Friday, 30 June 2017

The Portrait of Jessie Blue

Jessie Blue, acrylic, 16" x 20"

Blog 27

When I was approached by my friend Francine to paint her beautiful ragdoll cat Jessie Blue, I was very excited. I had not painted too many animal portraits lately, even though this is my biggest passion.

I went to see Francine and her cat to take pictures of Jessie Blue. I took about 20 pictures in different poses. Some with flash, some without. In addition, Francine gave me some of her favourite photos. After looking at all the photos, I picked the photos that seemed best for the project. It was up to Francine to make a decision. I told her my plan to take the pose of the body from one photo but with the head from another because I wanted Jessie Blue to look directly at the viewer.

This step is very important. We all remember certain poses of our pets when we think about them. For example, I can still see our dog Candy nudging me with her snout, looking at me with big eyes, when she wanted to be petted.

While Francine liked all of the photos, she did not recognize her Jessie Blue in all of them. In some she looked too dramatic, in others the pose I captured was not one she often struck.

Once, we had decided on the photos I would use for the portrait, I started my sketch and block in of colours. I was happy with my progress but wanted to compare the colours I had used with the real colours of Jessie Blue. Even if you use a very good camera, the colours of your pictures might be slightly different from reality. I was also concerned about her eyes that just did not look right.

It was time to visit my model a second time. I brought the painting along to compare the colours. It was so wonderful to see how excited Francine was about the painting even though I was far from finished. This is such a treat for an artist.

When I met with Jessie Blue the second time, I made sure to concentrate on her face. Among the 25 photos I shot this time, I found the perfect one for her face. I adjusted the colours of her fur which were slightly too dark, then worked a long time on her eyes. Ragdoll cats like Jessie Blue have very light blue eyes. I painted over the eyes several times until I was happy with their shape and colour. For a while they turned out either too blue or too white.

When I was ready for the final adjustments, I met Francine again. She was very happy with the painting and had only a few suggestions for slight changes which were easy to accomplish. However, one of the hind legs seemed to be a problem. No matter what I tried, I did not get it the way Francine thought it should be, until she sent me another picture of her cat. While I had captured Jessie Blue with the bottom of her paws showing which are rather light, Francine envisions Jessie Blue's dark brown paws when she thinks of her. Once, we figured this out, it was easy to make the final change. That is why I encouraged Francine all along to make any suggestions. The portrait should not show my vision of Jessie Blue but be a reflection of Francine's vision. I am very happy that I was able to capture that.

I would like to thank Francine for allowing me to write a blog about the creation of the portrait of her cat. If you are interested in having your pet painted in order to have a precious keepsake of your dear companion, please contact me at I will gladly discuss the process with you. In case you live far away or your pet is already deceased, I would ask you for a couple of photographs and would talk to you about his/her personality and your relationship to get a better knowledge of your bond.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Animal Portrait versus Animal in a Painting

Blog 25

Throughout art history animals have played a big role in paintings. Animals were painted by many famous artists and are still very popular with contemporary artists. I was actually surprised to see the large number of famous artists who painted animals. Most of them do not usually come to mind when you think of animal artists.

While I was aware that Pierre-Auguste Renoir had painted both cats and dogs in some of his well-known pieces, I was surprised to find pet portraits in his portfolio.

Maybe, you are wondering what the big difference is between animals in a painting and animal portraits. Generally speaking, a pet that is part of a group setting gives us information about its status within the group and especially about the attitude of the owner towards the animal as well as the animal's duties, in case of a hunting dog or a herding dog for example. On the other hand, in an animal portrait, the animal is the focus of the painting. Once pets became family members instead of working animals, the relationship to their owners changed. Nowadays, pets are generally considered family members, sometimes as a replacement of children or a partner. They are close companions who stay by our side throughout life's ups and downs. The artists want to show not only the appearance but also capture the character of the animal by showing it in its favourite pose and using colours and expression to demonstrate the unique character traits. Nevertheless, an animal portrait gives us indirectly some information about the owners, namely that they value the pet as a family member and wants a lasting memory to cherish the memories.

