Commission from Start to Finish

So they say when you have no idea what to write, just write something. I’m not sure who “they” are, but it’s good advice. So this blog is about about finding focus and about process and so I will take that literally and show you a typical pet portrait commission from start to finish.

I recently completed my first ever double pet portrait. My client was interested in having a portrait of their dog Stella painted  because she is very old and doesn’t have many years left. They also wanted to include her best friend, a Husky/wolf mix, named Sylus, unfortunately already passed away.

This is the photo they wanted me to work from:

They decided on a medium-sized canvas  14″X18″ and asked for only a bit of background detail and asked for my own artistic take on it. My process is to start with a quick sketch to get the idea of cropping and composition and then to just jump right into it. I like to edit as I paint and to see where the character of the animals takes me. My biggest focus is to render the animals accurately so that when the client sees it, they really see their pet’s likeness.

Here is the sketch stage of the process:Next is the under painting:

I knew that there would be a lot of shadow work, so decided to start with a black and white under painting. Then I slowly added color to the foliage. I had initially planned to leave the background fairly mat, however, as often happens, the painting dictated that I add more and more detailing.

Here it is close to completion, just a few minor details need to be added:

At this stage I fire off an email and a JPEG of the painting for final approval. My clients were very happy and excited to have it in hand, so I added last details and signed it:



And that is it! A very satisfying first double portrait to have worked on. My clients were super happy and that makes me very happy indeed.


3 thoughts on “Commission from Start to Finish

  1. Absolutely love this Sharolyn!! I am not in the least bit surprised in the incredible maturity you are demonstrating in your work. Certainly one of the most satisfying complements any artist can receive is when their patron has shown the complete trust in them as an artist… to allow them full artistic freedom in the development of the commission. I believe this blog concept may well prove to become a great motivator for you. I think it greatly adds to the intrinsic value of any of your works… not only for others but yourself as well… to document your creative process. Not only just the physical act of painting but also the mental process that always takes place while you are working… juggling aspects of composition as well as interpretation of the paintings subjective and objective meaning.

    One of the things I am now doing in my retirement is doing a write-up for as many of my former paintings as I can. Each write up contains an explanation of the title… the reasoning behind my initial motivation to paint the particular subject and the characteristics of the painting process for that particular work. Once I complete these write-up I then attach them to the back of the works with a clear lacquer. There’s always a story behind every work 🙂

    I very much look forward to your development of this… it’s a great pleasure for me to see whatever new works you have created.

    Your friend… Bob

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