Why paint a portrait when you can take a photo?

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?

Dog Photos Montage

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?

Dog Paintings Montage

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?’


See more of my paintings and  how to commission a painting

Dogs to the Rescue

rocky-archie-1 rocky-archie-2Having rekindled my love for painting and drawing I found myself quite busy painting pet portraits for people.  I am enormously proud when I am asked to paint someone’s beloved companion and indeed feel very honoured that they have chosen me to paint for them.  However there are times when I find I am at a loss as to what to paint next, this is when my own animals become the subjects, Rocky & Archie became my ‘animals muses’ (I am not actually sure if you can have a male muse and I have no idea what the male equivalent would be) sadly both have now gone over the ‘Rainbow Bridge’.

It soon became apparent that losing a dog (or a cat) leaves a huge hole in your life, no dog to walk over the fields, no chats with fellow dog walkers and no happy dog energy to greet you when you come home.  So after 8 months we missed having a dog in our lives so much we decided to get another.

Labradors to the Rescue!

With so many unwanted animals out there it was simple decision to give a home to a rescue dog so we signed up with Labrador Rescue South East & Central (LRSEC). We filled in the application form and few weeks later Marie from LRSEC and her gorgeous Black Lab ‘Riley’ came to inspect our home. Apparently Riley was the chief inspector, nothing gets passed him…we apparently passed Riley’s scrutiny, now we just had to wait for a suitable dog to be matched to us.

Poppy dogYou obviously don’t completely know what you are getting with a rescue dog even though LRSEC provided us with quite a bit of background history. We knew we would have to approach this process with an open mind, be prepared to be patient with settling in a new dog in to our home. It could take some time, weeks, months even longer and there could be set backs and issues to overcome along the way.

LRSEC try where possible to place a dog home to home so we had to be ready to adopt a dog when a suitable dog became available and was a suitably matched to us. We thought that we would have to wait ages but a few weeks later Jacky the local Coordinator for LRSEC phoned to say they had a 3 year old bitch needing to be re-homed and gave us some background history about her.

Love at first sight?

Lab face 2Our first glimpse of Poppy didn’t evoke the feelings we expected. We were so excited to meeting her but when she walked out to where we were waiting she was so bewildered that she only had eyes for Jo  from LRSEC as a point of security.

The anxiety showed in Poppy’s face and it made her look older than her years. When we made a point of greeting her she was so stressed that she didn’t want us to get too near her and barked to keep us away. To create a calmer atmosphere Jo suggested walking her for a bit and gradually she began to let her guard down enough to accept us a little and we were then able to take her home.

The car journey home was fine, by the time we had got home Poppy had transferred her security attachment to us. It was at this point I could see just what a lovely dog she actual was, her features had softened and her tail was wagging, although she was still clearly quite bewildered by her new surroundings she wasn’t anxious around us… a beautiful dog, if a little bit chubby.

 A little help from the professionals

We had Poppy a couple of days and we were out & about with her going to the places we regular went and although she was fine with other dogs she would sometimes still display defensive behaviour if greeted by a stranger. As a part of the adoption process LRSEC are always available for support and help, and they offered to help with this issue by putting us in touch with Doug a Professional Dog Trainer. He came to visit us along with Marie and spent the morning with us to help us tackle Poppy’s fear of strangers.

As soon as Doug entered our house Poppy started barking and displaying defensive behaviour towards him. We watched in awe as he weaved his magic, it wasn’t a comfortable watch but within a very short space of time Poppy went from a scared and barking animal to a soft relax dog eating treats from his mouth.

The rest of the morning was spent educating us ‘humans’. We thought we were pretty dog savvy and we knew what we were doing, but it became clear that there is still a lot to learn from people who work professionally with dogs. We gained all sorts of tips from diet & equipment to training & obedience, even knowledge specific to the breed. The morning with Doug and Marie was time and money well spent instilling new knowledge and confidence in both Poppy and her ‘humans’.

Although Poppy is still adjusting to her new environment and routine she has not displayed any fears since the training session and is a happy girl.

Great little tips from the professionals:
  • Be firm, give one word instructions, i.e Sit, Stay etc. not prefixed with the dog’s name i.e. ‘Poppy sit’ or ‘Poppy Stay’ the dog is looking to you for clear guidance.
  • Get the right equipment: We were recommended a half check collar and a decent trainer lead, which has worked wonders to stop Poppy pulling. Although there is still some work to be done she actually walks quite well on the lead.
  • Correct diet & exercise, Poppy is slimming down nicely.
  • Frozen Bone: I love this one and so does Poppy, it helped in the early days when we had to leave her home alone. Pack a marrow bone with a mixture of grated carrot & broccoli smooshed together with a little peanut butter to bind, put in the freezer and give it to your dog when you leave the house…a good few hours of entertainment while you are out.

Poppy & poppiesEvery dog is different, of course so are the owners and every adoption is going to be unique to them. The best pieces of knowledge gained from this experience so far are:

  • Be Patience. 
  • Socialise your dog so he/she fits in to your lifestyle, after all they are going to be part of the family for quite some time.
  • Address any problems quickly and get professional help and support if necessary.  Professional help may cost you a little but helps to give you the confidence to deal with any issues.
  • Happy dog = Happy owner … it’s not a vicious circle.

The not so vicious circle

Vicious circleI find myself asking who is rescuing who, Poppy has been with us only a short while and we feel bless that we have her in our lives.

Big thanks to Jacky and her team at LRSEC also Doug & Marie for all the help you gave in re-homing Poppy with us.

It is therefore my pleasure to introduce new muse Poppy and her side kick Roddy (also a rescue animal)

Poppy dog 2 Roody cat