Painting and Selling Portraits – the Family Dog by M Theresa Brown


Two of my five dogs think they have achieved stardom because they are featured in a 2 hour DVD!   There’s  Louie, a shaggy little cockapoo rescued from an uncertain fate, and DaVinci, an impressive looking Rottweiler who, in truth, is a little dog trapped in  a big dog body.
Both are my models at the Burning Oak Studios where I filmed the DVD Painting and Selling Portraits-the Family Dog.  They were perfect gentlemen while working among all the equipment and lights and took all the attention in stride. After all, they had  everything they needed: doting people, squeaky toys and dog biscuits.  Lights, cameras, action….life is good when you’re a well behaved dog .

It would be wonderful if all family dogs behaved so nicely in front of the camera. And if you are an artist interested in painting dogs for either fun or profit, many times you will be taking the photographs of your subjects.  So I made a point of demonstrating how to capture a dog’s attention to take the best photographs.

Photographing and Painting your own family dog is a great way to introduce yourself to the colors, techniques and different poses.  Your dog knows you and will accept the fact that you are crawling around on the ground or making odd sounds in your throat while you practice your photography skills. The better your reference photos, the better your portrait. And although you may think that all black Labs look alike, nothing could be further from the truth! Learn to see the subtle differences.

If creating portraits of dogs to sell is your goal, spend time looking at dogs. Visit dog shows, shelters, dog parks and observe. Take every opportunity you can to understand the bone structure.  It is far easier to see the bone structure of a  smooth coated dog than a shaggy dog.  Study the feet, the eyes and ears. There are over 160 AKC recognized breeds and that does not begin to cover the mixed breeds loved by their families! And by learning various basics of breeds, when a client brings you their photograph of their dog, or you’re working with Internet clients, you will be able to work around their bad photography to create a beautiful portrait!

Creating an accurate image of a family pet is only part of the finished art. The other part is to capture their personalities.  The expressiveness of the ears and the eyes are part of that personality and can speak volumes in the completed art.  For most people, dogs are a family member and it is important to convey that in your portrait.

The average client looks for her pet in your portrait.  If they have seen your style and they like it, the odds of them loving your completed portrait are greater if the other factors are in place.  There are as many dog portrait styles out there as there are artists  but it all comes down to the basic fact that your dog portrait needs to look like the client’s dog! So work in the style you are most comfortable with and can create the best portrait in.  Initially, by  painting your own pet over and over, and branching out into photos of other dogs you have taken, you will develop your unique style.

Learn and practice the necessary marketing skills and you can make a comfortable addition to your income by painting Dog Portraits! And who knows, maybe Burning Oak Studios will have a “walk of fame” and add a star for Louie and DaVinci!




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