A proud dad asked me to create an oil painting of his daughter, Lindsay, a high school senior. I thought she would be a great subject, but I wanted to make sure that Lindsay had a say in her own painting. When I paint a pet, I can only satisfy the owner because pets don’t really seem to have an opinion on how they look. Humans tend to have stronger opinions about such things.
I went over to their house for a pre-arranged photo shoot and took several poses. When I sent her the photos that I thought would work, Lindsay picked out her favorite. I sent her my preliminary sketch, which she also approved.
Lindsay’s portrait appears above and has a place of honor in the Gallery under Portraits.
This was a fun painting to create of a great looking six-year-old Springer Spaniel named Holly. Terrific subject!
In this photo, you can see my client Russell receiving a Larry Gekiere-Artist Gift Certificate for his birthday. The gift certificate was earmarked for a custom oil painting of his beloved sidekick, PJ. Although Russell has three dogs, the only one who gets to ride shotgun is PJ.
In this post, I am sharing with you the steps to create a custom oil portrait of Russell’s beloved PJ.
Step One:Selecting the Right Photograph
It took us some time to select the pose we wanted for PJ. Russell wanted to have his friend in his usual place, where he sees him on the way to work on the front seat. That was a first for me. However, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.
So when Russell and I selected the picture, the right pose for his custom oil painting was obviously PJ riding shotgun. I would paint PJ in his usual place in the front seat of the car going to work with Russell.
Step Two: The Drawing
The next step in the pet portrait after selecting the photo is to do the drawing that will form the basis of the painting.
Step Three: Wash
This is the first run-through of the custom painting of PJ. It is a ‘wash’ which defines the dark and the light areas of the final custom painting.
Step Four: Before Detailing
In this step, I am layering color into the painting. I’m not going for detail here, but rather for perspective.
Step Five: Closeup With Detail
In this closeup of PJ, you can see the little details I added to the portrait shown in Step Four.
Final Step: The Finished Painting
And here we have the final custom portrait of PJ – Russell’s sidekick in his usual spot riding shotgun with Russell. Check out his portrait in my Gallery, along with the custom paintings of many other beloved companions.
I hope you enjoyed this walk-through of my process!
Once again, I am walking you through my step-by-step process creating a custom oil painting of Bailey, a six-year-old King Charles Spaniel. I believe that the painting will be as beautiful as the subject matter, and, as you can see in her photo, she’s a beauty. I am posting pictures from start to finish so that you can get a sense of the process and the result.
In my initial drawing, I drew Bailey and a part of the chair she was sitting on. This charcoal design will be the basis of the final painting. I thought that Bailey looked very regal sitting on the chair, befitting her breed.
Here, I have painted what I call a wash. This is a process of putting a very thin coat of oil paint on the canvas. The wash shows me the lights and the darks I will use for contrast. I have decided with this composition that I will paint Bailey on a canvas that is 20 x 20. The square will be good for this pose of Bailey.
Full Color Palette
At this point, I have begun to put in a full palette of color. If I have structured the painting properly, it should come together nicely in this step. The key is having it set up correctly as it is very hard to correct drawing errors at this stage.
I thought you might enjoy seeing a closeup of Bailey’s face at this point. You can see here that detail is missing. The next step will be one with the detail that is lacking here.
These are closeups of the nearly final painting showing you the detail in Bailey’s face.
This is the almost complete painting. There are just a few more details to add at this point, then Bailey’s portrait will be complete.
I hope you enjoyed seeing the progression of Bailey’s painting. The completed portrait is available in the Gallery.
I traveled to East Africa and shared with all of you my intention to photograph and eventually create a painting of any intriguing animals in the wild. We hiked to find mountain gorillas, viewed the great migration, saw elephants, and much more. Upon our return, I painted a series of the animals that I saw and photographed.
I asked all of you if you had a specific animal that you would like to have painted and below are both the photographs and the resulting paintings.
Baby Elephant in the Bush
Baby Elephant Painting
I thought I would take an opportunity to share with you the step-by-step process that I use, in this case, painting a portrait of a puppy.
First, I want to capture the puppy the way the owner wants to see her. This may be slightly different than the way that I would picture the puppy.