Let's look at some examples:

Pierre-Auguste Renoir's oil painting “Madame Charpentier et ses enfants (Madame Georges Charpentier and her Children) shows Madame Georges Charpentier (Marguérite-Louise Lemonnier) with her young children, Georgette-Berthe and Paul-Émile-Charles and the family dog.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir: Madame Georges Charpentier et ses enfants, via Wikimedia Commons

There is no way to miss the big, good-natured family dog in the painting as he takes in a big space in the foreground. He lives in the house and is definitely a constant companion of the family. He is loyal to his family to the point that he even endures being sat on by the kids even though he does not seem to enjoy it. However, he is also a symbol of wealth as a big dog like this needs a lot of food which only an affluent family could afford, especially because he does not seem to be a working dog.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir: Le Chat dormant, via Wikimedia Commons
Now, let's look at Renoir's painting “Sleeping Cat”, a portrait I fell in love with right away. This portrait of a sweet, innocent small cat attracts the viewer with its cuteness. I feel immediately protective and wish I could pick up the curled up soft bundle to set it on my lap. To keep the focus on the cat, the surroundings are kept loose, picking up the same colours of the cat as well as rounded shapes.

Before the invention of the camera to capture images, painting served as a means to capture life and the images of people, especially of people with social or professional power. These days, with the quick click of a camera or even your cell phone, photos are nothing special anymore. This could explain why the interest in painted portraits is still strong, especially the wish to have a special memory of our beloved pets whom we love so deeply and who do not only love us unconditionally but also bring so much joy to our lives. They demonstrate to us how to live in the moment and also make us aware of the shortness of life and our own mortality.

If you I have sparked your interest in having your own pet painted, I encourage you to come back to my blog next week, when I will tell you the process of creating my latest cat portrait, a portrait of the beautiful ragdoll cat Jessie Blue. If you have any questions with regards to giving me a commission for a pet portrait, please do not hesitate to visit my website or to contact me directly at

Friday, 16 June 2017

Famous Animal Paintings

Blog 24

Last week, I wrote about artists who got inspired by animals. This week, I would like to show you some of the famous animal paintings I love.

Marie Cassatt: Sara holding a Cat, via Wikimedia Commons
Not surprisingly, I have fallen in love with Mary Cassatt’s painting “Sara Holding A Cat (1908, oil on canvas)” because it reminds me of my daughter Christine tenderly holding our cat Miko. I love with how much tenderness the little girl holds the tiny kitten. She is totally focused on the cat, taking care of the tiny animal that enjoys her attention as much as she enjoys its.

Franz Marc: Liegender Hund im Schnee, via Wikimedia Commons
Franz Marc’s “Dog lying in the snow (Liegender Hund im Schnee, 1911, oil on canvas)” appeals to me in the same way. It reminds me of our Golden Retriever Jessie as a puppy after we had exhausted her by playing. She loved the snow. I can understand why Marc considered animals purer in soul and more beautiful than human beings. They live in harmony with nature. I love Marc’s use of complementary colours and the calmness of the composition.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir: Le Chat dormant, via Wikimedia Commons
I did not know Auguste Renoir had done animal portraits before I did my research for this blog. I knew that several dogs appeared in his paintings. When I saw “ Le chat dormant” (Sleeping Cat, 1862, oil on canvas) I fell in love with the it right away. Beside that fact that a sleeping cat is very cute, it reminded me of the way our Miko is curled up when he is sleeping.

All three choices are not a surprise because I, like most people, like a painting not only for the skillful execution but mostly for the emotional connection. As a pet owner and mother, I can identify with the subjects of the above mentioned painting. They remind me of situations in my life. Looking at them makes me happy.

The reason behind my appreciation for Frida Kahlo’s “Self-portrait with Monkey” from 1938 is a little bit different. In the painting, the monkey seems to be Frida’s protector as he puts his arm around her neck showing how much he cares for her. It is possible that Frida had all her pets and especially her monkeys because they were a substitute for the children she was not able to have. I love that she seems to be part of the landscape with the green strands of her hair.

