I approach an animal portrait in much the same manner as any other portrait – that is, to try and capture the essential definitive character of that particular animal, which separates it from any other, and so perfectly describes it for posterity.
However, I don’t normally have the animals to sit for me in my studio, as this would be impractical. I do take a great number of photographs, usually at the home of the owner, and will go back there several times if necessary, to make sure I have the likeness correct, colour, shape, general character etc. I am commissioned to paint a great many domestic animals, such as dogs and cats, and also some such as race horses, and pet ponies, and one three-day eventer, whose picture you can see on this website.
Very occasionally I have been asked to paint an animal which has died, from photographs, and although I do not make common practice of this, I will sometimes do this if the photographs offer sufficient information to work from. I always much prefer however, to work with the animal, and from my own photographs, when I have taken some time to be with the animal, and seen it first hand.
I have on occasion also been asked to paint small animals, such as rabbits and guinea pigs for children’s presents! I did have a small guinea pig in my studio once. I also paint wild life, especially in Africa, on safari. These are not portraits as such, but I mention them here, as they are studies of animals. I often use watercolour as a medium for these, although I have also painted several in pastel, and in oil. I very much enjoy painting and drawing animals, and if I could, I would have a great many dogs of my own! I do have one, who is an admirable model, even though she does not like to see me armed with a camera! I usually spend about and hour or two with the animal, as I find it sometimes takes a while for them to settle and relax, so that I can see them at their best. I will take photographs both inside and outside the house, and if the sitting is not successful, I am always prepared to come back and do another one. I like to make sure that everyone is happy before I proceed to making the actual drawing .
I aim to make a portrait that will be a joy, and a lasting memory of a much loved member of the family.