Tux's Commissioned Portrait

Commissioned dog memorial portrait.

I was commissioned to paint a memorial piece as a special occasion gift for my client’s husband’s beloved dog. The dog, a lovely Collie/Kelpie mix, who’s name was Tux died some time ago - 11 years in fact, so I was quite nervous about the quality of photos I would get. At first the challenge was to acquire the photos. Eleven years is such a long time in our fast-changing world, and smart phones with in built snazzy cameras certainly were not common place. Eventually, and after some sneaky detective work, my client managed to procure a lovely collection of reference photos for me to use.

Tux’s favourite place was at their holiday property on the Murray River near Tocumwal. The brief was to place Tux (sitting in his special way with rear legs tucked out to the side) by the river with maybe a ball, or a stick - both of which he loved to fetch.

I created a digital mock-up on my iPad as a basic compositional guide. It is a great tool for the client to get an idea of how the portrait will look prior to the commencement of the actual painting.

digital mock up.jpg

After approval of the composition by my client I used the grid lines on the mock - up to transfer the image to the canvas and block in the under painting. This technique is called “grisaile” and focuses on tonal values to lay a solid foundation for the layers above.

Grisaille under painting of custom dog portrait. Tux the Collie Kelpie mix by Australian pet painter Opal Pastro

The basic landscape developed quite quickly

Custom dog painting in progress by Australian dog painter Opal Pastro

I discovered along the way that some alterations needed to happen to make the painting compositionally balanced. I couldn’t manage the ball or a stick to work within the limitations of perspective. The shadows also had a bit of to-ings and fro-ings as well. There was also an imbalance within the composition that wasn’t evident in the earlier versions.

When you’re working from different references, it is challenging because you have differing angles, light sources and perspectives to deal with. To make a piece look convincing, you sometimes have to use a lot of artistic license to bring all those factors into balance.

And here is the final painting. We decided against including either a ball or stick in the final composition. Instead I added some greenery to the area behind Tux to create balance and focus to his face.

Fair thee well Tux. I hope your custom portrait helps those who loved you to remember the love you gave and the happy days you shared.

Commissioned dog painting of Tux the Collie Kelpie mix by the Murray River. Painted in Bellingen on the Coffs Coast by Australian pet portrait artist Opal Pastro