In this case, Poppy’s owner wanted the puppy picture with the dog looking forward and the tail up. Try as she might, she was unable to get the exact photograph she wanted, so we worked from two different pictures to create a pose that is what she wanted.
The first step is for me to create a drawing that will show the pose and orientation. This is the first pass and forms the basis for the ultimate painting.
At this point, I have a design that will fit the pose desired, I do what is called a wash. This is where I start to introduce oil to the canvas, but without regard to really organizing final color. It is a way to start visualizing the dark and light areas in the picture.
As you can see, in the final portrait, the background changed to one of field and sky. I felt that the fence and stones in the original background would not provide the best backdrop. I also lightened up the puppy and added final details.
I hope you enjoyed this look at my process. Please visit my Gallery for a look at other portraits I have created.
If you are trying to get the very best photo of your pet which will result in a great portrait, there are some basic concepts to keep in mind.
Many people choose to have professional photography done. That is always a possibility, but with a little patience and preparation, you can really enjoy capturing the perfect picture for a portrait yourself. Remember you know your pet better than anyone.
Have fun and don’t rush. Take plenty of pictures.
Outside is the best possible light. Of course, safety is always an issue, but try to take your pet into nature. If it is not possible to go outside, place your pet near a large window with plenty of natural light coming from behind or slightly to the side of you as you face the pet.
Avoid direct sunlight, as it can alter natural coloring and increase contrast between shadow and light, hiding some features. A bright, but overcast day is the best situation.
Don’t use a flash as it can distort your pet’s true coloring. An exception to this is a pet with a black coat. In this case, a flash may bring out shading and texture that might be lost in a photo with natural light.
Take your pictures at your pet’s level. Don’t have the pet look up unless that is the way you want the portrait to appear. Go to them instead of having them come to you. Let them relax in a part of their world where they are most comfortable. Sit on the grass or lie on the floor as you take the photo. Whatever it takes. This is especially important for full body shots which look best from the side rather than from above.
Take plenty of facial shots. Have their face fill the frame while still in sharp focus. Try some three-quarter views as well as from the fringe, as a slight angled pose can sometimes make a beautiful portrait .
If your pet will not sit still, have someone hold them in position. If these pictures are solely for the portrait, then the individual’s body parts can be removed from the portrait. Just make sure they don’t cover an important marking.
Make sure your pet is comfortable and at ease. Cameras can be distracting. If you can’t get your pet to behave normally, enlist the aid of someone else to keep them engaged.
Capture the most characteristic expression and pose of your pet. If they are generally happy, try to catch them doing their version of a smile.
A good idea is to have a favorite treat or toy on hand. Hold it by the camera, and try to direct their interest in the right direction. Don’t be afraid to act silly.
The quality of any portrait that any painter creates from a photo that you provide depends on the quality of that photo. If you do your best to make sure the image isn’t blurred by movement and that the image, whether the entire body or just the head, fills the frame, then the portrait that results will be optimal because it won’t require any guesswork on my part.
In addition to painting portraits of pets, I also create paintings of scenery. Since I work from photographs of the scenery I am painting, I am often asked for tips on how to take the best photo of a landscape or building. And the guidelines are slightly different for scenery than for people or pets.
Don’t over-complicate shots or nature or items in a landscape, such as houses or castles or bridges. Consider the most important aspect to be the focal point of your picture (and painting). The easiest way to remember it is – less is more.
The best time of day to shoot pictures is in the morning or afternoon when the natural light casts shadows. That will give you a more dramatic picture and painting. Remember, in a landscape or scenery photo (or painting) shadows are your friend.
As you can see from the painting shown above of the Cathedral located at Ctra. de Zamarramia, Segovia, Spain, I framed the shot through the ancient Roman aqueduct. When taking pictures such as this, try to find ways to frame the shot and use light and shadow for a dramatic effect.
When we travel, we take a lot of photos, as most people do. When we returned and I reviewed those photos, there was one in particular that I especially liked. It was a shot of the Ponte Vecchio over the River Arno in Florence, Italy.
I decided I had to paint it, in oils of course, and this is the result.
I also painted another picture from a photo we took in the Arches National Park which you can find in my Gallery.
If you have a favorite vacation photo that you would like to have reproduced in oil, get in touch!
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