I always work from photographs
to create a portrait of an animal, usually compiling two or more
(or a whole photo album of) photographs to accurately study and
render the physical characteristics of the image which the commissioner
desires. But a portrait, human or animal, is not just a picture
of the subject's physical characteristics. An accurate portrait
captures as much of the subject's emotional and spiritual traits
as is possible, and this is true for animals as well as people.
In animal portraiture, I endeavor to get to know the animal either
by a face-to-face meeting or by interviewing the animal's human
companion(s), then instilling as much of what I have gathered
into the work as I can. To date I have completed 65 portraits
of cats and dogs whether individually, together, even with their
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terms and a demonstration of how a portrait is created, please
see my Portrait
Please be patient while I update three years' worth of portraits!
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x 16" (app.), pastel, 2005
A group of people in
a workplace commissioned this for their boss, the company's owner.
It was very last-minute, but they provided two excellent photographs
and a nice personality profile, so Maggie was done in time. It's
a little frightening tobein this position--after all, what if
it didn't turn out right or the recipient didn't like it?! But
things turned out fine.
x 24" (app.), pastel, 2005
Yes, Rambo really is
"yellow", even though he's obviously a shepherd; I
had a big moment of doubt when I was nearly done thinking that
the lighting was off in the photo and he was really a white shepherd.
Unfortunately the colors just don't display right because the
background is a much cooler green that this shows, to match the
client's walls. This was another holiday gift.
12" x 12", pastel, 2005
was a gift from two friends to a third. As you can see, he's
not any particular breed, but he is a happy, friendly ex-shelter
dog who is also well-loved. The person who commissioned me had
to sneak a few photos away and scan them to send to me.
This is an example of a small,
simple portrait with just the subject in a typical position and
a background color of choice. This position captures his most
familiar featureshis face, of course, also his chest and
paws, the white tip on his tail, and the one ear that flops just
a bit. Here's
a closeup of his face.
MEDIUM: Pastel; SIZE: 21" x 25";
Commissioned, 2000 Chelsea
was a challenge because she was an "emergency protrait"
as I call themthe recipient's birthday was about a month
away and it was to be a surprise. He had mentioned that he'd
like me to do a portrait of his dog, so the whole family went
together to commission me and conspired to keep the deal a secret.
I had some challenges creating Chelsea's portrait from the photos
I was given, but the finished work was just as exciting for the
recipient as for his children who had grown up with Chelsea.
I have used Chelsea as a demonstration
piece for my portraitureclick here to read the rest of
the story and see the details of how a portrait is produced!
Cassie and Tyler
MEDIUM: Pastel; SIZE: 23" x 16";
These are my veterinarian's two Lab mixes, and this portrait
was a composite from all sorts of places. She gave me pictures
and I took some, then I took some more because Tyler is so black
that I 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; the picture
is of a lake near me. Cassie is the lead dog and Tyler is just
a big playful puppy, but the two are very close and have to be
playing with or at least touching each other all the time.
Pastel; SIZE: 9" x 12"; Commissioned, 1997 I was
decidedly seeing spots after this one! Pork Chop is a wiggly,
talkative German Short-Haired Pointer, and aside from a few extra
pictures for facial details, this portrait was created from one
photograph (although I deleted the camping gear from the background).
I told Pork Chop's companion that this portrait was accurate
for detail but not for personality--she is sitting still and
not eating any foreign objects.
MEDIUM: Pastel; SIZE: 16" x 22";
Sky is a Blue Merle* Australian Sheep Dog and this portrait was
a Christmas gift for my client's father. Sky is a happy, social
dog, accepting everyone into his circle of favorite people. His
personality makes Sky the center of his companion's universe;
as my client put it,"If my mother, my sister, Sky and I
were on a bridge when it collapsed, my father would save Sky
first." My client chose a bust-style portrait so that Sky's
face and mane could be just about life-sized and you could see
all the details of his expression. *I have seen various spellings
for this term, all in reputable places. I chose the one I saw
most often, but if anyone can give me an "official"
decision, please do.
Pastel; SIZE: 15" x 21"; Commissioned, 1994 A Christmas gift for my client's husband,
we had very little time when he wasn't home and one pose in mind
for Holly when I arrived at her house to see her pictures. I
took a few more, but just when I was packing up to leave Holly
jumped up on the wicker chest, flopped down and looked at us
as if to say, "How about this?" We scurried for cameras
and got several pictures of Holly on the chest and of the chest
by itself, although I secretly wished Holly had chosen something
a little less complicated on which to pose.
MEDIUM: Pastel; SIZE: 22" x 16";
Commissioned, 1996 She's
ready to play and daring you to try to take her chew toy! I'm
so glad my clients chose this position for Molly; she was such
an active and intelligent dog, and she spoke, intentionally,
just as much with her facial expression and posture as with her
voice. Animals with extremely smooth, shiny fur are difficult
to photograph, especially if they are dark-colored; the result
is usually a dark shape with very bright oddly-shaped highlights.
I had to take an extra set of photographs for more detail and
tone down most of Molly's highlights and shadow areas so that
she wouldn't look like a spotted dog.
Pastel; SIZE: 6" x 9"; Commissioned, 1993 Clients don't often choose a bust-style
portrait for their pets, as is common for people, but I remember
in this case that my client couldn't get the good pictures--his
wife had them, and this was a Christmas gift for her. At the
time Willie was about 14 years old, so I worked from some rather
old black and white pictures plus a few color. He was pleased
with this view and so was his wife; they both said it was really
Willie's face that they wanted to remember.
MEDIUM: Pastel; SIZE: 9" x 11";
Commissioned, 1999 Ashton
was a surprise gift from my client to a friend, so I did not
get to meet Ashton, but she had gathered pretty good pictures.
However, with animals who have this silvery fur tone, plus a
patina like that around Ashton's mouth, it's easy to get an innacurate
reading on the actual fur color, especially when a flash is usedthe
fur can actually look white when it's gray, blueish when it is
actually a warm white. The only way to compensate for this is
to see the animal "in the fur."
Carol and Smudge
MEDIUM: Pencil; SIZE: 10" x 13"; commissioned,
2006 The human is
a friend of mine, and I assisted her in finding Smudge. Unfortunately,
Smudge was with her for less than a year, so her sister and brother-in-law
commissioned me to do a portrait of her, and I chose to do the
two of them together. Also, visit my "Manuscripts"
page to read about Carol and Smudge.