This is Buddy, a gorgeous Cocker Spaniel that lives in Wandsworth, London This the story of his bespoke portrait on canvas, and the journey it took to represent him in the best way possible.
He is a beautiful boy. I completed his painting in late 2017, he was 4 years old and very much the centre of his loving family.
Buddy is one of my early portraits, finished to arrive at Christmas time - in fact his painting was the last gift unwrapped by the family on the 25th December and apparently the very best one (was chuffed to bits about this)
When Sophie (his Mum) first contacted me about painting Buddy, I asked her to think in terms of size of canvas, and background colour. Both of which she was happy to leave me to in terms of decision making.
Buddy’s photographs were pretty hard to determine, due the the fact that is SO dark! His coat has a sheen which I knew would be great to highlight, but in terms of his shape and crucial facial details, I felt that we needed to go lighter, to show off the darker - if that doesn’t sound too arty?!
I began working on my preparatory drawings, having completed the digital work that I do on all my dogs. Once the photographs come through (about 6-8) I drop them into a programme called PicMonkey. This allows me to brighten them up, highlight shadows and make them as sharp as can be in order to gain those critical details.
I drew Buddy out a number of times, sometimes freehand, other times I use a tool called a Pantograph which helps me determine the right distances between facial features - eyes, nose, mouth, etc. This tool is pretty much essential in my trade and I bet you used to play with one when you were little - it’s a scaling up tool that architects used to live by when plans were by hand.
My first attempt at Buddy was ok - but no cigar as they say. Between us, Sophie and I tweaked and it became stronger, but inside of my tummy - I knew that I could do better.
Here is Buddy’s first portrait…
Not the bees-knees painting I wanted to make.
I decided to go again COMPLETELY.
Taking a new canvas, I went back to the drawing board, literally.
This time I referenced other Cocker Spaniels online, and then went back to our photographs of Buddy - drawing and drawing until I got a pose that clicked.
Painting him in, I still had the problem of his dark, dark hair and how I was going to show him up - his character too. I chose to work in Cobalt Blue for his highlights, and Lamp Black (also known as Carbon Black) for where you see pretty much nothing at all.
I began his body almost completely in blue, darkening up as I went. When at this stage, I try hard not to be too precious - I wanted to show some gorgeous painterly marks in his portrait - this offers both movement and expression in a portrait.
Whilst the paint was wet, I scratched into his ears to bring some of the white canvas underneath into the painting. This offers texture too.
Stopping to hang him on the wall and view from the other side of my studio nearly every ten minutes, I felt like I was getting somewhere very special. Buddy & I were on a mission to make the very best painting I could EVER make.
I send some photographs back to Sophie so that we might discuss - she was both surprised and delighted with them - she didn’t know that I was going to go again on our portrait - this doesn’t happen very often.
She LOVED his pose and we set to thinking about our background colour.
I have to confess that the Staedtler Pencil Yellow was her idea, to match some existing fabrics she has in her house (she has a brilliant eye) mixing up the colour, I wasn’t sure - but boy, was I wrong.
The yellow made Buddy come alive, the blues bluer, the black darker and the white in his eyes ping.
Buddy’s painting went onto the wall in their house on the day it was opened and the response was amazing.
I can pin-point at least 4 other commissions that came directly from Buddy’s portrait, word of mouth is powerful in my world.
Finally, I have a testimonial from Andrew, Sophie’s husband about our painting, and that of Nelly (RIP Nelly) their cat, whose portrait came shortly after, I’ll leave the final words to Andrew…
Sam recently painted both my dog Buddy and cat Nelly, simply put, both pictures are wonderful. Sam has a great knack of capturing the true character and essences of my pets. She was a joy throughout the whole process from choosing the right photos for reference, to discussing the nuances of the picture before it was finished. Many thanks Sam
If you are thinking of having your dog painted, email me….email@example.com
I look forward to hearing from you
Sam is a practicing artist of 25yrs with a deep love of dogs. Her drawings, paintings and prints are exhibited in galleries throughout the country. In 2017 she painted her dog Barney and clients began to ask for bespoke portraits of their own best friends. Since then, Sam has successfully painted many personalised commissions and sends her dog paintings all over the world.
She has a stand-alone testimonial page on Trustpilot and is proud to support charities & auctions too.
To talk about having your own dog painted or to give as a gift, email Sam on firstname.lastname@example.org today.