Process painting of a recent pet portrait

The process of painting a dog from photos involves much consultation with the client.

(First published March 16, 2020.)

In this case, Ted’s owner sent me a dozen or so photos of her adorable Westie enjoying himself in the snow, or relaxing on a favourite cushion or blanket, or playing with his favourite toys. Ted was so obviously well loved by his family for the 14.5 years that he shared his life with them.

After several email exchanges, the client suggested the preferred pose as well as the colour (muted red or green) she would like in the portrait. She sent me photos of a pillow and throw asking that I try to match one of the colours. Moreover, she specified she wanted “shaggy Ted”. Ted's eyes had to be dark. She referenced three portraits from my Custom Pet Portrait page:  Nala, Coco, and Phlox. 

Two different looks

Initially, I had a very good idea of how I would proceed with Ted, or so I thought. However, the devil was definitely in the details. Eventually, I decided that I had gone off course with the browns and returned to the blues that you see in the final portrait.

Hubby is always keen on helping me when uncertainty sets in. He suggested I set the photos of Ted aside and just go with my instinct. As a result, his advice led to me to experiment with a few more options.

Palette knife adds texture

Recently, I used a palette knife for a floral painting. Perhaps I could use the knife for this portrait?

First, I researched and then tested several acrylic gels to see which would be best for the desired effect.

The strokes of white acrylic gel imitated the movement of the fur and made Ted into the shaggy dog that the client wanted. I allowed enough of the blues and greys to peek through here and there, and as a final touch, I added Golden’s Interference blue fine to the background and peeking through in the dog’s fur.

Golden's Interference Acrylic paint.

If you are not familiar with Interference products, Golden explains them this way:

GOLDEN Interference Acrylic Colors offer a unique “flip” when viewed from different angles. Colors flip between a bright opalescent color and its complement. Over white or lighter surfaces, the color is more subtle and the “flip” effect is more obvious. Over black or darker surfaces the color is more obvious and the “flip” effect is less dramatic. Adding a very small amount of black to Interference Colors produces deeper opalescent effects. Combine with GOLDEN Gels (Gloss) and Fluid Acrylic Colors to create an endless variety of colors and effects.

It is also possible to achieve similar stunning effects with Golden’s Iridescent medium added to any colour of paint.

Pet portrait is ready for new home.

Westie portrait
Ted, Westie.

Finally, Ted is ready to be shipped to his new home. The sides are painted the same colours as the front.

signature on side of canvas
Signature on side of canvas.

Signature controversy.

I added my name at the side this time and posted that photo to Instagram and Facebook asking for opinions on signature placement.

Signature placement has often been a very heated topic of discussion in artist circles. Some artists don’t sign their work while others add details on the back of the painting. Others have an illegible signature. And others scratch initials or symbols into the paint on the canvas. There are as many answers as there are artists!

A signature represents the artist's identity or brand. Much is written on the reason to sign somewhere on the painting (why), and the ways to do it (how). There seems to be little consensus with regards to signature placement (where).

Size reference
Me with Ted on a sunny March day. 

Where do you sign your art?  Are you consistent in placement and in the look of your signature?


If you purchase art, would you want the signature to be visible?  If so, where? Under what circumstances could the signature appear elsewhere than the front?

Contact me with your answers or with any comments or questions, or leave a message below. Thank you for your thoughts and suggestions!

2 Responses

  • Love that you shared the process on this Louise. You put so much work into your painting and they’re lovely.

    • Thank you Jan. Very kind of you to stop by and leave a message. Best wishes for good health in these difficult times.

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