How To Paint Custom Pet Portraits

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Portraits of our beloved four-legged companions are very popular.

This skill enhances any artist’s repertoire and is fun as well.

Pet portraiture can be created with oil, acrylic, watercolor, colored pencil, pastel or other any other medium.

Add an opaque projector, master the art of painting fur and get ready to paint.

Painting Faux Fur

Painting animals, with the textures and colors of fur, feathers and fins is just learning a new technique. Unless the artist is intent on painting photo-realism, it is not necessary to paint every feather and hair. A painter uses artistic license to paint the essence of the fur, feathers or scales of the creature.

Use live models for practice sessions, if any willing subjects are available who will take a nap or at least settle down for a while. Find some close-up photos to use for reference material and get a good book on how to paint animals. It may take some time to learn to paint the texture of your subject’s coat, but it is necessary if you want to be able to capture the likeness of an individual animal. There may be classes offered locally at a college or community center, as well as on-line programs.

Whatever medium the artist uses, follow the application techniques for that paint. There is no one set way to paint animals, as each medium will use different techniques to achieve a likeness. Add to that the fact the artist can use a number of different painting styles from a realistic method to a minimalistic approach.

A Reasonable Likeness

Once the artist has mastered the technique of painting animals reasonably well, he is ready to do a custom portrait. This involves what some may consider cheating, but really is a manner by which the artist can efficiently get the unique characteristics of a particular animal down onto the canvas or paper. The secret weapon for fast, effortless transfer of an image to a support is an opaque projector.

An opaque projector is a great investment for any artist, and the price range varies so there is a model to fit any budget. An opaque projector allows an artist to trace any two-dimensional source, such as a photograph, drawing or clipping from a magazine, to his support. The size is adjustable, so the original can be relatively small and projected onto a reasonably large canvas. Conversely, a graphic can be large, and the drawing transferred in portions to a support.

Painting A Pet From A Photograph

The artist should acquire several photos of the pet whose portrait is being memorialized in paint. Select one that is clear and with the head in a slightly turned pose or a three-quarter view. If the animal has a typical or favorite position, a photo of him in that arrangement is preferable, as it further establishes the pet’s identity. A favorite toy, unique collar or other personal possession is also a good way to identify the furry subject.

Consider the background in which the subject will be painted. Some portraiture eliminates a structured setting, with the subject appearing out of a mottled, vaporous aether. This is an easy background, which takes little time to paint, and keeps the focus centered on the subject.

Painting the pet in its normal setting may be more of a challenge and require knowledge about the animal’s habits and habitat.

Breeds of animals all have similar physical traits. That is why they are a specific breed. Study the photo of the animal whose portrait is being painted to find differences that are unique to that individual. Use those differences to personalize the portrait so that the owner will be assured that the painting they receive is specifically their pet. If no discernible differences are obvious there still needs a means of identification. It is up to the artist to create the personalization with toys or other possessions the pet may have, or the background that portrays a familiar location.

Painting pet portraiture is a very lucrative and satisfying part of a life of art and creativity. People want pictures of current pets, or pets that have passed on. They are often the furry children or grandchildren that occupy a special place in the heart of their owner. A painting of their companion is a cherished possession, a daily reminder of love and loyalty.

Painting pets is a labor of love for both the artist and the recipient.

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