Sketching my dear little Millie, the Formosan Mountain Dog, a rescue from Taiwan and always a source of inspiration for drawing, painting, and getting out in nature every day for a walk.
Now that Christmas is over I can post this commissioned dog portrait oil painting. The person who requested it had previously been gifted this commissioned dog portrait and asked me to paint their friend’s dog Dillon to give to them as a gift. Below are the steps in the process.
When the Sktchy (see previous post) Weekend Art Extravaganza inspiration was to make a color sketch from a black and white photo I found the photo below and couldn’t resist putting a little color in this little guy’s life. I used to make fun of Chihuahuas, comparing them to rats (which can also actually make good pets if you don’t mind the smell). But after a couple of friends adopted chihuahua mixes, I have come to really appreciate their funny and quirky personalities.
This little cutie was a fun challenge to paint. Below are some steps along the way, including the reference photos that I joined and edited in Photoshop to simplify the background and combine the tops and bottoms of her ears. Her ears were too tall in my first sketch (done in gouache in my journal). I must have added extra length when I assembled the two photos in Photoshop so edited them down to life-size in the painting.
Mika’s owner was happy with the painting and noted that Mika, who is a playful goofball in real life, seems so dignified in the painting. That gave me the idea to ask owners to also provide videos of dogs I’m to paint in the future so I can get a better sense of their personalities. I tried to include some of the family’s garden in Mika’s portrait but I struggled with getting the spring flowers to behave in the background. I painted over them with sky, planning to try them again, but when I sent Mika’s owner a photo of the painting with the sky background, she liked it better that way and so did I.
After I varnished Leo’s painting and was going to deliver it to the family that commissioned it, I realized I wasn’t satisfied with the background. I asked for and was granted permission to adjust it. It’s a good thing Leo’s people are very patient: I asked for an extra two weeks but then my dog Millie started having epileptic grand mal seizures and my cat Busby got sick and I was spending more of my time nursing animals than painting them.
Finally, after many visits to the emergency vet hospital, my family vet, and a veterinary neurologist (thank goodness for pet insurance) Millie has stabilized on her meds (no seizures in over a week), and Busby has sadly has passed on to Kitty Heaven. He was a beautiful cat and my remaining kitty Fiona misses him, even though he was a bit of a bully, like big brothers can sometimes be.
Back in the studio I explored how to rework the background. What bothered me was the way the it divided the painting in half vertically and how vague it was. With my realistic approach to the dog, it felt like the background needed more detail so I tried to suggest some of the actual greenery in Leo’s Northern California backyard (see photo below) and added some sky to add depth.
Below, copied from the previous post, are the reference photo and the work in progress before I got to the finished painting above.