Sometimes a pet portrait can serve as more than a way to show that you cherish your pet. Perhaps a portrait can serve as a memorial for a pet who has passed away. Or sometimes, a portrait can help to preserve a very sweet memory of your pet. Or sometimes, it can serve as all of the above - as my most recent pet portrait commission.
A few weeks ago I got a call from a woman interested in a pet portrait. I answered a gamut of questions for her before she came around to explain to me her unique situation. Donna expressed concern for my ability to complete the portrait. But, she also said it was very important for her to have an image of her Sheltie to remember her by.
The problem was that she had only one photo of her beloved Sheltie, who had passed away a few years prior (hence why she wanted a portrait done). And it was a photo - not a digital file (remember those? LOL). I reassured her - explaining that while its nice to have several pictures to choose from, only one photo is really necessary to complete a portrait.
But that wasn't all of it. "Its tiny," she explained. 4 x 4 inches to be exact. Of all my experience in pet portraiture, I've never been asked to work from such a tiny reference photo. But still, I was confident that the size would not be a concern, and that I would try my best to get the appropriate amount of detail.
But wait, there's more! Donna went on even further with her concerns. "Well," she said, "Its...stuck." I waited for her to stumble over the rest of the explanation. (I was a tad confused). The photo was literally STUCK in its frame. After being in a frame for so many years, possibly being moved from room to room, home to home, had adhered to the glass in the frame. Furthermore, moisture had entered the frame, which caused stains on the photo, in addition to some color fading due to sunlight exposure.
But still, I was fairly confident I could complete the commission. We met a few weeks later for me to pick up the photo allegedly damaged. And this is what I got:
In the picture above, you can see how desaturated the colors are, as well as the lack of detail in the fur (because the photo was taken dusk). Around the edges you can see the yellowing on the photo (due to age) and the border of moisture that adhered the photo to the glass.
Well, you know what they say - When life gives you lemons - MAKE LEMONADE!
I'm not going to lie - this portrait was challenging, to say the least. As an artist, I've been faced with many difficult tasks that require a lot of experimentation and problem solving - and sometimes you have to really think outside of the box to get a job done. Artists have to constantly be on top of their game - with not only the creativity to be original, but the ingenuity to create new ways to jump hurdles (or at least go around them.)
While working on this portrait, I hd to constantly remind myself of the color difference - that the photo's hues were distorted and faded. In addition, I had to compensate for the overall darkness, especially in the Sheltie's face and hair. Lastly, I had to look through the stains to try and see the detail in the background and foreground. Oh, and glass = glare, and glare makes a portrait VERY difficult! =P
And so, after a challenging battle with the infamous "impossible portrait"...
Alas, Donna's fondest memory of her Sheltie at the beach is not preserved in colored pencil! =]
I eat, sleep, and breathe art. I'm fond of horses and put ketchup on everything. =]