Wednesday, July 24, 2024
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Portrait: Sophie and Ellie, Being Very Good

portrait of two dogs
"Sophie and Ellie", 2007, pastel, 12" x 18" © B.E. Kazmarski

This portrait of two best friends is very autumnal in tone, and I always think of it as being an autumn portrait for all the fallen leaves around Sophie, a border collie, and Ellie, a bichon frisé.

I never know how or from where a portrait will come to me. This portrait was commissioned as a gift for a man to give to his wife for her birthday. I know the man’s mother (actually the woman who brought Peaches and Cream to me), and she is familiar with my portraits and other artwork and work in general. She suggested this to her son as a gift and put us in touch, yet through the entire process I didn’t have the chance to meet him or his wife or Sophie and Ellie since they all live near Denver. I completed the entire portrait by communicating electronically, a little disconcerting but with good communication it works just as well.

photo of two dogs
The photo I really liked.

First, he had no shortage of photos so I could browse through a folder of images to get to know their physical characteristics and their personality and habits. They always cuddled together and he first had the idea of the two of them together inside somewhere, on a chair perhaps.

Nearly always when I browse photos for portraits I’ll begin to visualize, and sometimes one particular photo will leap out at me as “the one” and I’ll then begin to actually build the portrait in my mind, even seeing the pastels or paints, the paper, the finished portrait coming to life. The inspiration isn’t just the image, but after reviewing the photos and hearing about them the visualization also includes what suits their personality. I may need other photos to support it for detail or background, but it all comes together.

In one of the groups of photos was included the photo at left, absolutely too cute, and that was it. Their faces were alert with playful interest, their fur in natural light was rich—light fur is just as difficult to express fully as dark fur, it included details of Sophie’s ears and Ellie’s tail that I didn’t see in other photos, and there were many photos of them on this patio and the colors were wonderful.

photo of two dogs
One of the others in that series.

I told him how much I liked this photo and that I thought this would be a good portrait, though it had a few issues. For one thing, the space he had for the portrait was horizontal, and you can’t see all of Sophie. He liked the photo as well and told me they lived right by a walking and biking trail and Sophie and Ellie loved to watch the people but they were not allowed to bark. And they were not barking. The were being very good. That did it for me.

He sent me a few others from this series of photos, like the one at right, and we discussed it a little further. Ellie was darned cute leaning crouching with her butt in the air, and the outdoors with all the leaves and plants was wonderful as they all spent a good bit of time out there, but we didn’t want all that extra concrete, and we’d have to make the two dogs smaller in order to fit them into the size he wanted.
 I put together a composite using all the features we liked and began the portrait.

detail of portrait

I really liked Sophie’s tipped ear, her spots and the multitude of other colors in her fur, pink in her ears, light brown eyes, and she looks as if she’s just about to say something, she’s really working hard to hold it in.

detail of portrait

A bichon frisé has so many different types of fur in its coat, all curly to some extent but each a different texture, and reflecting light different. I used layer upon layer of different colors of pastel ending with the white  highlights to create the fluff from Ellie’s face to her toes.

I would love to show off the details in the background, from the patterns in the concrete just to make it more interesting than a gray area, the layered tiny locust leaves, each a different shade of yellow, and the Japanese barberry with its bright red berries, but my camera at that time wasn’t quite up to par for photographing portraits, and I hadn’t yet begun photographing individual areas of detail.

The gift was a success and I received a thank you from Sophie and Ellie’s human mom.

I like this portrait so much and so do many others—that’s why I use it as a clickable icon for my dog portaits because they are just hard to resist. I hung a print of it to display in a veterinarian’s office as both wall art and a sample of my portraiture and someone wanted to buy it. Sophie and Ellie’s people were very happy to give me permission to sell prints of this portrait of their two beloved dogs, and so I do offer digital prints to fit standard frame sizes of “Sophie and Ellie, Being Very Good” in my Etsy shop.


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, 2007 © 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 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.

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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.

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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.


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.

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