When we adopted our first dog Jessie, I had no clue how to treat a dog. We were a young childless couple at that time, and especially at the beginning, I treated her more like a baby than a puppy. I can also relate to the aspect of feeling protected and the unconditional love pets give. As we live in the country where the neighbours are further apart, my dogs have always giving me a feeling of security. I am not sure how real this protection is as I remember our first dog Jessie jumping on my lap when she sensed danger, but I am sure that an intruder or attacker will pick someone without a dog first.

What attracts me to Frida Kahlo’s painting is, however, also the fact that she is one of the artists whose biography I have read and whose strength and resilience I admire. Frida was faced with so much pain in her life, both physical and emotional. It all started when she was left disabled after she contracted polio as a child. In addition, the debilitating physical pain caused by the horrible accident at age 18 left her in very poor health for the rest of her life. Her emotional pain resulted from her husband’s infidelity as well as the fact that she was not able to bear a child even though she was pregnant several times. Nonetheless, she lived her life to the fullest. She used her art to express all the pain she suffered. Her art was a refuge that helped her to deal with the tumults in her life.

I can certainly relate to that. When I am painting, I usually forget all the troubles around me. I am totally immersed in the process of creating. I hope that I will never be tested the way Frida Kahlo was tested in her life, but I know that my ability to express myself in art and to see the beauty in the world around me definitely helps me to process both beautiful and painful events. For me, painting has the same purpose as writing a journal. I hope that my art will help me to find relief, peace and distraction whenever my life is turned upside down. I remember that painting our first dog Jessie after her death was a process accompanied by many tears. At first, I had to put the painting away because the grief was still too strong, but with time painting my beautiful girl helped me to remember her and the joy we had together.

If you enjoyed my blog, please share it. I would like to thank you in advance for helping me to increase my audience.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Artists Inspired by Animals

Blog 23

Since we adopted our first dog in January 1996, our animal companions have not only enriched my life but have also been an inspiration in my creative career. Once we moved into a rural neighbourhood, farm animals and wildlife have been added to the list of animal subject that I have painted.

Animals with their beauty and cuteness, give us a view into a happy life without obligations and regrets. They live for the moment and do not worry about the next day. Paintings and photographs of animals make us remember our own pets, encounters with animals in our life, and our longing for balance in our lives that are often determined by chores and deadlines.

Animals have always fascinated artists. The first cave paintings already showed images of wildlife. However, for a long time animals paintings were not considered serious art because of their lack of creativity even when the were executed with great skill.

When I am thinking of artists who included animals into their artworks, several names come to my mind right away:

George Stubbs: Whistlejacket, via Wikimedia Commons
The English painter George Stubbs is famous for his horse paintings. He is considered one of the best if not the best painter of horses. He paved the way for the acceptance of animal paintings as serious., His painting “Whistlejacket” is a strong example for his mastery.

Albrecht Dürer: Feldhase (Young Hare), via Wikimedia Commons

German artist Albrecht Dürer's studies of animals and plants helped to establish illustrations as fine art. The liveliness of the hare in his painting “A Young Hare” is testimony to the energy and joy Dürer put into the painting.



German painter Franz Marc portrayed many animals in bright primary color, sometimes in a cubist style. He simplified the animals and wanted to express emotion with his use of colours.

Franz Marc: Die kleinen blauen Pferde (The Little Blue Horses), via Wikimedia Commons

Spanish artist Pablo Picasso was a big animal lover and had several animals as pets during his life. The bull is one of the animals that appeared quite often in his art. Often it had symbolic character but Picasso left it to the viewer to interpret his message.

Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dalí used many animals for their the symbolism in his paintings, among them elephants, ants, butterflies, and locusts.

Mexican painter Frida Kahlo de Rivera did not only live with many animals but also included them in many of her self-portraits. 

Canadian painter Alex Colville had a close relationship with his dogs. He enjoyed their companionship, unquestioned loyalty and love. He saw animals as innocent creatures by nature, that only humans could train to be evil. In his paintings, the animals were either shown as men’s close companions or omens of bad things to come.

