If you paint pet portraits or would like to have a portrait done of a pet, most artists will work from photographs. I like to meet the pet and shoot my own photographs, but that is not always possible. Most people shoot looking down on a cat or dog which makes their head appear larger and foreshortens their body and legs. Better to get on their level and shoot, thinking about what you would want painted, a side view, frontal, seated, etc. Unfortunately, pets think we are getting on their level to play or pet them so they tend to come towards us while we are aiming. It's fun, it's like trying to get a toddler to sit still- and look at you- and smile- and not put their hands or anything else in their mouth. Cats will just walk off and leave you sitting there too. So sometimes you need to know something about the anatomy of an animal in order to paint it in proportion because your photographs are not often the perfect shot. Sketching, cropping, making changes are all a part of designing the portrait, just like you would do for a person. Then, I really like it when my patron lets me decide if it should be an oil or watercolor. Phoebe had such silky shiny fur that I saw her as a watercolor.
Tomorrow I will sit in on a painting demonstration by Hunter Eddy, an oil painter who teaches at the Florence Academy of Art. He does striking still lifes. I will share my observations about his technique with my classes Tuesday and also later in the blog.