Adding a Background to My Pet Portrait

I always like to work on my pet portraits in an overall way where I cover the entire panel with a layer of paint before I start finishing anything. I find this helps me keep the painting balanced with the focus on the right place. This isn’t true for every artist. Some artists choose to work each small section of a painting up to being highly finished. Then they move on to the next small section. And while that may work for them–it just doesn’t work for me.

The original photo of Coppelia the chihuahua wasn’t actually taken with this background. She was on one that was a field of green plants–but it was a bit boring to me. So I found reference for a leafy background with some flowers that would give the painting some visual movement. I collaged the original photo of the dog with the image of the new background in Photoshop and then created a hand-drawn pencil sketch from that.

My clients see both the black and white sketch, and a digital color composition that gives them a clear idea of what the finished painting will look like so there are no big surprises. Artists can also handle this by doing color studies in paint, but as I have spent so many years working with Photoshop as a graphic designer and advertising creative, I find it makes an efficient tool to use for fine art.

I love the physical painting process and the way small strokes can add up to a final picture–but having technology to plan the painting lets me explore all kinds of options. So in the end, the science actually allows me to be a more creative artist.