Painting A Commissioned Pet Portrait!
by Rachelle Siegrist
Pet portraits . . . each new commission brings with it excitement, as I eagerly wait for the collector to send me photos of their beloved pet or pets. There’s always an element of surprise when I open an email, revealing what my latest subject looks like, while viewing the photos of them. During emails back and forth, there’s delightful stories that proud pet parents share with me, some funny or sweet, and some which are very touching! Upon choosing my favorite photos and coming up with compositional ideas, I draw a couple of sketches, from which the favorite is then chosen by the collector. Many times I will be asked for my input too, so I will explain why I think one pose or background will ultimately make a nicer portrait painting than others.
Once the final pose is decided upon, I do a fairly detailed sketch before beginning the painting process. The first washes of color are added at this stage, and I slowly build upon these areas, adding more washes of color, to begin establishing the values. I like to go ahead and paint the eyes straight away, as they are of great importance and bring life to the subject, if painted correctly. Plus that way the subject can watch me paint the rest of them . . . Ha Ha!
Fur colors are painted in, as well as areas of the background. I slowly build up the values and details in areas all over the painting, making sure it’s working together nicely. If there are certain curl patterns in the fur, such as the case is with Emily, I start shaping them with darker and lighter values.
Once I have the areas painted with the correct value and color, I start adding the fine details of individual hairs in areas, as well as intricate details on things such as collars. Emily is wearing an adorable bow placed on her by the groomers, and I loved the extra pop of color and interest it added to her portrait. The bedspread she’s laying on, was actually stippled, created by hundreds of little dots of color, giving it that wonderful soft texture. Since Emily has amazingly soft hair, I painted hundreds of wee hairs, carefully blending the edges on most, to create the illusion of incredibly soft fur in her portrait.
Details were painted in the pillows in the background and a few darker grain marks were painted on the wooden part of the bed. Several highlights in just the perfect spots were added, and Voila’ . . . beautiful Emily’s portrait was finished! As you can imagine when our collector received Emily’s portrait this past week and presented her gift, the recipient was absolutely delighted, and I was told that he was completely beside himself! A truly happy occasion, when all who are involved are delighted and touched in a very special way!!!
While we’re on the subject of great gifts, guess what my dear friend Sharon surprised me with this past week . . . a pink inner-tube! After she and Tom picked me up and we headed to the river one afternoon this past week, Sharon proudly handed me a box, and said “Here is your Christmas present . . . I can’t wait that long for you to have it!” Needless to say, giddy as a little girl on Christmas morning, I immediately tore it open and by the time we got to the river, had it out and ready to be inflated, which Tom kindly helped me do. Within minutes I was floating on the water in it and it was so comfortable! We’ve since decided they’re so cushy in fact, that we almost feel guilty floating blissfully along in them!
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Until next time . . .