Canadian painter Robert Bateman is famous for his realistic paintings of wildlife in its natural surroundings. He is a strong supporter for the protection of nature.

Native artists like Canadian painter Norval Morrisseau express the important role animals play in the lives of aboriginal and first nations people in their paintings. The animals do not only provide food for the people but also have spirits similar to people. The goal of many native artists was to keep the stories and traditions of their people alive.

Andy Warhol, one of the leading artists of the pop art, did also have a big heart for animals and created many artworks containing animals as the subject, including a set of rainbow silkscreens that showed the horrifying numbers of near-extinct animals around the world.

When I did research for this blog, I was surprised to see how many animals appeared in paintings of other famous artists. Unfortunately, I am not able to post more pictures of the artworks as they are still secured by copyright.

If you are interested in my portfolio of animals, please go to my website At the moment, I am almost finished with a commission of a ragdoll cat. When I showed the painting to the customer at an earlier stage she was so excited to see her cat on the canvas. This excitement is really contagious and I can hardly wait to deliver the finished painting to her. It will be a moment of joy for both of us. If you are interested in having your pet painted please contact me at

Friday, 2 June 2017


Miko, acrylic, 12" x 12"

Blog 22

As I have dedicated the month of June to animals in art, I would like to tell you something about the 12” x 12” portrait of our cat Miko.

As many of you know, I love to paint animals and have painted some farm animals and many portraits of our family dogs. All of our dogs were medium sized dogs, at least from the perspective of an adult. Our first dog, Jessie, was a Golden Retriever who was about 1 ½ years old when Dominic was born. The two of them bonded immediately and were very close for all of Jessie’s life. There were times, when we found Dominic getting up at night to sleep with Jessie on the doggie bed. To this day, Dominic is a dog person. When Jessie died in 2005, Dominic was sad but Christine who was only four years old only wondered what had happened to the dog but never missed her. She had accepted the dog as part of our family but she was not close to her. When we adopted our next dog, the Golden Retriever Candy in January 2006, Christine was not too keen on the dog which tried to snap at her feet all the time. Even though it took us only a couple of days to make sure that Candy would stop this behaviour, Christine did not really care for our new pet, nor for the cute Beagle puppy or the Australian Shepherd puppy we fostered. She accepted that we adopted the Australian Shepherd because he was a great dog but she still did not get attached to any of the dogs.

Then in 2010, we adopted a one year old orange shorthair cat to help us to resolve the problem we had with mice in the basement. I have a severe panic of mice and was desperately looking for a solution not involving poison when my husband mentioned that a cat might help us to keep the mice away.

For Christine, this new “baby” was the love of her life. She was excited that she could carry the cat around and could cuddle with this little furball. Miko loved the attention from this little person. Christine, being careful, was allowed to handle Miko in ways he did not take from any of the rest of the family. He started to get quite smitten with his cuddle friend.

Whenever Christine gets sick, he is always by her side “protecting” her. When Christine got a prolonged illness in Grade 6 and had to stay home for many weeks, the two of them got even closer, and I am convinced that his presence helped in her recovery.

Therefore, it was not surprise that Christine was upset by the fact that I had painted portraits of all of our dogs and even of the two foster kittens that lived with us for a short time but not of her beloved Miko. Finally, last year I painted the life-size portrait of our cute Miko. Christine loves the portrait which hangs in a row with all our pet portraits, and I have promised her that I will create another portrait of Miko that will be hers to keep.

You might be wondering if Miko was able to resolve the mice problem. Well, not really. While he has chased a couple of mice, it is mostly his presence that seems to keep most of the mice away and that’s good enough for me.

Are you a cat or a dog person? Or maybe your favourite animal is a completely different animal. I would love to hear your story if you would like to share it in the comments. If you have a favourite pet and are thinking about having his/her portrait painted, feel free to contact me at and we can talk about my approach. I would love to create a beautiful portrait of your furry friend that gives you pleasure every single day.