 12″ x 18″, plenty big enough for detail, so when I first looked at the photo and began to visualize, I knew I could work with the dogs as they were, just modifying their bodies as described above. But what about the hardwood floor, and that rug?
I actually charge extra for these background elements, and sometimes I’ll advise to omit them, both for various reasons. A smaller painting would make it difficult to work these details, more time-consuming, often more time than the subjects themselves so I make sure they are important to my customer. They can also be really distracting and take away from the subject being more of a design element, and people get tired of carpets and such. I hope this painting will hang on the wall for years and years, but what if my customer gets tired of the rug, or changes the colors all over the house? I doubt they’ll get tired of looking at the dogs, but the carpet might get a little tiresome years from now.
On the other hand, the hardwood floors and the carpet are from the era of these pets, and all together it looks like home. This painting is large enough to support the patterns, the dogs are large enough not to be overwhelmed, so I decided to include it, though simplified. Once I got my initial sketch done, I liked the composition and dove right in.
Because animal fur floats over its background, I usually finish the background of a portrait before I work on the subjects. The floor and rug are nearly done, but I need to finalize the details, especially in the floor, to give it a little bit more contrast. Both dogs have lots of loose, flowing fur which I can draw right on top of the background, filling out their figures and giving them both their familiar fuzzy shapes.
I can also finalize the details in the rest of the fur, but most importantly their faces, those eyes and noses and ears that are our most familiar features of our pets since we look at them most often. I paint until they look back at me.
The above portrait is for a certain wife. Happily enough about ten years ago I did a portrait of Rocky and Bullwinkle for said wife to give to her husband. What a wonderful set of circumstances.
I put together this portrait from many images of the two individually and together. I particularly liked the one of Bullwinkle on the floor with the repeated shadows and highlights, so I made that the basis of the portrait. We wanted to work some jewel tones into the background because they were predominant in the house, but we couldn’t go too dark since Rocky was mostly black. That was how this portrait came to be.
I’ll have an update very soon, since this needs to ship out on Friday!
You can see other portraits of dogs I’ve done, including progress images in Lassie and Buddy, and you can visit my website to see my portfolio of commissioned dog portraits. You can also view portraits of my cats, portraits of other cats, and portraits of people as well as other artwork commissioned and otherwise.