* I completed this custom pet portrait in August 2016 for the Veterinarian I worked for in New Hampshire. It took about 2 weeks from start to finish, and it is a 24 in x 36 in acrylic painting on a deep canvas with a protective polymer gloss. *
Having spent time getting to know not only him, but his “Crew” of dogs, I really enjoyed getting to bring each of their personalities to life on one canvas. While I normally use brighter colors and more feminine accents, Dr. Heck was a more traditional New Englander, spending lots of time outdoors and wore more neutral, earth tones. Therefore, when choosing a color scheme and layout, I knew a simple layout and earthy, masculine tones would be better. I ended up going with a dusty blue for the background (a color that I knew Dr. Heck would like, AND would look good with the colors of his dogs’ fur.) Then, knowing Dr. Heck’s love for tractors and the outdoors, I chose a muted kelly green shade that was still bright enough to be the focal point of the painting and look good next to the white dog’s fur.
As for the subjects of the painting- the white dog on the chair is Howard. “Howie,” as he is known around the office, was originally adopted to be more of a little white lap dog for Dr. Heck’s wife , but his spunky, mischievous personality quickly made him the leader of the pack, Dr. Heck’s (secret) favorite, and often the center of attention whenever he enters a room. So, naturally, he had to be front and center in the painting, and elevated in a regal chair to demonstrate his “Big Dog” charisma. Howie is also known for tearing up toilet paper when he is angry or bored. By knowing this funny anecdote about him, I was able to incorporate a unique touch, and even a funny story, into this pet portrait.
Bode is the dark brown, Burmese Mountain Dog mix on the left side of the canvas. Bode is a quiet, gentle old man who is often very shy around people. He usually just walks around the office at a leisurely pace, plopping down here and there to relish in long naps on cool floors; however, when he does feel like joining in on the activity, he stands there quietly, just waiting for you to call him over and shower him with attention. The stance he is taking in the painting is the way he always looks when standing around waiting; it’s the way I always think of him when I picture him in my head. He is also known for LOVING squirrels. If you want to see this old man come alive, say the word squirrel and watch as his eyes light up as he tilts his head in recognition, as if to say “WHERE?!” Therefore, incorporating a stuffed toy squirrel at his feet added a creative touch to the personality and story of his portrait.
The last dog, the tan colored collie mix on the right, is Casey, or “Case-Dog” as Dr. Heck calls him. Casey is a sweet, friendly dog who is always looking for somebody to go love on. One of the two looks I think of when picturing Casey is when he comes up to you and wants you to pet him; he is almost like a golden retriever, wiggling around, wagging his tail, and as he backs his booty up to you, he looks around, over his shoulder, to smile at you. However, I had a hard time conceptualizing how I would place him on the canvas at that angle. So I decided to go with the other look that always reminds me of Casey. He is the only one of Dr. Heck’s dogs that always seems to just want to be right by your side, … or, more importantly, under your feet. There is a desk in the back that has a dark little nook under it, and when anyone is back there typing up notes, Dr. Heck especially, Casey will go lay down under the desk and curl himself around their feet so that his head is resting on the base of the rolling chair, looking out, watching as everyone carries on with their tasks. To me, this position not only fit perfectly with the rest of the painting, but it was also a nod to Casey’s sweet and ever-present nature.
The pictures I used for the portrait are lesser quality than I would normally use, but since I saw the dogs all the time, I was very familiar with them. At the end of the day, I think this is what makes all the world of difference in creating a pet portrait – really knowing or at least familiarizing yourself with the pet and the owner. If it’s a portrait for someone I don’t know, taking that extra step of sitting down to meet with them and getting to interact one-on-one with the pet is so helpful. It gives me an opportunity to come up with something truly unique and special. Also, it makes the actual process of coming up with an idea for a portrait so much easier and much more fun to paint because I feel like I really know the animal I am painting.
I hope you enjoyed getting to learn more about my process for creating the pet portrait “Heck Crew: Bode, Howie, and Case-Dog.” To order your own pet portrait, please contact me at email@example.com!