I have been fortunate enough to create dozens of portraits of people’s pets. For years I worked mostly in pen and ink. Then I added a little watercolor to give the portrait some depth. Lately I have been enjoying doing these treasures in acrylic paint on canvas. I also teach classes in painting your pets portrait. There is something special about capturing your fur baby in any art form. Regardless of the venue, here are some tips to creating something you will enjoy for a long time.
Pick a good pose. Most successful portraits are very simple head and neck shots. The hardest angle is a straight on view, where you are facing the animal directly. While your brain fills in the information from a photograph, this angle is the hardest to reproduce in a portrait. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, but I really dislike an open mouth dog panting at me. That is my hardest pose to do. I like a soft three quarter angle.
Pick the right angle. Most people take a photo of their pet as they are looking down at them. This is very bad for a formal portrait because this angle does not read well. Get your pet up at eye level. Place them on a table, or bench, or get down on the ground with them! If photographing horses, try to be level with their eye by standing on something. Take different angles and be patient for that right moment when their ears are up, or there is a sparkle in their eye.
Keep the background simple. I use very blended colors. It is tempting to fill in trees, grass, fences, etc. that may have been there in your original photo, but anything you use will take away from the animal. It is all about them .
Is okay to copy directly from your photo, but remember it is a reference photo. For the chestnut horse shown here, she had a very shallow weak neck, but I loved her expression. I created a better neck for her! I think even she appreciated it!
Using these little tips will help you to create a portrait that will be timeless.
Attached is a photo of the fluffy dog after the owner got his portrait. He thanked me by holding Mr Milo up to it.
Here is a horse by the name of Squirrel. Yes, an odd name, but the treasure of the owner. She also has plans to get some re-purposed wood planking from an old house on her property to use for the frame.
Miniature paintings are a lot of fun! This one is 3 inches by 4 inches, and I am showing this to scale.