My Approach to Pet Portrait and Wildlife Painting
I enjoy painting animals, and recently completed several interesting bird paintings: cranes, flamingos and a seagull. Some of my early animal paintings started out as landscapes; but I decided the animals were more interesting, so I made them more prominent. Whenever I’m outside, I always look for wildlife to paint; and they usually surprise me with beautiful and interesting poses. As with my other artwork, I generally take photographs of the subject(s), then compose the painting in my art studio after studying the photos. This definitely makes bird paintings a lot easier — those birds just don’t sit still very long!
Pet Portraits — Dogs and Cats
When I began oil painting seriously I did a lot of portrait work — friends and family, parodies of famous masterpieces, and a few commissioned portraits. But after I painted several friends’ cats and dogs, I became more interested in animal paintings, particularly the texture of the fur and the animal’s expression. Cat and dog paintings don’t seem as difficult as bird paintings (they’re more familiar and easier to photograph too), and it’s very satisfying to see the delight in the face of the happy owner when I show them their new pet portrait. Next to wildlife paintings, pet portraits are my favorite type of animal paintings.
Creating Animal Paintings from Pictures
Most of my animal portraits really aren’t much different than still lifes or landscapes, although an animal painted in the wild can pose some challenges. I use photos for painting birds and other outdoor wildlife subjects so I can capture unique poses and get several perspectives. I usually begin the composition by blocking in the animal(s) and background objects; and sometimes this necessitates moving one or two animals in the painting around — a bit of artistic license. 🙂 Then I mix a few colors on my palette and try to create an impressionistic representation of the highlights and shading.
Wildlife Painting vs Pet Portraits
Some animal painting artists focus on a single species — horse paintings are pretty popular, as are portraits of dogs or cats; and there are a lot of bird painting artists. Although I’ve only painted animals for a year or so, I have begun to prefer outdoor dog or bird paintings that have some unusual aspect to them. It could be the surprise of the Sand Hill Cranes in the cell phone lot at the airport, or the head orientation of our friends’ golden retriever Mac wading in Lake Travis. I’ve done a few studio posed animal paintings, and they’re just not as satisfying as compositions that picture the subjects in their natural setting.
My Favorite Animal Paintings
The three paintings shown on this page are probably my most favorite; and they certainly illustrate my progression as an animal painting artist.
- ‘Mac’, dog portrait of a golden retriever on the Lake Travis shoreline
- ‘Sand Hill Cranes Yakking It Up’, bird painting of Cranes at the Orlando airport
- ‘Just Peachy Flamingos’, from a photo taken by my cousin Karen
For more of my pet portraits, bird paintings — including a whimsical scene of ‘Mermaids’ — visit my online art gallery.