I have been creating custom portraits of peoples' animal companions since 1993, and now my total portraits number over 100 in six different media.
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, and this is where I really customize the portrait. 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. Often it looks nothing like any photos given to me, and I take a number of intuitive leaps while I'm working, but I go where the portrait leads me, and in the end my subject looks back at me and I know I've gotten there.
This page contains as many of my commissioned dog portraits as I have good photos for--for instance, I have many more portraits in pencil, but they are difficult to photograph. At the top are all the portraits for which I have stories, at the bottom are thumbnails indicating different possibilities for your portrait. This is also where I'll post the progress photos of whatever current canine portrait I'm working on. My commissioned cat portraits can be seen on another page, and what do you do when you have both cats and dogs? Look here! And I paint people, too.
Read here about Paws for Reflection, a work commissioned by the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania.
For portrait pricing and terms and a demonstration of how a portrait is created, please see my Portrait Demonstration page.
For information on the Animal Artwork Display program, visit "Animal Artwork Display".
Click on any image to see an enlarged version.
Sometimes I can read volumes into just a few photos, and when I saw the photos of Lassie, and then Lassie with her mom, I knew Lassie was one very special dog. Even in photos, her expression was unfailingly alert and intelligent, making direct eye contact with the viewer. She was with her mom for 15 years, and some of the last photos taken of Lassie and her mom propped up on elbows together in the grass of a park like old friends just made me cry every time I looked at them. We started the portrait just a few months after Lassie passed.
Lassie’s mom decided to have a scenic background in the portrait, and since they both enjoyed visiting parks and trails I began with autumn backgrounds; colorful and familiar, they are very popular in canine portraits. However, Lassie kept blending into the background colors because her fur is primarily amber to brown, the same as the leaves we see, so I chose a late summer background of a rocky little stream and a row of trees in the background. The deep green of late summer shows off her fur to perfection. There is also a tree in the near background, but I need to get a little more detail on Lassie so that I can find the best placement for the tree so it won’t be distracting.
Buddy's people loved his portrait, and told me the story of how Buddy came to be a part of their lives. Hearing the story, and knowing a painting of a black lab chewing on a stick in the back yard is something most lab owners can relate to, I asked Buddy's people if I could have prints made of the portrait to sell to others. They were thrilled! The prints are available in three sizes:
Full-size, 23" x 15.5": $75.00, Half-size (app.), 11" x 16": $45.00
Small, 8" x 10": $25.00—this size fits in a standard 11" x 14" frame.
Some Stories Through the Years
12 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.
Rambo, 18 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.
Clifford's portrait 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.
EDIUM: 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
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.
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.
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.
MEDIUM: 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.
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.
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.
Carol and Smudge
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.
Face or Bust with Color Background
Often dogs are large enough that a portrait with enough facial detail would end up being too large for available wall space. Even just a bust or individual images often require a number of photos to work from, especially if the subject is no longer living or if the available photos are indistinct. Posing the subject is up to the owner, and sometimes represents all the physical traits or just one characteristic moment. Because there usually has to be something behind the subject but there is no scenic background, I usually choose a color for the background that either complements the subject, such as Ashton, or which matches the room in which the portrait will be hung, such as Sooty.
Single Subject with Color Background
Often dogs are large enough that a portrait with enough facial detail would end up being too large for available wall space. Even just a bust or individual images often require a number of photos to work from, especially if the subject is no longer living or if the available photos are indistinct. Posing the subject is up to the owner, and sometimes represents all the physical traits or just one characteristic moment. Because there usually has to be something behind the subject but there is no scenic background, I usually choose a color for the background that either complements the subject, such as Nick, or which matches the room in which the portrait will be hung, such as Greta.
Single Subject with Scenic Background
Often the owner wants to remember a single moment that involves a place in the house or an object--the favorite sleeping spot, for instance, or just one beautiful moment. This can be done with an actual photo of the scene, like Samantha, or one that is built from elements, like Gypsy. In some cases with scenic backgrounds I build them from my own materials as in the case of Luigi, whose owners collected antiques and wanted to incorporate rich jewel tones in the portrait to complement his silver gray fur.
Two Subjects with Color Background
The challenge with putting several subjects together is that they always have to be created from multiple photos, even if a similar pose is available, and the keeping the two cats in proportion to each other and get the lighting right is tricky.
Two Subjects with Scenic Background
Many of us have three or more cats, and we might as well put the whole group in, right? More often than that, my customers have decided to include every cat--and dog, sometimes--who has ever lived with them.
Dogs and People
I only have one here, though I've done several but have no good images or my customer requested privacy.
Working With My Customers
In the end, any portrait means I work closely with my customer, often at an emotionally difficult time. I've developed lasting friendships with many of them, even long distance, and several have returned for another portrait. It's the part of this process I enjoy almost as much as creating a piece of artwork.
Visit my Portraits Demonstration Page
For portrait pricing and terms and a demonstration of how a portrait is created, please see my Portrait Demonstration page.
Download a Brochure
My brochure is a two-page PDF that half-folds when it's all printed out.
A portrait is a really unique gift, but sometimes you can't get the photos or you'd rather let the recipient design the portrait they want. I offer gift certificates for portraits in any denomination beginning at $125.00, which is the basic cost of a portrait. The certificate itself has 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 whole package can be easily mailed or wrapped as a gift. Please contact me if you are interested in a gift certificate.
Other Commissioned Work
Of course, in addition to cats, I create portraits of dogs, and some people have both cats and dogs. I will also paint people or houses or just about anything else you have in mind, such as Veronica's Tulips.
For feline photos, visit my photography area Many images are also available as cards, almost all are available as prints; see my marketplace page. In addition to cat art, I'm also concerned about cat issues, and animal welfare in general. Please visit The Creative Cat for what's up with my feline family and links to issues, products and information of interest to cats, dogs and their people, as well as wildlife.