Wednesday, June 4, 2014


It's always a joy to be asked to paint someone's beautiful dog, cat, or horse.  But I am an artist who finds Commissions very stressful.  Maybe it's the perfectionist in me.  Years ago when I was doing a lot of shows that ranged from CKC All Breed Dog Shows, to major horse shows in the area, to art shows, I would almost always leave a show with commissions.   It became something of a tradition at the big dog show I went to each year, for a dog to finish their championship and the owner would come to me for a portrait.  I always had a waiting list in the Fall, and I reveled in it.  Until I didn't.  At some point, the pressure got too much for me and I severely cut back on Commission work.   I still do Commissions, but far fewer than I used to, and I'm enjoying them so much more.  I also decided it was time to leave the shows.  They just weren't fun anymore, and you need the fun aspect to counter the massive amount of work that goes into them.

So how do I do a Commission?  Where do I start?  First I need several good photos, as one picture never tells the whole story. And using several photos enriches the creativity of the piece.  Once I've decided what I'm doing, I do a detailed hand done drawing on newsprint - I make most of my mistakes there, as they are easily erased and re-worked.  Then I  trace my own image using tracing paper that I then cover with graphite and re-trace onto the watercolour paper or canvas.   If any of the lines are too dark, I will use a gum eraser to pick up some of the graphite.    Then I begin painting and slowly develop the colour.  Naturally, by this time, I already have the client's intitial approval.                                                         

It can take weeks sometimes, to get to the point I can call the painting Finished.                                                              
One of the tricky little things about commissions is that it's not enough for the dog to look like the breed, if indeed, you are painting a pure bred.  Each dog within a breed has his/her own looks, and it's imperative to catch that difference.  I'll close by showing you two portraits I did of two sweet Cocker Spaniels, each the same colour, but each one has a unique face.

Heather Anderson       


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