Monday, August 16, 2010

How make your pet portrait come alive

Follow my progress here

Sometimes I'm asked how do you paint like that? Can you give me tips?
Sure I can give you tips. First of all, I say anyone can paint, and that sometimes upsets other painters.
But, I do believe that anyone with the desire to look, focus and practice can make paintings come alive.
It is not so much learning how to apply paint with the right mix of water or colors, the tricky part is
learning to have the eye of an artist. I don't have training, and have not been painting pet portraits for a very long time, but I do have the eye of an artist. My eyes focus on the lights shadows of everything I see, while I'm in nature or looking at an animal. I also study the eyes of professional painters works and try to figure out what I like and how I can apply similar technique to my eyes.

Basic things -
Dark recedes
Light comes forward
There will be a shadow under the top lid
the corners will be darker
The pupil won't be always a perfect circle
If you add a little light to the pupil, it will appear that the light is floating -making the eye
look more round.

Some people try to paint exactly what they see in the photo.
I try to paint the soul of the animal - I don't paint exactly what I see for reflections in the eye
because that is just a moment in time, not the true eye of the pet. Example: this dog
has a car reflected in the right eye, but I don't want to paint a car in the eye! - I want you
to see into the eye and not have distractions.
Yes, it is cool to do a eye study and paint what you see - but for me, in a pet portrait, this is not
what makes it good. What makes it good, is having the animal appear to be looking at you.

Here is a great tutorial on how to paint eyes
How to paint a realistic eye


  1. Wow!...Pam, I love your eyes!! (the ones you paint) lol! Thanks for the painting tips and encouragement. I really, really want to paint but kinda' feel a bit fearful about trying it. Practice is certainly not going to bother me, thanks for the support. Just need to bite the bullet and try and do it. Starting with the eyes makes alot of sense. Can you do that kind of fine work with watercolor too? from cb, your Ohio friend and fellow art lover.

  2. yes, almost all of my eyes are done with watercolor, on this one I wanted to try out my watercolor pencils. Usually the only time I add a little pencil is when I want the rim of the eye darker. It is difficult for me to get a real deep black w/my watercolor. - Get the eye wet and drop in a loaded brush of color and the water will explode making the eye look fantastic, and you can take a dry brush and lift off some paint for highlights or move it to make lines in the eye.

  3. My mom always said the same thing about painting, that anyone could do it. She use to do pet portraits as well. Thanks for the encouragement!


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