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Painting Pooches with Panache

by Sarah Flannery, Artist and owner of C4C Pet Portraits

I may not be Picasso but I try my best and so far I have been lucky enough for customers to enthuse about my artwork…but having great material as reference to work from can make all the difference when you are a pet portrait artist!

So, as a customer, how do you make sure you get the sort of portrait of your beloved pet that you are going to want to hang over your fireplace for all to admire?

O.K…if I’m local I love to meet the pet to get a feel for his/her personality and character. I have met cheeky Chihuahuas, lovingly loyal Labradors and even an agile and athletic Abyssinian with a penchant for head butting! But what happens if you don’t live locally I hear you ask? I have customers in the States, Canada, Luxembourg to name a few…and much as a holiday across the pond appeals I’m not sure home visits of this distance would be financially viable (I live in the UK!)  So the next best thing to meeting these wonderful animals is for owners to provide a good quality photo. The emphasis being on good quality!

You wouldn’t believe some of the photos I have been sent! I have had photos of pets that you would be hard pressed to make out if the animal is a cat or dog, lighting so bad all you can see is a silhouette and images that are so out of focus they look like they have been taken in a London’s pea souper of a fog. However with a little encouragement most people can take a decent photo and in this age of technology even mobile phones can take pretty good pictures and can provide enough information to work from.

Taking a Great Photo:

But how do you take a good photo? It’s really not that hard, believe me! I can draw, I can paint but give me a camera and I’m certainly no expert…however all a pet portrait artist really needs is a photo that ..

  1. Is in focus,
  2. Is well lit or has an obvious light source giving strong areas of light and dark creating a striking image,
  3. Shows a clear image of the pets face and eyes (yes eyes really are the windows to the soul and go a long way to capturing the animals personality)

Example Photo #1:

Here is an example of a great photo with dramatic lighting making it an excellent reference to work from (painting shown on the right)

Photo Example #2:

Here is an example of a photo showing expressive facial features with clear definition (painting shown on the right in a contemporary style)

Choosing your style

Congratulations!, so you have now successfully provided a good quality photo, but your work is not yet done (don’t worry this is the fun bit!)  You now have to decide what sort of pet portrait you would like …hmm?  Some artists offer traditional oils, others provide modern more abstract artwork. I personally like to mix it up a bit and offer various styles. Why? Because everyone is different, most customers usually want the artwork to sit nicely with their decor and I find different mediums and styles can actually suit the various personality traits of specific animals. A high energy, mad as a hatter Springer Spaniel who lives in a state of the art (excuse the pun) modern house may well suit a colourful and energetic contemporary portrait whereas a posed and gentle elderly Great Dane may be better represented by a traditional oil set in a gilt frame, pride of place over the Georgian mantle. A bit cliché I know but you get the idea!

So if you are considering having a pet portrait painted of your furry (or scaly!) companion have a good think about what sort of painting you would like. To get the best result from your chosen artist, try and get a nice clear photo and consider what sort of artwork really suits you, your pet and of course will it be interior decor friendly!


About the Author

Sarah Flannery, C4C Pet Portraits

From a young age I always knew I was going to be passionate about two subjects…animals and art! After completing my secondary school education, I went on to study art and design. Here, my love of painting and drawing began to flourish.