So many times I have heard “Why would you want a portrait painted of your pet? I have loads of photos on my phone…”
Our pets are not just animals they are loved and cherished as part of our families, for many people their pets are their family. We are given these lovely beings for such a short space of time in relation to our lifespan, and we love them with all our hearts. Why would you want to store their images away on your phone or pc?
Of course I am not dissing photography, indeed I am a keen amateur photographer and my hard drive (and phone) are jammed full of images of my pets; dogs, cats, chickens….etc you name it. However consider the two quick questions below.
One. Although the pictures below are nice photographs would you consider placing any of these pictures on the wall as a lasting memory to a beloved furry one?
Two. In comparison these are paintings I have been commissioned to paint, would you be more inclined to display these in your home or give as special gift to someone?
A few of the portraits above are of pets of which have now sadly gone over the ‘Rainbow Bridge’. One of which is my own much-loved Rocky (with the stupid ears). I am so glad I got to paint him while he was alive, I loved every minute creating his portrait. Now he has sadly gone I see this painting as a celebration to him.
In contrast I think ‘people portraits’ are different as we are capturing with the camera multiple memories and ‘moments in time’, a child’s first birthday, weddings, holidays, etc. Painting a pet portrait we are creating a lasting memory of the spirit of that special animal’s personality and the character who shares his or hers life, love and affection with us.
So maybe the question should be ‘Why would you not want a portrait painted of your pet?’
However whilst I was in the Scilly Isles on holiday I had the pleasure of talking to some of the local artists on the islands, and although they were predominately landscape painters they did discuss various styles and techniques that they had tried and tested over the years to try and improve their work. With this in mind I decided that I would have a little experiment with using different mediums that I already had in my art box to see which would best suit the pet portraitsthat I love to paint, therefore we have a ‘Chicken Four Ways’.
This photograph is of Ginger, she is one of our chickens. I find chickens a difficult subject to photograph as they are never still for long and their movements are very sharp and unpredictable. However she became the subject for my experiment.
I used coloured pencil for this picture, the small size of the picture meant that very fine detail was difficult to achieve as the colour pencils used were very soft and slightly waxy, it was hard to keep a sharp point for drawing the sharp detail (I am sure though that these would probably great for creating a larger picture). I had to develop a technique and style to achieve the desired effect particularly on the feathers.
For my second offering I thought I would go back to basics and used a plain old simple graphite pencil. The result is a soft image that was easy to draw; the fine details were much easier to define than the colour pencil. However more thought had to be put into portraying textures to give the picture depth and interest to compensate for the lack of colour. It took me a lot longer to create than the previous picture.
Finally I used my usual tried & test medium of watercolour to create my final picture. Not surprisingly I found this picture the easiest to create. As a medium I love watercolours’ translucent qualities and the way that you can build up colour & texture that work particularly well when illustrating fur and feathers.
Every artist has their favourite medium to use, and I think that mine will always be watercolour. However I have had great fun experimenting and it was good to step out of my comfort zone for while and try something new.
I never thought that I would never paint again. I had actually packed up all my paints and put them in the loft, believing inspiration had left me. In fact it was 9 years ago that I painted anything in watercolour. I was off exploring other art mediums like silk painting, mosaic and more recently taken up photography again (another medium I had given up after leaving college 30 years ago) which I really enjoy. The watercolours just sat there gathered dust.
It was a close family member that asked me to do a series of photographs of her dog as a Christmas present that nudged me back into the painting again. After I had taken the pictures I thought I would surprise her and do a painting of her beloved Kizzy.
Sitting down and putting the first paint on the paper was daunting, I couldn’t remember any of the painting techniques. But once started I had to carry on; I decided to take the cautious route and lay down a series of washes to build up the colour gradually and only working with a pallet of three colours. I have to admit I was scared of spoiling the picture by over doing it and it seemed to take for ever to complete.
Anyway to cut a long story short I learnt a lot on that first painting:
1. I really loved working in Watercolour again;
2. new painting techniques to paint whiskers & fur; 3. to be confident again in my painting and not to be shy about sharing my work.
I find sitting and painting calming and relaxing, I completely forget all the stresses of my daytime job, which I lovely but it is stressful on occasions. I would recommend painting and drawing to anyone who wants to unwind especially if you are creatingpet portraits from the beautiful faces of peoples much loved animal companions.
I have had a few commissions now and one of the great pleasures for me is watching the expression on the face of someone opening their painting for the first time, it’s a pleasure that money just can’t buy.