Working on Chuckie the Bichon Frise Portrait

Bichon Frise custom pet portrait by hope lane

I’m still painting pretty loosely–just trying to get all the tones set up. But I’ve already worked in a more detailed way on his eyes–for me, getting the eyes set up right is the key to making the painting fall into place.  They need to seem like they reflect the pet’s personality, and to feel moist and luminous. Which makes them really fun to paint too!

I’ve done a lot of drawing and painting from life for my people portraits, which is pretty good practice for animals too. When you work from a live model, you learn about things that may be less obvious in photos. For example–eyes. They are round little balls in those sockets, which means they have shadows, reflections, highlights and all kinds of things happening–things that can be easy to miss when you look at a flat photo.

A lot of times, I get photos that are missing tons of detail–so knowing how an eye is really shaped, its texture and how it fits in a face, allows me to fill in the blanks in a realistic way. I can still remember my art teachers telling me that life drawing was essential when I was a student. And like every student–I didn’t quite believe them. Turns out, they were right.